There are many internet forums on which disgruntled parties are initiating online reputation and brand attacks. This includes people publishing false and defamatory blog posts, which typically involves them creating a free blog through Google, WordPress or another easy-to-use blog-publishing platform for the sole purpose of disparaging other parties.
When confronting defamation, it’s important to understand the most fundamental idea behind it – the difference between libel and slander. Familiarizing yourself with the two could be crucial for your claim, as depending on the form in which the defamation is conveyed, there may be differing statutes of limitations.
That’s right, simply misidentifying online defamation and other defamatory communications could mean the difference between you being able to lodge and bring your defamation claim, or being barred completely.
Let’s take a look at the definitions of both libel and slander.
Libel: a false written or published communication made to a third-party, which ultimately damages or causes harm to another person’s reputation,
Slander: a false spoken communication made to a third-party, which ultimately damages or causes harm to another person’s reputation.
All defamation is not the same. Unfortunately, the general public typically tends to confuse the two definitions, commonly referring to all defamatory and false communications as “slander,” when in reality libel claims constitute the bulk of actionable defamation claims.
Furthermore, when bringing a libel or slander claim against a defendant, it’s important for a plaintiff not only prove the statement made was a false assertion of fact, but that it:
Actually communicated to a third-party,
Made with at least negligence (and in cases of public figures or public officials “actual malice”), &
Caused damage to the plaintiff’s reputation or was ‘defamatory per se’.
In many instances, it may be possible to contact the host and assert a terms of service violation and request removal of the offending content – whether defamation or some other violation such as disclosure of personal information (e.g. social security numbers).
In the case of defamation, most sites do not want to get too involved and be asked to make a determination as to whether certain content is false. In fact, many of the more sophisticated websites actually state this in their terms, noting they may, however, defer to the court’s judgments.
Accordingly, obtaining a court order in which the court declares the content in question on a blog to be unlawful and mandates removal of the content, and then submitting the order to the website or host is often effective.
Google and WordPress
One of the most common blog-publishing platforms is Blogger, which is hosted by Google (noting that many of these Blogger sites are published via a “blogspot.com” subdomain).
Thus, if a court declares content on a Google blog unlawful and mandates removal, an order can be submitted to Google via its legal request removal page.
As far as WordPress, court orders can be submitted to the company directly via email. WordPress typically forwards these to the owners of the particular blogs/sites within a day or two and requests that they take action.
If the person behind a blog does not chose to remove the content within several days, WordPress may consider suspending the site. If the site is suspended or the content is actually removed but the site is not taken down completely, the WordPress URLs can be submitted to Google for removal of the outdated cache page from the search results.
Thus, if a site refuses to remove defamatory content pursuant to a court order, or perhaps ignores a removal request altogether, the URL(s) can be submitted to Google for de-indexing, or removal, from the Google.com search results.
While complete removal from the internet is ideal, having content removed from search results – such that a potential customer/client or other relevant party will not stumble upon the false and defamatory information in an internet search – is an alternative to consider as well.
Defamed parties can also try to obtain personally identifying information of unknown blog creators/authors by subpoenaing the hosting websites — whether Google, WordPress (via Automattic, Inc.) or another host — and potentially pursuing the actual content creators upon revealing their identities.
WordPress is a free blogging and web hosting platform that allows users to post content to personal blogs online. The company was launched in 2005 and grew to over 56 million blogs by the end of 2012. Because of its popularity, blogs hosted on wordpress.com tend to rank highly in search engines, especially if they include specific keywords like an individual’s name. Generally a democratized platform for individuals to air thoughts publicly online is a positive thing, and many authors use blogging platforms like WordPress.com to develop a following for their ideas. On some occasions however, individuals seek to misuse WordPress to post negative, false, copyrighted, or defamatory information on the Internet. If this has happened to you, here are several ways to remove WordPress posts.
Before discussing how to remove WordPress posts from search engines and blogs, it is important to clarify the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. WordPress.com is a web hosting service provider and blog platform that is owned and run by a company called Automattic. WordPress.org is free, open source content management software that simplifies maintaining a database driven website. This article deals with removing posts from WordPress.com sites.
The most common scenarios we hear about at Reputation Resolutions with regard to removing WordPress.com posts are based on one of the following three scenarios: A WordPress blog is publishing copyrighted material, someone is using a WordPress blog to impersonate someone else, or someone is utilizing WordPress to defame or otherwise damage someone’s reputation. There are specific strategies to remove a WordPress Blog or Post for each of these scenarios.
Remove WordPress posts due to copyright infringement.
WordPress.com’s parent company, Automattic may remove WordPress posts, blogs, or comments if they are properly notified that a blog is in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The WordPress Terms of Service state the following:
If you believe that material located on or linked to by WordPress.com violates your copyright, you are encouraged to notify Automattic in accordance with Automattic’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) Policy. Automattic will respond to all such notices, including as required or appropriate by removing the infringing material or disabling all links to the infringing material.
Automattic also states that they will terminate paid accounts without providing a refund in the event of repeated offenses. Please do ensure that you are the copyright holder before submitting a DMCA form to Automattic.
Remove WordPress Posts due to User Guidelines Violations.
The decision of whether or not to remove WordPress posts is ultimately at the discretion of Automattic.
There are however, user guidelines which clearly state what content will be considered a violation and therefore will be eligible for removal. Specifically, WordPress.com forbids the following.
Illegal content and conduct
Intellectual property infringement
Technologically harmful content
Impersonation (excluding satire)
Directly threatening material
Posting private information
Advertising (via non-approved channels)
Hotlinking (serving WordPress content exclusively to third party sites)
Spam or machine generated content
If any of the above applies to your situation, report the site to Automattic and the content should be removed.
Remove WordPress Posts due to defamation of character.
Unfortunately, it is somewhat common for an individual to take to the Internet in an attempt to destroy someone’s reputation by spreading false, defamatory content online. Occasionally these malicious individuals utilize blogging software like WordPress.com. WordPress.com is completely protected under the Communication Decency Act section 230(c) which states that website owners are not legally responsible for content authored by third parties. WordPress does provide instructions for reporting offensive sites, but if these measures fail you may need to consult an expert or online defamation attorney to remove WordPress posts.