1. The Basics: What You Need to Know About Google
As the largest and most widely used search engine in the world, Google’s reach extends not only across the Great Lakes of the upper mid-east region of the United States, but to the ravines and gorges along the Yangtze River in China. People, located in every corner of the globe, know that Google is synonymous with information, and The Internet. In fact, a February 2016 Com Score report found that Google holds near 64% of the U.S. desktop search market share, while a September, 2017 Netmarketshare.com report reported an almost 80% global market share.
Globally, Google’s market share trumps Bing, its largest competitor, and second overall ranking search engine, by nearly 72%. It’s worth noting that Bing powers and drives search results for Yahoo, AOL, and Amazon, making Google’s leverage, all the greater. In the mobile search arena, Google’s dominance is even more notable, accounting for nearly 90% of the market, likely attributed to the increasingly modern, mobile, and “on the go” population.
Because of Google’s command of the global search engine market, it’s no surprise that persons subject to online defamatory attacks and posts will likely first discover such content from a basic Google search. Or maybe, it’s a friend, colleague, or even family member who stumbles across libelous and other inappropriate content, stigmatizing you, or your business, and jeopardizing your personal and professional life.
If you want to protect your online reputation and livelihood, it is highly recommended you proactively tackle and address any defamatory posts or content by contacting the “root” of where it begins; Google.
Defamation Law Fact: Remember that Google is only a search engine, and not the entire world wide web. Removing content from Google’s search results doesn’t permanently remove your footprint from the Internet, and you’ll likely have to take further steps to remove yourself from other search engines.
2. What Online Content Do You Control?
Information appearing in Google’s search results comes from a “source,” usually a web page. In order to determine who controls and hosts defamatory and libelous content posted about you, you need to understand the difference between what content you already control, and what you don’t control.
By acquainting yourself with what content you do and do not control, you’ll be able to recognize the source of the content more easily, allowing for a more efficient takedown.
Examples of content that you control:
- Personal blogs
- A WordPress site that you own and run
- Your social media profiles
- A website you own (for example, Aaron Minc owns minclaw.com)
Examples of content that you don’t control:
- An article or story written about you on a newspaper website, such as CNN.com
- Information or posts about you on someone else’s social media profile
- An entry in a 3rd party blog
- A Wikipedia page about you
Defamation Law Fact: In order to acquaint yourself with the different forms defamation may take, check out an in depth explanation here.
3. Can You Remove a Search Result or URL from Google with a Court Order?
Too many people are under the impression that the only way to remove defamatory and libelous content from Google search engine results is by obtaining a valid court order. Obtaining a court order is just one of the ways you can take down content and de-index it from Google’s search engine.
It is important to make sure that when contacting search engine providers, you come prepared and meet all the required criteria for reporting, otherwise your request may be dismissed. Preparing concrete evidence, and ensuring the defamatory content in question falls under the category of “abuse” or “defamatory” content is important for proving a legitimate case for search result removal. Some legitimate reasons qualifying for search result removal include:
- The website contains a malware or is a phishing scheme: Google strives to remove websites that use malware and other intrusive and hostile software in an attempt to leverage defamatory personal attacks against users. They also prohibit websites that use phishing or extortion in order to obtain private, sensitive information. Google may remove all content that intends to, or is driving traffic to, a malicious page.
- Violation of intellectual property rights: Google may be held responsible in certain cases where a site has failed to obtain proper licensing authorization and use and is violating a trademark, copyright, or other intellectual property right. Removing such information can be difficult and is often only removed after a neutral third party arbitrator or court order authorizes the removal. Filing a DMCA takedown notice with an experienced defamation removal attorney is an effective way of combating defamatory and infringing content.
- Posting of specific personally identifying information: Google will remove posts and internet search results that contain specific, unique personal and financial information, including; social security numbers, bank account details, credit card numbers, images of signatures, and sexually explicit photos posted without permission. There is certain personal information that Google will not remove, including; your name, birthday, and various non-descript or private information.
- Illegal content: Google will remove all posts and content that promote dangerous and illegal acts. Specifically, Google highlights zero-tolerance towards underage, non-consensual, and other illegal sex acts. As a strong supporter of Family Safety Online, Google pledges to remove all results associated with child pornography, sexual abuse, and pedophilia.
- You have a valid court order against a website: Google will remove content that has been deemed unlawful and ordered removed by a court. They will only accept valid court orders signed by a judge, but may also voluntarily remove content if other URLs and content is named in the court order and it is found to violate the law. Keep in mind that when proceeding with a court order, if the order is directed at Google, they do not accept service of process via their troubleshooter.
While individuals have a number of options to address the removal of search results returned for defamatory pages and websites, there is a considerable amount of strategic planning required before commencing such actions.
Remember, that removing the content from Google doesn’t mean the content ceases to exist. You should strive to remove the content from its original source as well. Before posting on the internet, recognize that there is always a risk information can be found and duplicated by third parties, making the removal process that much tougher.
Defamation Law Fact: Careers, relationships, and social personas are often made and broken by one’s online reputation, don’t let yours crumble due to someone else’s malicious and false statements.
4. Is Google Immune From Court Ordered Libel Removal Demands?
Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”), Google and other search engines receive blanket protection from liability for defamation and libel postings and content. Historically, publishers have been held liable and responsible for content published on their platforms, but the Internet age brought about new considerations. In 1996, Congress cleared up any confusion on whether providers of interactive computer services and search engines were true publishers of the content.
Congress noted, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider,” thus securing immunity and protection for Google and other providers. Despite the outright protection granted to Google and other search engines under the CDA, Google has long chosen to respect and act upon valid court orders via a “de facto” policy for removal of defamation and libel.
Although Google’s de facto removal policy has led to countless removals and protection for harmed parties, there has been an alarming trend of denial of valid court orders over the last 5 years. Previous posts that were reliably removed, are now being rejected without so much an explanation why.
Several theories exist as to why Google has slowed down with defamation and other removal requests.
- Google is making a statement against censorship
- Attorney and reputation agency abuse of Google’s removal process
- The requests are predominantly by politicians and governments
- Excess removal requests from countries lacking adequate freedom-of-speech laws
Defamation Law Fact: In February, 2016, President Trump promised to “open up” current libel and defamation laws, making it easier for celebrities to bring defamation suits against the media.
With increasing uncertainty and futility of removal requests, attempting to remove defamatory and malicious content by yourself pales in comparison to the efficacy of a defamation removal attorney. By reaching out to a defamation removal attorney, you increase your chances of removing such content, and don’t have to sort through potentially hundreds or thousands of URLS and pages by yourself. Give yourself the best chance to succeed, and call our internet defamation attorneys today.
5. How to Locate the Correct URLs When Removing Web Pages
After locating and classifying the defamatory and unlawful URLs or content, your defamation removal attorney will submit information via Google’s Legal Removal Requests webpage. Google will seldom entertain a removal request which lacks a valid court order, so going through a proper and legal channel is important for increasing your chances of a successful takedown.
Sometimes, locating the proper URL or URLs, which are host to the defamatory and false content, can be hard to find. When requesting a URL remove from Google, it is important for you to make sure you have provided Google, or your defamation removal attorney, with the exact URL that appears in the search results, otherwise the removal process could be delayed or even dismissed.
Google Support lists the differences between www.example.com/dragon versus www.example.com/Dragon as an often overlooked, yet crucial difference. The capitalization of the second URL can point users to completely different content from the first.
Defamation Law Fact: In 2016, Google announced that even without a valid court order, they wouldn’t hesitate to accept all removal requests for “revenge porn.” Even a simple note to Google could do the trick.
To locate the correct URL:
- Look for the blue link: Hover your mouse over the blue link in the Google search results. Steer clear of clicking the text displayed in the link and copying the URL from the opened page.
- Right click: Right click and “Copy Link Address.”
- Search for additional URLs: Due to the connectivity of the Internet, if the content is posted on one website, it is likely posted elsewhere. Locate the other URLs that point to the same page of defamatory or false content.
- Double-check: If you’ve submitted a removal request, but the content still appears in Google’s search results, double-check the URL you submitted matches the URL appearing in the search results. Don’t forget, capitalization matters.
In order to locate the URLs for images:
- Go to Google’s image search results,
- Locate the offensive and false image,
- Right-click to “view original image,” or “full size”
- Copy the link address.
Defamation Law Fact: Citizens with dual US/EU citizenship may be able to legally require Google to remove malicious and damaging content from being viewed by users in Europe.
6. Rely on Internet Defamation Removal Attorneys When Deleting a URL or Google Search Result and Call Today
While there are numerous strategies and channels you may employ to remove libelous and calumnious content from the Internet, first focusing on subject matter appearing at the forefront of search engine results is an effective way to reduce the impact and spread of online defamation.
Removing such information by yourself is an arduous and confusing process, therefore it is highly recommended you contact an experienced Internet defamation removal attorney to expedite the removal, saving yourself time, stress, and headache.
The internet defamation lawyers of Minc Law will fight to remove all defamatory and offensive content from Google’s search results. To schedule a free, initial legal consultation, dial (216) 373-7706 , or schedule a meeting online today.