• 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.

 

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.

 

Newspapers have a right to publish certain information about you even if the information turns out to be untrue. For example, if you had been charged with a criminal offence and then prosecuted, news reporters have a right to report from legal proceedings as long as the reporting is fair and accurate. The problem starts in cases where a reporter sits in court and then write an article about the serious allegations that a witness had made against the defendant.

 

The newspaper then publishes a report from the legal proceedings about the evidence that was given against the defendant. Say the following day, the reporter does not turn up to court when the evidence of the same witness is discredited. A few days later, the defendant is found not guilty, or the trial collapses due to the now discredited evidence of the witness against him.Because the journalist is not in court, this isn’t being reported by the newspaper. The consequence for the defendant, who has now been found not guilty is that the allegations against him, as given by the false witness and reported by the press, is still published on the internet, on the online version of the newspaper.

 

Even though the reported allegations have been proven false, the newspaper editor refuses to delete the online news article. This leaves the innocent victim of the false allegations in a difficult situation. To the rest of his life he will be subjected to publication of false allegations against him without being able to take legal action for defamation against the newspaper or against the witness who gave false evidence.

 

The newspaper is protected by the fair reporting from legal proceedings defence whilst the discredited witness is protected by the fact that their false statement was made during legal proceedings. By law, both of them have a good defence to a claim of defamation. The only option left for the victim of the false allegations is to ask Google to de-list the news articles from its internet searches.

 

Google, however, often think that it is above the law. When the allegations are serious, particularly involving sex offending, Google tends to treat applicants of a right to be forgotten request with contempt. Google, without good reason refuses to delist certain news articles about criminal proceedings from search results. This is where the victim needs to come and speak to us!

 

Newspapers are an important historical resource, and they’re proud of this fact. They’re generally quite hostile to the idea of deleting or removing published articles, although they are usually willing to delete defamatory or reputation-damaging comments that readers have posted to an article.

In some cases, judges have ordered newspapers to expunge news reporting in cases where the criminal record has also been expunged. Obviously, it’s not very useful to have your criminal record cleared when the original charges top your Google search results. But unless you have a court order, news publications will generally avoid removing entire articles, instead preferring to print corrections, retractions or follow-up pieces. There are some exceptions, however.

 

Once you have determined that you have a good reason for getting an article removed or altered, follow these steps:

 

  • Find out who was in charge of publishing the article. Generally this is the editor, managing editor or newsroom manager, but titles vary from publication to publication. If you can’t find this information online, call the organization.

  • Contact the newspaper by phone, and talk to the person responsible for publishing your article. If you can’t reach him or her, move up the chain of command until you do get to talk to someone. Don’t leave a message. Journalism professionals are extremely busy, and non-urgent voicemails or emails may fall by the wayside.

  • When you do reach the right person on the phone, be polite. Editors are used to taking abuse from unhappy readers, so you can’t intimidate them by threatening to sue the publication or by using aggressive language. Instead, try to win them over by clearly stating your case and by providing legitimate reasons for the unpublishing.

  • Stay on the phone until you solve the issue. If the editor requires further documentation, offer to send it by email or regular mail, and then follow up again by phone.

 

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 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.