How to Get URLs Removed or De-Indexed from Search Engines. January 2015

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1 How to Get URLs Removed or De-Indexed January 2015

2 Strategies for Stopping Unauthorized Our Non-Profit Provides Internet Educational Sales Resources to Help Businesses Protect Their Brands and Reputations Online The Online Reputation & Brand Protection Coalition s mission is to help businesses protect their online reputations and brands online. The Coalition aims to fulfill its mission by educating businesses on how to protect and defend their reputations and brands online and advocating for increased protections and more effective remediation options for businesses. Specifically, with respect to education, many businesses today are struggling because they do not understand how to best protect and defend themselves against online reputation and brand attacks, and there is presently a lack of quality educational materials and resources for businesses to turn to help understand and address these problems. To address the absence of these resources, the Coalition is committed to providing resources to businesses with the most up-to-date information designed to explain, prevent, and help businesses ultimately eradicate the problem of online reputation and brand attacks. The Coalition provides its members with whitepapers created by the experts who regularly handle online reputation and brand attacks around the world addressing common reputation and brand problems which businesses are facing today. BOARD OF DIRECTORS ABOUT THE ONLINE REPUTATION & BRAND PROTECTION COALITION Whitney C. Gibson Co-Founder, Co-Chair of Board of Directors Chris Anderson, PH.D. Co-Founder, Co-Chair of Board of Directors The Online Reputation & Brand Protection Coalition is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping businesses protect their reputations and brands online. The Coalition is led by internet brand protection experts Whitney Gibson and Chris Anderson and includes a variety of multi-national advisors comprised of experts, business representatives, attorneys, educators, and other professionals. To learn more about the Coalition, visit Melissa Agnes Member of Board of Directors 2

3 I. Introduction The court order technique has been discussed in various whitepapers, including How Business Can Handle Attacks on Ripoff Report. The most straight-forward way to deal with internet defamation or other tortious statements posted online is to obtain a court order against the author of those damaging statements. The court order technique has been discussed in various whitepapers, including How Business Can Handle Attacks on Ripoff Report. As discussed in that whitepaper, Ripoff Report does not allow for revisions to or deletion of content published on the website, meaning defamatory content posted on Ripoff Report will remain on the internet indefinitely. Accordingly, and for reasons stated below, getting the URLs removed from the search engines is an effective alternative. 3

4 II. Obtaining a Court Order However, as stated above, some websites such as Ripoff Report do not permit their users (or even website administrators themselves) to make edits or remove posts altogether. In short, after a lawsuit has been filed against the author of the disparaging online content, counsel for the victim of the harmful statements can obtain a court order, which may be in the form of a judgment, declaratory judgment and/or injunction relating to the tortious statements. When drafting the order, the attorney should list all URLs at which the tortious statements can be found, as well as those URLs that may contain links to the tortious statements. 1 When the identities of the authors of harmful statements are known to the subjects/ victims of the posts and the authors are ordered to remove the statements, the removal process is rather straight-forward if the particular websites permit content revisions or deletions. However, as stated above, some websites such as Ripoff Report do not permit their users (or even website administrators themselves) to make edits or remove posts altogether. In these situations, the court orders can be submitted to the search engines for de-indexing of the URLs from the search indices. Even if the identity of an author of a defamatory or otherwise harmful post is unknown and unascertainable, it is possible to obtain a court order simply against the author s user name or screen name. 1 Sometimes harmful content is copied from one website and published verbatim on other websites. For instance, many false Ripoff Report posts are showing up on Scamorg. com. 4

5 III. Removal by a Website Pursuant to a Court Order Many website administrators will honor these requests and remove the posts from their websites and eventually the internet. In the event that the author of disparaging statements cannot personally remove or edit them on the particular website, or if the author simply cannot be identified (for purposes of requesting or ordering removal), one option is to contact the website and request removal of the content pursuant to the court order. Many website administrators will honor these requests and remove the posts from their websites and eventually the internet. When a website agrees to removal, it may take some time days or weeks for the search engine indices to be updated, meaning a URL pertaining to a since-edited or removed post (and the accompanying snippet of information that shows up in search results) will not immediately reflect the removal. When this occurs, it is possible to submit a request to Google, for example, to have the outdated material removed from its search index. Google users (account registration is required) can go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/removals to submit a URL for the content has been removed or changed. 2 Bing has a similar tool, located at 2 This tool can also be used after an individual has personally edited or removed a post and the search index does not reflect this change. 5

6 IV. Search Engine De-Indexing Assuming the court order is valid, Google will eventually respond with any followup questions or a message stating the content has been removed. When a website hosting the harmful content is unwilling to remove content, the next best remedy is to request that the search engines remove the relevant URL(s) from their search indices. By removing a URL from a search index, the affected party or parties may affectively achieve the same result as having the statement removed from the original website the particular URL(s) will not appear when a search is made for the business or individual. While not legally required, if a business provides a search engine with a court order against the author of the harmful statements (which demonstrates, among other things, that the material posted has been declared defamatory by the signing judge) the search engine will likely de-index the relevant URL(s) from its search index. According to October 2014 data from comscore, 96.8% of the U.S. core search market is held by Google (67.0%), Microsoft sites (19.5%), and Yahoo! sites (10.3%). Thus, a party seeking to de-index a URL or URLs from search engines will not need to go further than these three search engines, and should start with Google. Google has a Legal Removal Requests page at which one can submit a valid court order declaring the content unlawful. In addition to uploading the order, the requesting party will be asked to provide the Location of the allegedly infringing material (the URL or URLs), as well as an explanation of the request. It is helpful to identify the specific section or paragraph that outlines that the information is false, defamatory or otherwise unlawful (i.e., in breach of a confidentiality agreement) and that the removal of the information is mandated. Upon submitting this information, the requesting party will receive a confirmation . Assuming the court order is valid, Google will eventually respond with any follow-up questions or a message stating the content has been removed. This could take just a couple days, or it may take a few weeks. 6

7 Microsoft support will respond, likely asking for a copy of the order. Yahoo! uses Microsoft s search engine, Bing, so removal of a URL from Bing will also mean a removal from search results when one uses the Yahoo! search engine. Bing does not have a tool like Google and, thus, removing URLs from this search engine is more difficult. In our experience, Bing will review a court order mandating removal, and may remove URLs, depending on the situation. Our suggestion is for the requesting party to use the following URL to report content concerns to Bing (https://support.discoverbing.com/default.aspx?mkt=en-us&productkey=bin gcontentremoval&brand=&&ct=eformts&scrx=1) and indicate they have a court order declaring content false, defamatory and/or unlawful. Microsoft support will respond, likely asking for a copy of the order. Ideally this will lead to removal of the content but, again, in our experience, this is not as reliable as Google removal tools. 7

8 V. Conclusion People regularly turn to Google or Bing to research a company or other persons, and the subjects of false and defamatory content cannot afford to have such content appear in search. When a website does not allow for edits or deletion of harmful content, or when the identity of an online attacker cannot be determined, obtaining a court order to present to a website or the search engines for removal is often the best solution. In terms of search de-indexing, even if the original post will technically remain on the internet, once content is removed from search indices such as a high-ranking Ripoff Report post it is unlikely to cause much further damage. People regularly turn to Google or Bing to research a company or other persons, and the subjects of false and defamatory content cannot afford to have such content appear in search. By getting URLs to harmful content removed from search results, this can go a long way for businesses and individuals in protecting their reputations. 8

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