If you discover negative and false content about yourself online, there are many things you can do to get the content removed. In 2019, your online reputation is everything. It affects your ability to work, your earning potential, your mental state, your family members and your ability to maintain relationships.
Fortunately, you can exercise control over your online reputation. In this post, we’ll cover some of the most common tools and strategies that we use to help our clients remove negative content from the Internet.
Be it a photo, video, fake Google review, news article, or something else, there are many ways to remove content. Every case must be approached with a personalized and unique strategy to obtain the most effective and efficient results. The following are a list of ten of these ways individuals and businesses can remove content from the Internet in certain situations:
- Securing a court order
- Sending a cease and desist letter
- Sending a DMCA request
- Sending a revenge porn submission to Google
- Making an editorial request to a website or news outlet
- Flagging for Terms of Service violations
- Asking the original poster to remove it
- Negotiating with a website
- De-indexing content from search engine indexes
- Asking the website to add a no-index tag to the URL
At Minc Law, we’ve removed more than 25,000 defamatory, negative, and unwanted web-pages. These are some of the techniques we use to remove content for our clients.
While there are many methods to get content removed, these are the top 10 ways to get content removed from the Internet. If you’re curious about how to get content removed from the Internet, consider this your ultimate guide!
Let’s dive in.
1. Get a Court Order
One of the most successful ways to remove content from the Internet is with a court order. A court order is an order written by a judge that compels a person to comply with its terms.
To attain a court order to remove content, you must file a lawsuit against the person who posted the content. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act generally insulates websites from liability for content posted on their sites, so your best strategy is to sue the content poster, not the website. Even if your court order is not directed against the websites, websites usually follow court orders by removing the content at issue in the lawsuit.
The only way to receive a court order is by filing a lawsuit. While individuals can appear in court without an attorney, using an attorney will significantly improve your chances of success and we don’t recommend pursuing a court order without one. This is because if your court order is not drafted specifically, websites might not comply with its terms. Additionally, the legal process for getting a court order is complicated, so mistakes can be costly and easy to make.
Benefits & Drawbacks of Court Orders
The benefit of getting a court order is that it is backed by the power of the court. This makes it the strongest and most effective means of securing removal from the Internet. It also decreases the chance that the person posting negative content about you will engage in similar attacks in the future.
The drawback is that some websites do not always respond to all court orders, including Google, and they can be expensive and take time to obtain. You may need to use other content removal methods in conjunction with a court order.
2. Send a Cease & Desist Letter
You can also attempt to remove online content from the Internet by sending the content poster a cease and desist letter. When you send a cease and desist letter, you are forcefully asking another party to stop doing something and refrain from doing it in the future.
Cease and desist letters have the potential to backfire because posters may publish the letter online and take revenge by posting more content.
When written poorly, these letters have been known to trigger the Streisand Effect. The Streisand Effect is a phenomenon that occurs when a person’s attempt to hide something makes the information more popular. Triggering the Streisand Effect will result in more negative content, so you definitely want to be careful that your attempts at removal are not making a bad situation worse.
While you can send your own cease and desist letter, you will likely get better results with a letter drafted by an experienced internet defamation attorney. When an attorney drafts a cease and desist letter, it can improve the chances of the poster’s compliance and reduce the chances of revenge.
Benefits & Drawbacks of Cease and Desist Letters
In general, cease and desist letters can lead to the removal of content much faster than a court order and are nowhere near as expensive.
The drawback of this method of content removal is that it may be ignored by the poster or trigger the Streisand Effect. But because of its low expense, other methods can be used if your cease and desist letter fails.
Content Removal Tip: When you find negative content about you online, be sure to document everything. Doing so will help strengthen your case and refute defenses by the other party if you end up going to court.
3. Make an Editorial Request
The most diplomatic content removal strategy is the editorial request. This type of request involves a polite dialogue between you (or your attorney) and a website owner. Editorial requests can be used to remove any type of content, but work best with news outlets, media websites, and blogs. In order to draft a strong editorial request, you will want to explain to the site owner why you’d like the content to be removed and then offer them a few alternatives to removal such as:
- Removing photos, names, and other information that identifies you, or
- Removing the article entirely.
Editorial requests should NOT be treated like cease and desist letters, which rely on more aggressive language. Approaching site owners or news outlets in a hostile manner rarely yields positive results and is likely to backfire. This could result in a situation where the website publishes your removal request online and/or posts more negative and unwanted content in retaliation.
These requests rely on negotiation and persuasive skills, so it can be wise to seek an attorney’s help. Because attorneys aren’t personally affected by the content, they tend to use neutral language that helps minimize the Streisand Effect. Site owners may take requests more seriously when they’re made by an attorney.
The timeline for this form of online content removal is around 1-3 months and is relatively inexpensive when compared to the costs of a lawsuit or the repercussions of sending an inappropriate cease and desist letter.
Benefits & Drawbacks of Editorial Requests
The benefit of Editorial Requests is that they are less costly than other types of services. They can also help you maintain a professional, working relationship with the content creator.
The drawback is that negotiation is that the process can involve a lot of dialogue and follow up. This method often ends up being time-consuming and can potentially backfire if you use language that offends the poster.
4. Send a DMCA Request
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) protects copyrighted material online. When your image, photographs, artistic works, writings, or other similar material is posted by others without your consent, it can infringe on your copyrights. If you find that your copyrighted work is being published without permission, you can serve the website with a DMCA request. You can utilize a DMCA for work which you hold a license for, as well.
DMCA requests do not have to be submitted by an attorney, but there are situations where hiring an attorney makes sense. In situations involving non-consensual pornographic images or videos, an attorney can protect your privacy by submitting a request that does not contain your name or identifying information. Internet defamation attorneys can also help in properly identifying the correct party to send the DMCA and getting attention to removal requests for content that is hosted overseas or on websites that don’t have a legal obligation to abide by the DMCA. Also, attorney-drafted DMCA requests are usually more thorough and ensure every form of the content is removed.
Benefits & Drawbacks of DMCA Requests
DMCA Requests have a shorter timeline than court orders, making them inexpensive.
One drawback is that you must provide web hosts with a notice period (usually 7-30 days) before they have to remove your content, and litigation may be necessary if the web host fails to honor your request. Other drawbacks include that DMCA’s can cause Streisand effects similar to Cease and Desist Letters if utilized incorrectly or sent to a hostile website/actor.
5. Revenge Porn Removal Request Submissions to Google
If nude images or videos of you were posted without your consent, you have been a target of something known as “revenge porn.” Google has very strict policies against the distribution of intimate images without consent, so a revenge porn removal request can be sent directly to Google. Google usually reviews and removes the content within a few days.
While anyone can request the removal of revenge porn with Google, there are benefits to hiring an attorney for help. Content removal attorneys usually have direct contacts with Google employees that can speed up the removal process. They can also protect your identity, making the removal request completely confidential. The cost for this type of content removal is low.
Benefits & Drawbacks of Google Revenge Porn Submissions
This is one of the quickest and easiest ways to get nonconsensual content removed from the internet.
The main drawback of this method of content removal is that even though Google will remove the content from its search results, the content will still appear on the original site. This is why this method of removal is often used in conjunction with other methods of removal as a form of quick relief.
Some websites have developed a shady tactic for keeping offensive content live by making slight changes to the URL and re-indexing the content after a previous URL is de-indexed. This can create a cat-and-mouse cycle where you’re constantly requesting the de-indexing of new URLs for the same content.
6. Flagging for Terms of Service Violations
Virtually every website has a section on the site known as Terms of Service (TOS). Terms of Service policies typically limit the type and nature of content users can post. Most social media sites, video sharing sites, review sites, and search engines additionally have a procedure for individuals to “flag” inappropriate content. When you flag content, a communication is sent to the website host, who then reviews the content and determines if it needs to be removed under their Terms of Service.
Most site hosts review and respond within a week of content being flagged. Content can typically be flagged under multiple different categories (e.g., copyright infringement, content threatening violence, content disclosing private information, etc.) so even content that isn’t removed under one category may be removed under another.
You do not need an attorney to flag content, however, if your attempt at flagging the material was not successful in getting it removed, it may be time to solicit help. Because popular websites receive a lot of these requests, a request from an attorney may be taken more seriously or reviewed faster. Public relations professionals, marketing managers, and content managers can also assist with content flagging.
Benefits & Drawbacks of Flagging
The benefit of flagging to remove content is that it can be done quickly and easily.
The drawback is that some posters will continue to re-post the content even after it has been removed.
7. Reach Out to the Original Poster & Ask That They Remove the Content
A simple and easy approach to content removal is to contact that original poster. You can do this for any type of content and don’t need an attorney’s help (unless you think that the situation necessitates a mediator ). Usually, you will get a yes or no within a week and content is removed in a short time-frame.
Benefits & Drawbacks of Contacting the Original Poster
Whether you decide to contact the poster yourself or use the help of an attorney, this method of content removal is very inexpensive.
The main concern with this method of content removal is that some posters may get angry and publish more of your content out of spite, once again resulting in the Streisand Effect.
Internet Privacy Tip: We recommend protecting your personal data and information by making your social media accounts private. This helps prevent cyberbullying, harassment, identity theft.
8. Negotiate With the Website to Remove Content
Just as you can contact the content poster personally, you can reach out to the website owner about the content you would like to be removed. This tactic works especially well for removing mugshots from mugshot galleries, and content from shaming and porn sites.
An experienced internet attorney can typically attain this type of content removal more effectively than others because they usually have direct contacts with the people responsible for website content monitoring. In some cases, one website owner manages multiple sites, so an attorney may be able to negotiate a “bundle” and get content about you removed from every site managed by that particular website owner.
Websites may ask for payment in exchange for content removal, and content removal attorneys know how to negotiate fair processing fees, to cut costs for victims.
Benefits & Drawbacks of Negotiating with a Website
This method of content removal can be fast, with removal occurring in as little as 7 days, depending on the website.
On the other hand, this method is moderately expensive, usually beginning around $1,500 per site. Risks also include the possibility that spiteful website owners will refuse to remove the content and post even more offensive content.
9. De-Index Content From Search Engine Indexing
Search engines organize information by indexing content from webpages in search results. This is how sites like Google enable you to find content by searching for keywords. Just as online content can be indexed, it can be de-indexed so that the content does not appear in search results.
De-indexing is done by sending a request to search engines like Google and Bing. Then, the search engines remove the questionable content from their search results (usually within one month, sometimes a Bing content removal may require additional time). Like most other forms of content removal, you can request de-indexing on your own, but may have more luck with an attorney.
Benefits & Drawbacks of De-Indexing
De-index requests are simple, free, and will make negative content more difficult to find.
The drawback to this form of content removal is that removing content from search results does not remove content from the original site. Also, it may take months to see the effects of de-indexing.
10. Ask the Website to Add a No-Index Tag to the URL
One of the best ways to remove negative news articles is to ask the website where your content is posted to add a “no-index tag” to the content’s URL. A no-index tag tells search engines not to index the URL, which means the content won’t appear in search results. This strategy works best for news outlets and gossip forums but can be used for any type of website.
It’s best to ask a website to add a no-index tag when you make an editorial request. Once you establish a collaborative dialogue, site owners are more likely to work with you. You do not need an attorney to make this type of request and you’ll usually see results within 1-3 months. This strategy is free to do on your own but will carry moderate costs if you seek the help of an attorney.
Benefits & Drawbacks of No-Index Tags
Requesting a no-index tag is a free method of content removal. It is also faster than obtaining a court order.
The drawback is that website owners may ignore your request and even if they do add a no-index tag, the content will still appear on the original website.
Google Review Removal Tip: Even Google reviews can be removed. You may be able to negotiate removal with the original poster and in some situations, Google may remove the review for you.
There are Benefits to Working With Content Removal Attorneys
The good news is that not all situations require that you hire an attorney to remove content. Self-help options are available and sometimes appropriate to get content removal on your own. But, when online issues become serious in nature and present grave threats to a person or business online reputation there are clear benefits to hiring an experienced content removal attorney that may make sense for you depending on your situation. Content removal attorneys are expert negotiators who can help you deploy the best strategy from the start.
If you’re ready to speak with a content removal attorney reach out to the Minc Law team via chat, email or contact form.
You can learn more about specific forms of content removal through our other articles over at our defamation blog.