The Internet is a double-edged sword — especially for small businesses. It’s a cost-effective marketing tool, but it’s also a fertile platform to plant defamatory claims. If you’ve fallen victim to an online smear campaign, and you’re curious how to remove defamation from Google and other search engines — keep reading.
In Order To Get A Court Order To Remove Defamation From Google, You First Have To Prove Defamation
To meet the burden of proof in an Internet defamation case, gather the following:
- A list of URLs where the untruthful content can be seen online;
- Hard Copies of the webpages on which the libelous content resides;
- If you’re a business, gather a portfolio of financial information that clearly shows a decline in business since the offensive material hit the Web. If you’re an individual, collect information how the material harmed your reputation and/or how it affects your ability to find employment.
Having the libelous web content taken down from the site on which it’s published, and convincing Big-G overlords to remove defamation from Google’s index, are two completely different beasts.
Thanks to Section 230 of the CDA, without a court order search engines carry no legal obligation to remove anything from their indexes or information databases. In other words, it’s useless to go running to Google, demanding that they remove X, Y or Z from their search results. What you can do, however, is politely approach the webmaster of the site on which the false information appears; ask that the info be taken down. To avoid the hassle, nine times out of ten, webmasters will comply.
I Asked A Website To Remove Something. They Refused. Now What?
If you come across a webmaster who happens to be a staunch First Amendment advocate, they may refuse to remove the defamatory content from their site. Here’s what you do then:
- Ask if they will provide contact information so you can serve the offender with a libel notice. If they’ve refused your requests thus far, they’re not going to take you up on this offer. That’s OK.
- Either act as your own representation or hire an attorney to file a civil libel action against John Doe. The court will then facilitate a way to obtain the defendant’s identifying information; then serve formal notice to the offender indicating that if steps are not taken to remedy the situation, further legal action will be sought.
- Get back in touch with the webmaster and provide them proof of the legal action you have taken thus far. Most webmasters really don’t want to get dragged into a legal battle that has nothing to do with them; even the most Constitution-loving of the bunch, at this stage, will usually back down and comply with your wishes.
- If nothing happens, you’ll wait to have your case heard. If the outcome of the case is in your favor, the court will order an injunction stipulating that the libelous content must be removed.
- Once you get the injunction, head over to Google’s handy “submit a court order” form. Fill it out completely, then sit back and wait to receive word as to whether or not the removal action has been taken.
Axiomatic is the understanding that Internet defamation is frustrating as heck — and it can ruin a business; but if you maintain a cool attitude throughout and are diligent about providing adequate proof, your Web rep will be avenged faster than you can say, “Troll!”
Contact A Lawyer Who Knows How To Remove Defamation From Google Quickly and Quietly
For professional assistance to remove defamation from Google, contact Kelly / Warner today. We’ve handled hundreds of online libel removal cases in the past — and we know how to get it down as quickly as possible.
One of the most famous Google de-indexing incidents happened on August 9, 2011. For a scant eleven hours, many small business owners celebrated because notorious Internet gripe site, RipoffReport.com, appeared to be de-indexed from Google. Marketing and SEO experts huddled in chat rooms to discuss the implications: Did Google remove the site for Internet violations? Was Ripoff Report hacked? What did the de-indexing mean for the future of Internet reputation management?
When the dust settled, though, it turned out that the Ripoff Report’s de-indexing wasn’t a game-changer. The site had disappeared for a few hours because someone requested the action through the company’s Google Webmaster Tools account.
Why Some Businesses Consider RipOffReport.com A Reputation Management Nightmare
Internet gripe sites are a dime a dozen, but RipOffReport is among the most loathed — mainly because of its policies. On RipOffReport (at the time of this writing), consumers are allowed to post any and all claims – verified or not. Yet, if businesses provide evidence that claims are false or resolved, it costs $2,000 to get the “bad” information removed from the site. And even then, defamatory comment is not guaranteed to be taken down.
Yes, business owners can rebut negative reviews for free, but said rebuttals are placed on the bottom of a page and are often overshadowed by the complaint.
In some ways, RipoffReport.com is an open invitation to anonymously malign competitors. The site’s rules are so questionable that both Bing and Yahoo! have relegated it to the 3rd and 4th pages of search results. In Google, however, RipOffReport continuously shows up front and center in the SERPs (at the time of this writing).
What The RipOffReport.com Google De-Indexing Day Taught Us
The elation of Ripoff Report’s Google de-indexing didn’t last long. Within hours, it became apparent that the removal was a simple, rectifiable mistake. Someone with access to Ripoff Report’s webmaster tools account had sent in the removal request.
It’s still unclear if a hacker, disgruntled employee, or inexperienced intern was responsible, but either way, the event was a reminder about a simple online business rule every company should follow: protect your passwords! A lot of stuff can be done through webmaster tools, so be careful who you trust to access yours. If someone leaves your organization – even on good terms – it’s always a good idea to change your username and password.