Googling yourself can turn up some interesting and not to loving results. Ever wanted to rid the internet of all the negative stuff about you? Here is a bit of help with that.
Have you tried asking websites to remove your name or information? If you have, you probably haven’t had much luck. Most do not have the time, or simply do not care. The information that search engines contain can ruin a career or what is soon to be a career.
Responsibility of the Search Engine
In general, a search engine could claim that they are not responsible for material found through their index. Google, for example, has a standard response to anyone who’s complaining, like you, that a search for their name reveals embarrassing information: “The webmaster is responsible”.
However, this is not entirely correct. It is possible – under ceratain consditions and in some extreme cases, to get the search engine to remove the “incriminating” pages. In some limited cases, several groups have managed to issue a cease and desist order against a search engine. The reasons have been:
* In cases of the Church of Scientology, they thought that they found the perfect way to deal away with they sharpest critics – they complained to Google that those sites were publishing illegal information (that is, protected by copyright). Google had to remove the results; and temporarily also removed the whole site xenu.net This is relevant to you if you would like to claim that the material you’ve published on those forums was your own copyright-protected material. It is a problematic cause, because usually a forum-member signs a standard release form that the material posted is not his or hers. In any case, this could be an avenue.
However, let me get back to Scientology and why I think that their strategy is stupid (JW have also used the same strategy).
* In other cases, Google blocked access to sites or information that was illegal in a certain jurisdiction – neo-Nazi propaganda is illegal in Germany and France (and therefore blocked from the google.de and google.fr sites); most notoriously, Google removes much information from the Chinese site, which is monitored by the Chinese government.
Naturally, if the information regarding you is “only” inconvinient, but not something that is illegal (libel/defamation, etc.) it would be very difficult for you to use this second way – yo don’t have the resources or the power of those governments.
In addition, in my analysis I mentioned only the largest search engine, Google. However, although Yahoo! received the same cease and desist notices (or was also involved in such legal battles, of groups demanding to remove adversary information from the Internet), you will not be able to visit all search engines.
Dealing with the Websites
Therefore, the more probable way is to deal with the websites directly. I realise that you’ve already contacted these websites. However, you might not have contacted the right person, or haven’t done it with the right “tone”.
Regarding contacting the right person: information about the people responsible to websites could be obtained from something called a “Whois” report. For example, this website provides such an information:
(you put in the name of the site, for example, for “google.com”, you put “google” in the search box and choose “.com” as your suffix, and get the results. In some cases, it tells you that the information is on another site – that you should get it from – for example http://whois.site.com – you go there and do the same).
This should give the information of the person responsible for the site.
Your next step should be to write the letter (“snail” mail, not an email or at least, not only an email). Let me quote from an article about ReputationDefender mentioned below: “Most people will take materials down just to avoid the hassle of dealing with possible litigation,” says Susan Crawford, an associate professor at Cardozo Law School who specializes in cyberlaw and telecommunications law. “If the letter is sufficiently threatening, […] the threaten-ee could bring his or her own lawsuit seeking a declaration that what they posted wasn’t unlawful. But, again, most people will just buckle rather than fight back.” (SOURCE: Scott Gilbertson, “Delete Your Bad Web Rep”, Wired, 7 November 2006).
In other words, this should be a letter in Legalese, that sounds threatening enough. This is because besically the site owner’s right to decide to keep the information published, unless a court orders them otherwise.
I imagine that this is exactly what reputation defender does – using lawyers, they write such letters to the webmasters, that these decide not to deal with those big letterheaded letters written in Legalese.
Chilling Effects (which is in fact a site fighting for freedom of speech online) has a form to send a cease and desist notices to site owners:
Chilling Effects – Sending a Cease and Desist Notice http://www.chillingeffects.org/sending.cgi>
As mentioned before, some sites have forms that enable you to request removal or change of the informtion by you that is published on them. For example, Google Groups has an option to remove posts that you have written:
How do I remove my own posts?
On IMDB, you can start by amending your data:
IMDB Resume http://resume.imdb.com/
In general, what other services, such as ComplaintRemover (<http://www.repsavior.com/>), will do for you, is to float the Internet with positive information about you, so that the old information would be swept to the bottom of the search results.
You can start doing that yourself by adding an article about yourself at Wikipedia, that would include all positive information (if you’re important enough to appear there, that is, given the fact that you’re on IMDB and other such respectable vanues.
You can add yourself by looking up Wikipedia for you name and then clicking on the “red link”, the link that carries your name, and begin to edit it according to Wikipedia’s guidelines (if you’re not sure, read first how to create an article:
Category:Wikipedia guidelines http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CAT:G>
This is also the reason why I argued that Scientology’s strategy to deal with adversaries is less than perfect. Other groups have encountered the same problem. They have chosen to deal with that through “floating” the Internet with positive information, through blogs, links to Wikipedia, etc. – instead of going to Google to whine.