Learn to remove slander from internet resources and protect your digital reputation with our complete guide.
In the digital environment, individuals and business owners rely on public perceptions to stand out. This public perception is known as your online reputation, telling others who you are, what values you contribute, and what you represent.
Reputations are built — or destroyed — based on the quality and quantity of information available about you on the web. People use Google and other search engines to learn about the people and businesses they encounter. Here, the information in search results can make or break your reputation.
A positive online reputation can help you achieve your personal and professional goals, while negative online reputations can hurt your chances of getting new customers, securing a bank or vehicle loan, or landing that new job.
What if the negative content is untrue? What if someone has an axe to grind and has posted a false statement to slander you? Defamatory content can ruin your reputation, putting you at risk of financial losses or worse.
In this guide, we will explore what slander and other types of defamatory content are and how to remove defamatory content from Google and websites that host this information.
Search Engines and Defamatory Content
Have you ever noticed that when browsing news sites or watching the news on television, the stories that are negative have a tendency to get more attention?
Journalists have a term for this: “If it bleeds, it leads.” The goal in journalism has long been to catch the eye of the reader; the more sensational and shocking stories take a front seat.
Unfortunately, the same often applies to information on the web. Negative news articles and other information tend to appear at or near the top of search engine results pages (SERPs).
Why does this happen? Negative content, particularly news, gets a lot of clicks online. The more clicks, the more the Google search algorithm views the info as important, thereby pushing that info up the search results ranks. High-traffic items — including negative or defamatory content from Google search results — wind up at the top of the heap.
This isn’t always the case, of course, but it is worth pointing out. This can make it challenging to remove online defamation and negative content.
What is Defamation?
The legal term “defamation” is defined as:
“The act of communicating false statements about a person that injure the reputation of that person.”
Any false statement that is intended to hurt a person’s reputation can qualify as defamation. This kind of statement is not protected by first amendment rights or freedom of speech claims.
Defamation can take several forms, both verbally, in written communication, and online.
Internet defamation is pervasive, particularly because an anonymous person defaming someone online is so easy. Just a few clicks of a mouse on social media sites, blogs, or forums, and the defamatory material is out there for anyone to see in search results.
Defamatory Statements: Libel vs. Slander
In the online environment, the terms defamation, slander, and libel are often confused with each other. These terms may be used interchangeably, although each has its distinct definition and application in legal claims.
We’ve already defined defamation above. Now, let’s take a closer look at the similarities and differences between two other easily-confused terms, libel and slander:
Libel is any defamatory statement that is written, either online or in print.
Examples of libel or libelous statements include:
- A Google review that falsely claims that a diner became ill after eating at a restaurant
- A social media post that starts a false rumor about someone’s health or competence
- An editorial letter that falsely accuses someone of a crime or for engaging in inappropriate behavior
Slander is defined as an oral defamatory statement.
- Telling people falsely that a person has a communicable disease
- Making harmful oral statements about a person’s business dealings or personal activities
- Falsely accusing someone of a crime
In the past, courts often treated the two terms differently, arguing that because defamation in print has the potential to be more damaging over the long term, libel cases were treated more seriously.
Today, many courts agree that the two terms, although differing in their definition, have the same reputation-damaging potential.
How Defamatory Statements can Hurt Your Online Reputation
Whether you realize it or not, people are searching for you online. Typically, people use Google or other search engines to learn about the businesses and individuals they meet. Search results can have a powerful effect on the next steps taken.
If negative online content appears in internet search results, that can change someone’s perception of you. This perception is your digital reputation. A negative reputation can keep you from achieving your goals.
This negative content can appear in search results from a wide range of sources, including:
- Mentions on social media accounts
- Unflattering news articles
- Mentions in blogs or internet forums
- Arrest reports or mugshots posted online to third-party sites
- Negative reviews posted to Google or review sites like Yelp, TrustPilot, or the Better Business Bureau.
- Offending content published online without your consent
Negative content online is bad enough, but if the information was posted to defame you — in other words, defamatory content designed to hurt you — the subject’s reputation can be damaged, and you may face significant challenges to get it removed.
If your reputation is damaged enough, removal of negative content online may be beyond your abilities. In this case, you may need the help of online reputation management professionals to assist.
Removing Negative Content from Google Search Results
Google is ready to receive removal requests. Unfortunately, not all negative content is eligible for removal using Google’s service. The company announced that it would honor a removal request if certain criteria were met, including:
- The request is for the removal of information from Google search results that put you at personal risk.
- The removal regards explicit content of a non-consensual nature.
- The request is for specific legal reasons, including Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) violations or terms of service violations.
The Google removal tool is to be used only when you’ve been unable to get webmasters of other sites to take down information. If your request is granted, the search engine will remove negative information from search results.
Remove Libel and Slander from Websites
A single false statement or another form of online defamation has the potential to damage your reputation severely. If these statements are found in Google searches, you may find that the same false information is shared to dozens — even hundreds — of other websites.
How can you get this defamatory content taken down? Let’s explore several options:
Request removal from website owners
Once you have pinpointed where the inappropriate or defamatory content is posted on the web, it’s time to begin the removal process by reaching out to website owners.
Ask for them to voluntarily remove defamatory content or content posted with malicious intent. Webmasters are under no obligation to honor your request, but asking nicely can work wonders.
Speak to internet service providers about defamatory content removal
In cases where webmasters will not remove defamatory content, your next step is to reach out to internet service providers (ISPs). Many ISPs have policies designed to prevent the hosting or sharing of online defamation.
Under specific circumstances, ISPs may direct sites hosted by them to remove online defamation — including third-party content — or lose access to their servers. In some cases, ISPs may secure a court order or file a DMCA takedown notice with the site owner to get them to comply.
File a defamation lawsuit
The defamatory information or other damaging content removal strategies above may not always work. In those cases, hiring an attorney is the next option.
Internet defamation lawyers have the tools and experience needed to represent clients in a defamation lawsuit. One of the tactics these lawyers use is to file claims under the Communications Decency Act, which was written to protect individuals from the damage associated with internet defamation. By taking legal action, individuals and business owners can leverage defamation law to their advantage.
A defamation claim, backed by a court order, has a strong chance of success. Your legal team can get content removed where others fail. In some cases, this is the only option available when malicious information has been shared online, and no other strategy has worked to get it removed.
Your defamation case may take time, and despite the legal protections you have with defamation case law, this method is not always successful.
Hire a content removal professional
Content removal of negative content online is essential if you want to protect your hard-earned reputation.
Even one negative online image posted by a former employee or someone with a grudge can damage your reputation, potentially hurting your business or standing in the way of your goals.
Online reputation management professionals use a wide array of tactics to get content removed. This can include legal claims, working with website owners, filing takedown requests, and other strategies.
If content cannot be removed, it can be suppressed. This process requires the development and publication of positive content, search engine optimization, and internet promotion. By flooding the web with fresh, new content, negative search engine results are pushed down — sometimes off the first page of results entirely. Positive search results take the place of negative information.
Your reputation manager can help you determine which strategies you’ll need to effectively remove negative information and rebuild a positive online reputation.
Contact NetReputation Today
NetReputation is an award-winning leader in online reputation management. We have helped thousands of people establish, build, or repair their reputations in the digital environment. Defamation can damage your reputation, potentially keeping you from achieving your goals.
Learn more about our reputation management services, including defamatory content removal solutions to keep your reputation safe by contacting our content removal professionals today. We remove slander from internet sites and Google search with proven strategies.