The internet is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it provides us with unlimited access to information and communication channels. On the other, it can also be a breeding ground for negative content that can harm your reputation or personal life. If you’ve ever found yourself at the receiving end of such content, you know how stressful it can be. Thankfully, there are strategies you can employ to remove this unwanted content from the web. Here are nine of them:
1. Violations of Community Guidelines
Most websites that host user-generated content (UGC) have a defined set of community guidelines. These rules dictate what type of content is allowed or prohibited on their platform. For example, Facebook, Reddit, Yelp, and countless other platforms all have community guidelines.
If the negative content violates any of these policies, you can flag or report it for removal. You should receive feedback from the website’s content moderation team within a few days. However, keep in mind that thanks to the Communications Decency Act (Section 230a), U.S.-based websites hosting UGC have no legal liability for what is published on their platform. They have the final say on what stays and what goes.
2. Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and Doxxing
Google can remove links containing false and defamatory content that includes personal information. This includes confidential government identification, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, images of handwritten signatures, ID documents, medical records, personal contact info, and confidential login credentials.
3. Copyright Infringement
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a federal law that addresses copyright infringement. If your copyrighted content is posted on a website without your consent, you can invoke the DMCA. Website owners take copyright laws seriously due to the potential legal liability they face for not complying.
In some cases, mediation can be an effective method for content removal. This involves bringing in a neutral third party to facilitate a resolution between you and the person or entity that posted the negative content.
There may be opportunities to negotiate with the publisher of the negative content. For instance, if a customer leaves a negative review, discussing the situation and finding an amicable solution could lead them to revise or remove their feedback. This could involve offering a refund and politely asking them to edit or remove their initial negative comments.
6. Reporting Exploitative Removal Practices
Google has a policy to remove content from their search results if you’re a victim of exploitative removal practices. If a website owner demands payment to remove negative content about you, you can report this to Google. However, for the removal request to be considered, you need to be the subject of the content, the website cannot be a business review site, and the website must have removal practices that necessitate payment to remove content.
7. Sexually Explicit Content
Google takes steps to protect users from the distribution of non-consensual explicit images. If you’re a victim of such content, you can request the removal of the images or videos from search results.
8. The Right to Be Forgotten
In 2014, the European Union implemented a ruling famously known as the “right to be forgotten.” This ruling grants EU citizens the privilege to request the removal of content related to their name from search engine results, provided that the content is deemed “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant, or excessive.” Consequently, there has been an overwhelming number of requests from EU citizens to have content removed from their Google search results. It is important to note, however, that such a law does not currently exist in the United States. The “right to be forgotten” policy primarily applies to the European Union, but its significance should not be overlooked. This policy allows individuals to request the removal of personal information from search engine results under specific circumstances.
9. Court Order
As a last resort, you might consider legal strategies to remove negative content from the web. One such approach involves obtaining a court order. This usually requires proving that the content is defamatory or otherwise harmful.
Navigating the Vast Internet and Removing Negative Content
Remember, the internet is a vast space, and removing negative content can be a complex task. Stay patient, persistent, and open to various strategies. With the right approach, you can protect your online reputation and maintain a positive digital footprint.