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Strategic Approaches to Combatting Online Negativity

4 min read

The impact of harmful, false, and defamatory online content can be significant for businesses and individuals, particularly when it gains prominence in Google search results.

This piece delves into nine tried-and-tested strategies widely employed to tackle removing such damaging content from the web.

It’s essential to note that the efficacy of these approaches may fluctuate depending on evolving legal landscapes, search engine guidelines, and the unique circumstances surrounding each case.

 

  1. Breaches of Community Standards

 

Most platforms that facilitate user-generated content (UGC), such as Facebook, Reddit, and Yelp, maintain clear community standards outlining permissible and prohibited content.

To locate these standards for a particular platform, a straightforward Google search using “[platform name] + community guidelines” should yield the relevant information.

If harmful content violates these standards, users can flag or report it for removal. The platform’s content moderation team will typically respond within a few days.

Under the Communications Decency Act (Section 230a), website owners hosting UGC bear no legal responsibility for content posted on their platforms.

Thus, U.S.-based platforms can decide what content remains on their sites. If a removal request is denied, engaging with the content or employing strategies to mitigate its impact is advisable.

 

  1. Protection against Personally Identifiable Information (PII) Exposure and Doxxing

 

Informing Google about false and defamatory content containing personal details can lead to removing associated links from search results.

The following outlines the types of personal information Google may consider removing from its search results:

  1. Government-issued confidential identification.
  2. Identification numbers (e.g., U.S. Social Security numbers).
  3. Bank account numbers.
  4. Credit card numbers.
  5. Images of handwritten signatures.
  6. Images of official identification documents.
  7. Highly personal, restricted, and official records (e.g., medical records).
  8. Personal contact information (e.g., physical addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses).
  9. Confidential login credentials.

 

  1. Addressing Copyright Violations

 

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is a federal statute that addresses copyright infringement. It becomes relevant when your copyrighted material is shared on a website without authorization.

Website owners in the United States are keenly aware of copyright laws due to the potential legal ramifications they might face if they fail to remove access to the infringing material promptly.

Should a website neglect to comply with a DMCA takedown notice, you can file a copyright infringement complaint with the website’s hosting provider, such as GoDaddy or Google. If Google validates the complaint, they will permanently eliminate the link to the infringing content from their search results.

 

  1. Utilizing Mediation

 

Mediation stands out as a potent means of content removal.

In cases where the publishers of harmful content are reachable and willing to delete such material, a third-party mediator or reputation management specialist can play a pivotal role in facilitating its removal.

However, it’s crucial to approach this process cautiously, as mishandling can potentially exacerbate the situation.

 

  1. Engaging in Negotiation

 

In specific scenarios, the possibility of negotiating with the publisher to amend or eliminate harmful content exists.

For instance, if a customer posts any negative review, having a constructive conversation with them to address the issue and reach a mutually agreeable resolution might prove beneficial.

This could involve offering the customer a full refund for the service and courteously requesting that they consider revising or removing their initial negative feedback.

 

  1. Reporting Abusive Content Removal Practices

 

Google implements a policy to eradicate content from their search results in instances where individuals fall victim to exploitative content removal tactics.

If you encounter a website housing harmful content about you and the website owner requests payment for its removal, you can approach Google for its removal.

To ensure the removal request is evaluated, the following criteria must be fulfilled:

  1. You are the subject of the content within the provided URL.
  2. The website does not function primarily as a business review platform.
  3. The website employs removal practices that mandate payment to the site or other entities for content removal.

 

  1. Handling Sexually Explicit Material

 

Google has enacted measures to safeguard users against the dissemination of non-consensual nude images and explicit content. Individuals victimized by such material can seek its removal from search results by submitting a removal request.

Many websites emphasize the significance of consent in disseminating explicit material and may provide a reporting mechanism for addressing such content.

Additionally, there’s a troubling trend emerging, known as AI-generated “fake pornography,” where individuals utilize machine learning technology to superimpose someone’s face onto explicit videos without their consent. Google has introduced a reporting form specifically designed to address this type of content.

 

  1. The Right to Erasure

 

In 2014, the European Union established a landmark ruling called the “right to be forgotten.” Under this regulation, EU citizens possess the authority to petition for the removal of content associated with their name if it is deemed “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant, or excessive.”

This directive has prompted over a million EU citizens to request the elimination of content from their Google search results. Regrettably, the United States does not have a comparable law in place.

 

  1. Legal Remedies

 

As a final recourse, legal avenues may be pursued to remove negative content from the internet. One method to address negative and defamatory material on Google involves securing a court order.

Upon receipt of a court order stipulating the defamatory nature of hosted content, websites are legally obligated to remove it. In cases where a website fails to comply with such requests, the court order can be forwarded to Google’s legal department, prompting the removal of the link from search results.

However, it’s essential to weigh the potential ramifications, including public exposure and legal expenses associated with initiating a defamation lawsuit, which is the initial step toward obtaining a court order.

 

Safeguarding Your Brand Against Online Harm

 

Addressing negative or detrimental online content is achievable, depending on your situation.

Should you encounter content that detrimentally affects your reputation, it’s essential to remain composed.

When removing the content proves challenging, alternative strategies exist to minimize the impact and visibility of adverse results.

If navigating these challenges seems daunting, consider exploring our monthly SEO packages, where our experts can provide valuable assistance.

Shilpi Mathur
[email protected]