The Internet is a double-edged sword — especially for small businesses. It’s a cost-effective marketing tool, but it’s also fertile soil for defamatory claims. If you’re the victim of an online smear campaign, and you’re curious how to remove defamation from Google and other search engines — keep reading.
First, 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 Web pages on which the libelous content resides;
- If you’re a business, gather a portfolio of financial information that clearly shows a decline in business. If you’re an individual, collect information proving that the material harmed your reputation and/or how it affects your ability to find employment.
Getting libelous content removed from a website and convincing Big-G’s overlords to remove defamatory material 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 material from indices or informational databases. In other words, demanding that Google remove X, Y or Z from its search results would prove useless and fruitless. What you can do, however, is politely approach the webmaster of the site on which the false information appears and ask that it be taken down.
I Asked A Website To Remove Something. They Refused. Now What?
What happens when webmasters refuse to remove defamatory content from their sites?
- Ask for the poster’s contact information so you can serve a libel notice to the individual. If they’ve refused your requests thus far, they’re probably not going to take you up on this offer. That’s OK.
- Either represent yourself 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 contact information.
- Re-approach the webmaster and provide proof of the legal action. Many webmasters don’t want to be dragged into a legal battle that has nothing to do with them, and at this stage will remove the offending content.
- If nothing happens, the next step is court. If a judge rules in your favor, the bench will order an injunction stipulating removal of the libelous content.
- 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.
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 provide adequate proof of harm, you may be able to excise the offending content.
Contact A Lawyer Who Knows How To Remove Defamation From Google Quickly and Quietly
Have you been smeared online? Contact Kelly / Warner today.
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.