Yes, It can be done.
In old movies, the hard boiled press agent would dismiss a hostile newspaper story by barking a cliche. “Don’t worry. That newspaper will be wrapping fish tomorrow.” Those were the days! Of course, in the digital age, there’s no solace to be taken from negative stories physically fading away. What goes online usually stays online, forever, for all to see.
That’s great if you’re researching the family tree, but what if a newspaper website publishes something embarrassing or defamatory about you, say a court case or an item from the police blotter? And what if the charges against you were subsequently dropped or expunged, but the newspaper didn’t bother to publish a follow-up article? Is it possible to get the paper to eliminate the damaging content from its website?
While it is definitely a challenge to remove news articles, it isn’t impossible. I’ve gotten it done for plenty of clients and have secured hundreds of defamation and content removals across 19 states and 3 countries.
Below, I’ll take a look at what has changed, and what hasn’t, in the realm of Google and Internet news article and content removals over the last five years.
In this comprehensive blog post, we are going to walk you through how to get negative news articles removed from the Internet and Google.
Defamation Removal Tip: Persons who post or communicate defamatory statements to a third-party are often referred to as libelers, slanderers, defamers, and (rarely) as famacide.
If you’ve been the victim of a defamatory or false online publication or news article, reach out to the defamation removal lawyers of Minc Law today. At Minc Law, we boast a nearly 100% news article and defamation removal rate, and all for a flat reasonable fee.
Cleveland-based attorney Aaron Minc and his team of defamation and news article removal lawyers know who to contact and how to work with them in order to secure a swift and permanent article takedown.
Reach out today by calling us at (216) 373-7706, or by scheduling a meeting online.
At Minc Law, we want to fight for your online reputation.
Table of Contents
- How Do I Remove News Articles From the Internet & Google? Questions to Ask Yourself
- Three Core Cases of Online News & Article Removal
- Canada: The Epicenter of the Online Unpublishing Debate
- Journalism Traditionalists Cringe at the Thought of Unpublishing
- The “Longtail” of Online News: To Unpublish or Not to Unpublish
- Editors Open to Unpublishing Negative News Articles & Content – But Only Under Certain Circumstances.
- Some Pragmatic Views on Unpublishing & Removal
- Reach out to the Defamation Removal Lawyers of Minc Law Today to Remove Damaging Online Content
How Do I Remove News Articles From the Internet & Google? Questions to Ask Yourself
When determining whether it’s possible to remove negative news stories, articles, and other content from the Internet, there’s a plethora of factors you need to take into consideration, including:
- Does the news story in question contain information that is false, defamatory, libelous, or creates a false light or impression?
- How old is the information? Is then news or news story outdated, inaccurate, or unfair?
- Is there defamatory, libelous, or inflammatory language in the comments of the article?
- Does the article illicit defamatory, libelous, or other offensive responses?
- Is the website publicizing your name or likeness illegally and without your consent, ultimately profiting.
- Does the information violate copyright or trademark laws?
- Is there personal information published? For example, your social security number, credit card number, driver’s license information, or banking information.
- Does the article or news story contain information about a party who is a minor (under 18 years old)?
- How many sources or websites is the information published on?
Unpublishing can still inspire some deeply ingrained resistance in newsrooms, magazines, and other media outlets. It’s an area where newspaper practices and the overall news media have failed to catch up with technological changes, either because journalists still view themselves as writing the first draft of history, or because of plain old bureaucratic inertia.
If the information published about you is malicious and false–and you can prove that–you’ll have a good shot of getting the publication to correct, retract, or delete the information online. Typically, when determining whether information published online is factual and legitimate news, the most important factor in determining whether a removal is possible is by figuring out who the webmaster or organization who published the content is. In most cases, the only way to remove factual news stories is by contacting the publishing organization or webmaster. In other times, organizations and webmasters sometimes don’t even have a formal policy or framework in place to honor removal requests – therefore it’s imperative you reach out to an experienced online news article attorney.
After all, publications stand to lose a lot of money in a libel judgement if they refuses to correct a story that is wrong and defamatory.
In this piece, you’ll see why it isn’t always the easiest task when reaching out to online news organizations and media agencies to remove negative news articles and content.
Libel Removal Tip: In the real of defamation law, the U.S. is generally considered a pro-defendant jurisdiction due to its upholding and enforcement of the First Amendment, while European and other Commonwealth countries are typically considered more pro-plaintiff.
And, when you’re dealing with removing news, articles, and reviews from Google, it’s important to acquaint yourself with their Content and User Contribution Policy, which prohibits the following types of content:
- Spam & fake content: When dealing with reviews, factual posts, or other content, it should reflect your actual and genuine experience at whichever location you went to. Fake and duplicate content from multiple accounts will also not be tolerated.
- Off-topic content: Posting content that is completely unrelated to the location or topic in question will be removed.
- Restricted content: For specific content subject to controls or regulations, with certain guidelines governing their posting, users must avoid using calls to action or other offers for the sale of its products and services.
- Illegal content: This includes images or content infringing anyone else’s legal intellectual property right, anything depicting sexual abuse imagery, rape, organ sale, human trafficking, endangered animal products, illegal drugs, prescription drugs to the illegal market, graphic or gratuitous violence, and content produced by or on behalf of terrorist organizations.
- Sexually explicit content: Specifically, sexually explicit content exploiting children or presenting them in a sexual manner is prohibited.
- Offensive content: Content containing profane, obscene, or offensive gestures and language will be removed.
- Hate speech: Speech condoning or promoting violence against persons or groups based on religion, disability, race, ethnic origin, gender, age, veteran status, sexual orientation, or nationality is prohibited.
- Harassment & bullying: Using Google to harass, bully, or attack other individuals in prohibited.
- Impersonation: False attribution to another company or person with the intent of misleading others is grounds for removal.
Additionally, if you’re wondering how to remove outdated content from Google, you can request a removal of outdated content by:
- Going to the “Remove outdated content” webpage,
- Entering the URL (web address) of the page with outdated content that you would like removed and deleted,
- Selecting “Request Removal” and following the onscreen steps.
If you’d like to read up on how to delete yourself and remove your name and other personally protected information from online, check out our comprehensive blog post “How Do I Remove Personal & Protected Information From the Internet.”
Three Core Cases of Online News & Article Removal
But, what if the information posted online is actually true, but just incomplete or out of date?
In my experience as a defamation removal lawyer, having litigated across 19 states and 3 countries, securing hundreds of takedowns and working with countless website administrators, content managers, and third-party arbitration services – roughly 25-30% of all online publications boast a “No Removal” policy. This means that publications, websites, ISPs, & other online news media organizations will refrain from removing defamatory, false, incorrect, or malicious content – no matter what.
And, I’d estimate another 25%-to-30% of all online publications have specific and narrowly defined policies that allow removal through written guidelines or by committee review and adjudication. In the remaining (roughly) 40-50% of cases, removal decisions are solely left in the hands of an editor, journalist, webmaster, or whoever happens to pick up the phone when someone calls to complain.
Online publication removal and amendment varies case by case.
When handling online removal of news articles and other online publications from Google and the Internet, it’s important to reach out to an experienced defamation and news article removal attorney to explore your options. Additionally, at Minc Law, we will help you determine the most effective removal method in order to secure a swift and permanent takedown.
Below I’ll discuss three of the many cases I’ve resolved for clients whose reputations were being unjustly harmed and libeled by online articles.
Client #1: A Case of Improper Sexual Conduct
Client #1 was a middle-school teacher accused of improper sexual contact by a student. However, after digging deeper into the accusations, the prosecutor ultimately decided to drop the charges.
The reason why?
The prosecutor determined the witnesses adverse to the teacher had committed perjury, inventing the entire story of abuse out of whole cloth. Although the complete dismissal of charges was well and good for my client’s legal record, he still couldn’t get a teaching job with these allegations online.
Nearly half a dozen newspaper articles concerning the case were still floating around online, causing my client to relive the baseless attacks and consequences daily. After getting to work, and securing the takedown of online and libelous articles unjustly crucifying my client, he was able to find gainful employment as a teacher.
The effects of malicious and negative online articles not only stand to affect your personal life, but your professional one as well.
Client #2: Craigslist Consensual Encounters
Client # 2 was a man who had published a “consensual encounter” advertisement on Craigslist, which was answered by a woman. After having a kinky, but consensual, rendezvous with my client, the woman began having second thoughts and began feeling guilty about cheating on her boyfriend. Shed spilled the beans about the encounter with her boyfriend, but lied about the true nature of the encounter, and claimed that she had been kidnapped and raped. The boyfriend immediately marched down to the local police station.
In no time, my client was facing charges of kidnapping, rape, sodomy, and aggravated assault – all charges that stood to seriously impact the rest of my client’s life. And, as they do, the press jumped on the story, publishing 11 digital articles about the encounter.
As my client had taped the sexual encounter – with the woman’s permission – and saved emails exchanged with the woman preceding the encounter, I was able to prove beyond a doubt that the sex was consensual. The charges against my client were dropped. However, there stood one last hurdle in my client’s way of living a normal life – the reputation-killing and destructive online articles.
I reached out to newsrooms, and ultimately, we removed 10 of the 11 news articles, while significantly updating the 11th and removing an unflattering mugshot.
Online defamation and negative news articles pose a serious threat to not only your immediate reputation in the community, but to your reputation on a national scale, and can aid in malicious and overzealous prosecution – leading to a life potentially behind bars.
Client # 3: Underage Facebook Encounter
Client #3 was a guy in his early 20s who had used Facebook, which at the time was something of a novelty, to arrange an encounter in a public park with a young girl. The meeting was brief, public, and without any physical contact between the two. But, as it turned out, the girl lied about her age and was really just 15 years old.
Her parents found out about the meeting and goaded the prosecutor into pressing charges against my client. The case ended up receiving a lot of attention because Facebook was just getting big at the time and the public was ripe for a sensationalistic story about the risks of the social network. The charges were eventually dropped, however, the case appeared in 26 news stories.
I removed or deindexed all of those articles, some of them posted on national online publications and new several new archive websites.
My experience dealing with online defamation and negative news articles has taught me that you often only get just one crack at convincing a news organization to remove an article – so you can’t afford to blow it. That’s why you need an experienced defamation and news article removal attorney who knows his way around the newsroom, as well as his way around the law.
If you’ve been the victim or subject of negative or false online news articles, reach out to the defamation removal lawyers of Minc Law today.
The growing debate over removing online journalistic content is already reflected in how we use language. Most notably, the verb “unpublish” has come into vogue, gaining greater acceptance and usage with the spread and rise of Internet culture. There’s discussion among linguistics buffs over whether the verb form even constitutes proper usage. But as you can see from Google trends, it’s becoming a word that is more and more commonly used.
Online Defamation Law Fact: Online defamation is like a wildfire, the longer you let it sit and spread, the harder it’s going to be to put out. Setting up a Google Alerts account is an effective (and free) tool for monitoring your online reputation. Enter your name, and several keywords you want to keep a look out for, and be notified anytime your name and the entered words are mentioned together online. The key to defamation removal is proactivity, not reactivity.
Canada: The Epicenter of the Online Unpublishing Debate
Unpublishing has been a hot issue in Canada, where in early 2018, a provincial government got into a legal fight that went all the way to the country’s Supreme Court to try to force a broadcaster to expunge a story from its website.
The Province of Alberta ultimately lost a Supreme Court effort in February to compel the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. to take down the story. But not before prompting a national debate on unpublishing. The controversy started in 2016, when the CBC posted a story and photo of a 14 year old female homicide victim. Some days later, after a suspect was charged in the killing, Alberta applied for a media ban on identifying the girl. Under Canada’s Youth Criminal Justice Act, victims under the age of 18 have the same right to remain anonymous as minors who are charged with a criminal act.
Alberta’s Attorney General ordered the CBC to remove the story and photo. When the broadcaster refused on freedom of speech grounds, Alberta sought to have the CBC held in contempt. The province argued that publicizing the victim’s name would discourage young victims of crime from reporting abuses. After the first judge to hear the case ruled for the CBC, an appellate court sided with Alberta. But then the Supreme Court weighed in, siding with the broadcaster.
Right to Be Forgotten Tip: The right to be forgotten is a popular legal concept applied in the E.U., allowing persons to remove personal and protected information from the Internet when it no longer serves a public interest. Such privacy concept has still not made its way to the U.S., but there’s progress and hope. To read up on the right to be forgotten, and if it’s likely to ever fully be implemented in the U.S., check out our comprehensive article here.
Journalism Traditionalists Cringe at the Thought of Unpublishing
To understand the thinking of an old school newspaper journalist – one resistant to the idea of unpublishing – the below article’s title written by public editor Sylvia Stead of the Toronto Star reads true: “We’re not in the unpublishing business.”
In the piece, Stead recounts how she received more than a dozen unpublishing requests around the time she wrote the column. However, she frowned on the idea.
As with other newspapers around the world, The Globe and Mail’s policy is not to unpublish content and articles that has been published. Once it’s published, it stays. Such articles are part of the newspaper archives and integral for its digital brand, traffic, and revenue. Having digital articles and products searchable for many years, allows the public to view the archives in their true and original form. In many ways, they are part of history.
The Globe and Mail’s policy states it doesn’t “unpublish” articles, delete or remove names, photos or photo identification; nor does it delete key information from its archives or digital products, other than in rare circumstances, such as to comply with a court order. While upholding a traditionalist view of print and publication is integral for authenticity, originality, and an uncensored readership, it still poses core issues to innocent parties who have been maliciously or falsely named and attacked.
Stead goes on to list several circumstances in which people have sought to unpublish newspaper content in the past.
- Ironic t-shirt: In one case, a young man was embarrassed by an ironic t-shirt he had been wearing. Keep in mind that just because you find a photo unflattering, and want to offer a better one, this one isn’t grounds for removal.
- A bad marriage: One woman wanted a positive article about her and her ex-husband removed because she didn’t want her family to be reminded of a bad marriage.
- Criminal charges: By far, the most requests that typically come in are stories about criminal charges and convictions. Just days after Marco Muzzo of King Township, Ont., was sentenced to a 10-year prison term for impaired driving, killing three children and their grandfather in a crash, Stead heard from an upset reader that a story about her own multiple convictions for impaired driving were still available to digital readers. The woman lamented it was extremely damaging to her reputation. Not much later, the same argument about a damaged reputation came from a man with just one conviction for impaired driving.
A more flexible approach – though only slight more so – came from Ernie Gates, ombudsman for the military newspaper ‘Stars and Stripes’. A headline of his article, “Unpublishing is no longer unthinkable, but it’s mostly unacceptable” is relatively self-explanatory, but to go further into detail…
Gates wrote that Stars and Stripes will lean hard against “unpublishing” a story that was accurate when it was published. If later events make the original story a materially incomplete account and unfair, then the solution will be to verify the new information and update the story or annotate the archive, rather than eliminate the original.
For example, a story about a commander being relieved for “lack of confidence in his ability to lead” after allegations of misconduct might require an update if a subsequent investigation results in his exoneration. In the normal course of reporting, such an update ought to be a standard follow-up story, prompted by a periodic “pop-up” alert in the reporter’s calendar.
But that doesn’t always happen, and press releases about exonerations are scarcer than press releases about commanders being relieved. The story that allegations were made and the commander was relieved would still be accurate, but fairness would require that the record include the outcome.
In short: a growing trend in online publications is to fix, update, and amend articles instead of erasing them completely.
The “Longtail” of Online News: To Unpublish or Not to Unpublish
Probably the most complete look at unpublishing and the underlying issues surrounding it is a report titled “The Longtail of News: To Unpublish or Not to Unpublish.” The paper was written by Kathy English, with the support of the Associated Press Managing Editors Project. Though the study is now several years old, the dilemmas and attitudes it examines are still highly relevant to the removal of online news articles from the Internet and Google.
In the article, English emphasizes that many problems revolve around crime reporting. Not surprisingly, unpublishing requests occur increasingly in connection to reports of criminal charges from the daily police blotter. The reality that many news organizations do not routinely follow-up on the outcome of these charges and report on acquittals or dropped charges is an issue of increasing concern for news organizations and those they report on.
English asked some hard questions, and drew to light several fundamental issues plaguing news organizations and the alteration of online content.
Technology makes it relatively easy for news organizations to alter online content. But should we?
Given the realities of online publishing, we can expect that this dilemma will be a continuing challenge for news organizations.
Requests to unpublish raise questions about accuracy and fairness, as well as trust and credibility with our readers and the communities we serve.
- What’s fair to readers?
- What’s fair to those we report on?
- Who decides if and when to make news disappear from the Internet? &
- How do news organizations respond to such requests in a manner consistent with journalistic principles of accuracy, accountability and transparency, in order to fulfill the news industry’s stated goal of building trust in the News?
With so many organizations at war with each other and readers over the answer to the above questions, the news media still has quite a far ways to go before there is a settled consensus – something that may never occur.
Defamation Law Fact: If you’d like to read up about online defamation in the following states, check out our comprehensive state-by-state online defamation guides, including: Ohio, New York, Utah, Texas, & Florida.
Editors Open to Unpublishing Negative News Articles & Content – But Only Under Certain Circumstances.
English took a poll of 110 publications about their policies on removing content from the internet. When asked if news organizations should ever unpublish content, 78% of those surveyed said yes.
However, Just under half of those participating in the poll had a policy in place to deal with unpublishing requests, English found.
Asked under what circumstances the news organization might agree to a request to unpublish, the respondents gave the following answers:
- 67% might unpublish if the content is viewed as inaccurate or unfair,
- 48.7% said they might if it used inflammatory or defamatory language or comments,
- 20.09% said they might unpublish if the article contains outdated information that while accurate could be damaging to the source’s reputation in the community,
- 33.9% said unpublishing might be in order if content deals with a minor or other protected person, &
- 23.5% said it might if the content might compromise a law enforcement investigation.
English interviewed a host of editors about unpublishing. Some of the editors expressed an instinctive resistance, viewing it as a censoring of guaranteed and fundamental rights of expression.
“Unpublishing is a word that doesn’t accurately reflect what people are asking. They’re asking to censor or rewrite history.” – Kathy Steiner (and Logan Adams), The Jamestown Sun
“The online archive is like a library. Unpublishing is like stealing a book from the library.” – Doug Ernst, St. Helena Star.
Other editors offered some more flexible and pragmatic views on the unpublishing and removal of online news articles and content.
Defamation Removal Tip: If you or your company has been maliciously attacked or defamed through the posting of negative and false reviews on Google, check out this article on the 8 types of negative reviews Google will remove.
Some Pragmatic Views on Unpublishing & Removal
Several editors in favor of a more flexible and realistic approach to online content and article removal opined:
- “We should focus on doing the right thing and thinking like our community. We fall back too often on thinking like journalists rather than real people.” Chris Cobler, Victoria Advocate
- At GateHouse Media, which owns hundreds of dailies, weeklies and local Websites throughout the United States, Brad Dennison, Vice- President / News and Interactive division, said that publications had to closely examine the circumstances behind each unpublishing request. “They all take some level of thought and no two are exactly the same,” he told English. Conscious of how an embarrassing article can haunt someone for a lifetime, GateHouse was experimenting with a “sunset policy” in its police reporting. Through the policy, most police blotter reports were to be removed from GateHouse’s online archives six months after being published.
Dennison followed it up with, “How long does something minor like a shoplifting charge have to follow someone on the Web,” “My moral barometer tells me that’s not fair. There’s no rule that says this stuff has to live forever.”
Others respondents sought to find some kind of middle ground:
- “Our consistent philosophy is to add information, not subtract. If a reporter has missed the point of a story or neglected an important aspect, we follow up with another story. We invite people who have complaints to write letters to the editor. Realistically all we can do to correct the record is to make a good faith effort to get it right in continuing coverage.” Jack Robinson, Fresno Bee,
- “Update the story to reflect developments or correct inaccuracies or incompleteness. This can be done in the original story or through the addition of a box or editor’s note.” Bill Manny, Idaho Statesman,
- “We do not unpublish, but if there was an error or later information we did not publish that casts a different light on an archived article, we append a correction or an ?addendum’ to it.” Craig Whitney, New York Times.
Editors also discussed what specific circumstances prompted them to consider unpublishing.
- Criminal charges: “Most – and there are not many we have seriously considered – involved minor criminal charges that were later dropped long ago, but, for various reasons, not reported in print because the cases were too old to merit a follow-up story. We removed those from our system.” Frank Craig, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review,
- Incorrect information & impaired judgment: “The best example is the most recent case from several years ago regarding an in-depth story on a heroin addict who, likely acting with impaired judgment, gave a reporter on the-record information that in retrospect might nor have been reliable. Years afterward, she cleaned up, got an education and started seeking work as a paralegal and asked us to remove the story to prevent it from interfering with her future. We agreed.” Dean Betz, Houston Chronicle
- False sexual assault allegations: “A local man was accused of sexual assault of a minor and was arrested. The police discovered several days later that the minor made up the story, but the arrest story had already been put online. We updated the story, even though the arrest was accurate, but it remained in Google with the original (not updated) teaser. Some months later, when the accused applied for a new teaching position out of state, the teaser to the story popped up and created a serious problem for him. We did our best to get it off the Google index through all of their normal procedures, but I believe the accused eventually had to get a lawyer to have it removed. We removed the original story in hopes that when Google re-indexed, it would disappear. But it took more than 30 days for it to vanish and I suspect it’s still out there somewhere in the ether, just floating around waiting to strike.” Freda Yarbrough, The Advocate.
Reach out to the Defamation Removal Lawyers of Minc Law Today to Remove Damaging Online Content
If you’ve been the victim of damaging and negative content published online, reach out to defamation removal attorney Aaron Minc and his team of defamation and news article removal attorneys. At Minc Law, we boast a nearly 100% removal rate, and all for a flat reasonable fee.
Aaron and his team of defamation lawyers have litigated in over 19 states and 3 countries, securing hundreds of takedowns – so it’s no surprise that they know who to work with and how to contact them. Rest assured the defamation lawyers of Minc Law are here to protect your reputation.
Additionally, Ohio SuperLawyer Aaron Minc and his team have extensive experience and credibility working with websites and news organizations to secure swift and permanent takedowns. Know that every situation is different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy, so it’s important to consult an experienced defamation removal attorney before embarking on the online takedown process.