Digital Is Not Necessarily Forever

One of the Internet’s big secrets is that digital is not necessarily forever. Content can actually be removed from search results and sometimes entirely from cyberspace. I’m not saying it is easy or that removal practices are prevalent, but it can be done.

Human beings are fallible, and we all make mistakes. Sometimes our errors in judgment, both large and small, find their way online. In some cases, people break the law and the details end up on news websites. In other situations, a person slights another person (sometimes unintentionally) and a digital version of the story finds its way online.

Blog sites, social media postings and message boards are often the biggest culprits but mainstream news sites also carry unflattering stories that can be damaging to an individual or a brand.

The common belief is that once something is posted online that it will stay there forever. Many people endure a feeling of helplessness at this thought, but options exist. Here are a few tactics which do not include suppression (so-called driving down) of negative content. Here, we are discussing outright removal.

Negotiation: Most websites are run by legitimate businesses that have no interest in publishing false, tasteless or potentially defamatory content. Of course, some sites are run by neurotic bloggers, but the vast majority have sensible human beings at the controls. If you are dealing with negative web postings or negative articles posted on a corporate site or corporate message board, it may be possible to negotiate removal. We have had instances where individuals not affiliated with a company-sponsored message board posted negative information about our clients. We contacted the company and asked them to take it down, and the negative post was quickly removed. We explained to the company that the comment or posting was in bad taste and potentially defamatory and that it didn’t match with the company’s brand and image. Sometimes it helps to have a third-party make the request on your behalf.

Get legal and check the fine print: If a website story is truly defamatory, then legal counsel might be able to help. We leave the exact steps to the attorneys, but it may be possible to have negative content removed through legal channels. In addition, some website articles or postings may be in violation of the terms of service of Google, Yahoo, Bing and others. If you are victim of such a posting, you may be able to petition the sites yourself. We have further info here on how to remove posts that violate terms of service.

Covert Ops: Another option is what I like to call the covert operations of online reputation management. There are folks who can make things disappear from search results. It is a fairly exclusive thing and exactly how it works I can’t explain. But we have worked with an organization that has been able to get stories and posts completely removed from search results using proprietary software.

Again, all of these tactics do not involve suppression. And while there’s nothing better for your online reputation than maintaining a very strong Internet presence, tactics do exist to remove negative information that damages your reputation because it sits at the top of search results.

Please feel free to contact us if you would like more information or advice on how to remove or combat negative content. Our initial consultation is always free.