Removing Damaging And Inaccurate Content From The Internet
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it” – Warren Buffett
How do people talk about you online? Are they always fair? What if you or your company came under criticism, or even under threat of an online attack on your reputation?
The way you, your company or your brand are discussed online will usually reflect how reliable people think you are, how they feel about the quality of your business’ products and services, how they view your integrity. In the digital age, this is hugely important, especially for your current or future customers. Any damning information - even if is it completely false - could damage your reputation for years to come.
Sadly, no one is safe. The internet is giving voice to more authors than ever before, across an ever wider range of digital platforms. Most use the internet for legitimate purposes, but many do not. Anyone can share and spread content at the click of a button, often encouraged by the anonymity some platforms allow. The internet has also exposed us all to the risk that someone will hack into your system and leak private material, even the most intimate photographs and videos.
What can I do if my reputation, or my company’s, is being damaged online?
Potentially damaging information can surface via the traditional media, independent websites, blogs, social media platforms or suggestions and links contained in search engines.
If there is reason to believe this may happen, it is imperative that the individual or companies involved are aware of the potential mechanisms available to protect themselves.
The first step is usually to complain directly to the relevant website and/or to the search engine(s) demanding the immediate take down of the relevant damaging information. In addition to the relevant law, breach of the search engines’ own terms and conditions can often be claimed and of any other applicable terms and conditions.
If that doesn’t work, the next step could include bringing proceedings for one or more of the following:
- misuse of private information
- breach of copyright
- making a complaint under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) (including the so-called “right to be forgotten”).
Combining these options can increase the likelihood of removing, delisting or rectifying inaccurate information or personal data. It can therefore increase your chances of preventing or reducing potential damage to your or your organisation’s reputation. Another potential option is a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in relation to breach of the DPA.
“That is stunning work. Thank you—I cannot tell you how relieved I am, amazingly fast result.” (Author)
- When a prominent academic’s personal photographs were shared all over the internet, we got them taken down from newspaper websites, other sites, blogs and Twitter, and in the delisting of over 130 images from various search engines. The initial intensive work was followed by regular searches and web monitoring to ensure any new content was removed quickly
- Numerous articles and other material containing unfounded and damaging allegations about a businessman were removed from newspaper websites, other sites and blogs, and over 300 search results on Google, Yahoo! and Bing were delisted
- We successfully prevented the publication of a story about a well-known personality in four major newspaper groups and went on to secure the removal of private material from websites, blogs, Twitter, YouTube and elsewhere, through a multi-track strategy which
- quickly reduced exposure on search engines and
- permanently removed content from host websites.
- We have ensured the successful removal of over 396 URLs from Google relating to the reputation of a single high net-worth individual, following a concerted campaign of take-down requests. This strategy also resulted in the removal of hundreds of posts from social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram; and
- We have also been able permanently to ‘geoblock’ content from a number of internationally-recognised publications in various countries from being accessible in England.
- Carter-Ruck has been instrumental in obtaining substantial amendment to numerous third party ‘Know Your Client’ and due diligence reports, often securing the complete removal of negative material and prejudicial classifications.
Background checks - damaging material in due diligence reports
It’s not just the risk of potential clients finding damaging information on a person or company online: with the assistance of KYC/Due Diligence reports, such information is deliberately sought out by companies too. KYC reports have become common with banks, financial institutions and other companies conducting ‘background checks’ to ensure they do not deal with money-launderers, terrorists, fraudsters, those on sanctions lists, and others deemed to be undesirable.
These organisations typically rely on KYC profiles and data generated by third party providers, such as Thomson Reuters (World Check - Know Your Customer), Kroll Report (Know Your Customer/Third Party Due Diligence) and Dow Jones (Factiva Watchlist/Risk & Compliance Report).
Those providers, in turn, partly rely on press reports and other information from the internet, some of which may be extremely damaging.
Despite the sometimes-questionable nature of their ‘intel’, KYC profile providers sometimes categorise individuals with labels, such as “Politically Exposed Person (PEP)”. In truth, the threshold for this descriptor is extremely low, and includes people who have been entrusted with prominent public positions who are, therefore, considered to be of higher risk solely by virtue of their position and the influence they hold.
Often an individual will be completely unaware of their “heightened risk” listing until they find themselves facing problems like having their bank accounts closed down or business entities refusing to contract with them.
With assistance from a specialist adviser, you can often secure major changes to these reports, correcting or removing inaccurate information, so you can do business freely again.