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Complaint Websites. Negative content online can be damaging to the reputation of any person or company. One of the services we offer is removal / take-down of posts on various complaint websites. Prior to taking on an assignment we review the post so that we are sure a removal / take down is doable. Multiple negative posts increase the complexity of and the strategy for removal / take down of posts .
Methodology for Complaint Removal / Take-Down:
We do removal / take down of complaints on the following websites including, but not limited to:
Better Business Bureau
There are two methods of take-downs / removals - non-legal and legal.
Generally, websites that post complaints are granted immunity from liability from the Communications Decency Act "CDA" Sec. 230. This law states that a website is not responsible for 3rd party postings and comments. "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider" (47 U.S.C. § 230)
(A) Non-legal Removal / Take Down Methods
Non-legal removal / take down methods can be used concurrently or in the alternative to legal methods:
1) Directly with the Author. Sometimes it's possible to identify the person or company making the negative post. Depending upon all circumstances it may be worthwhile to contact that person or company directly to seek its removal / take down.
2) Directly with the Website. The website where the negative post was made can be contacted. In some cases this provides the opportunity to use persuasion and convince the company that the post in some way violates protocols, norms or regulations and that they should remove it.
3) Push Down Method. When your hear expressions such as: "search position", "keywords" or "ranking" that means the approach will be to post positive articles that sometimes involve links. The goal with this is to "push down" negative postings past page 1 or 2 on Google search results by such positive posts gaining priority in the search results. Most people do not look past page 1 on search results. So, getting a negative post pushed down in the search results past page 1 is almost as good as getting it deleted or de-indexed. However, this method is not as desirable as out and out deletion of an negative post. Push-down is time and labor intensive and the offending post does not go away. Over time the goal and outcome of this method has become more difficult to obtain. Plus, most victims / targets of negative posts want removal / deletion. This method is more attractive as an option where there are multiple negative posts.
4) Deletion - Violation of Norms, Protocols or Regulations. There are multiple methods and places for attaining this result by submitting such claims or other arguments online. After removal or take-down Google and other search engines will de-index the url of the negative post and it gets dropped out of search results completely.
5) Deletion - Digital Millennium Copyright Act. (DMCA). This is a different type deletion approach. In the event that a negative posted contains copyrighted or protected material of the victim / target of the negative post a demand is placed on the ISP, Search Engine or website to delete the post with the infringing material. Content does not have to be copyrighted to be protected. If it belongs to the victim / target of the post it can be removed / taken down. Such property could be a photo, video, text or other.
(B) Legal Removal / Take-Down Methods:
Litigation can be used concurrently or in the alternative to non-legal removal / take-down methods.
1) Lawsuit. Litigation is initiated and a copy of the lawsuit summons and complaint is served on author of the negative post. If that person is not known the lawsuit names a fictitious defendant such as John Doe or Jane Doe. After filing a lawsuit, a subpoena is served on the company that put up the negative posting seeking the name, IP address and contact information of the person who authored the negative post. After the identity of the author is obtained he or she is then served with a copy of the summons and complaint.
2) Causes of Action. Typical causes of action stated in the lawsuit complaint: defamation, false light, interference with contract. There other causes of action that could be added in or stated in the alternative depending upon the facts in each case. However, these are typically the core complaints.
3) Settlement. After service of the summons and complaint on the person who created the negative post It's usually a good idea to offer a settlement where the case will be dropped if they sign a certified statement requesting its removal / deletion. Such a settlement may or may not also involve financial compensation to the victim / target of the negative post. Google and others will almost always honor the certified statement. Websites where the negative post was put up may or may not honor such a settlement (again, they are protected by "CDA" Sec. 230), but as Google and other search providers will honor it the post url gets de-indexed and thereby removed from search results.
4) Litigation. In the event that settlement cannot be reached the case is litigated to completion. Typically, the plaintiff prevails in litigation. For one reason, defendants usually can't afford to defend. Second, the offending post is found by the court to be tortious in nature. When a defendant does not answer a complaint a default judgment can be obtained against the defendant.
5) DCMA Litigation. Digital Millennium Copyright Act. (DMCA). In the event that a negative post infringes upon the copyrighted or protected material of the victim / target a DMCA complaint can be filed against the ISP, Search Engine or website. This is done after a demand is made for removal / take down that is refused. Content does not have to be copyrighted to be protected. If it belongs to the victim the negative post can be removed / taken down. After a lawsuit is filed and served at this point settlement can often provide for the removal of the offending post. Otherwise, the case is litigated to completion with the goal to obtain judgment and court order.
6) Appeal. Occasionally a judgment or court order will be appealed. This is particularly true when legal enforcement or action involves the website where the offending post was put up as they are protected under CDA Sec. 230. Here's an example of an appeal ruling: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A143233.PDF Accordingly, litigation against the website where the negative post was put up should be avoided unless clearly warranted.
7) End Results. A successful DCMA demand letter or litigation will result in the removal / deletion of the post/URL. However, if it's a successful non-DCMA demand or litigation then the end result is a bit different as the website that put up a negative post is protected under CDA Sec. 230: In this circumstance the negative post it will usually remain on the website. But, it will not show up on Google results as Google and other search providers will honor such settlement or court judgment/order. This is as effective as de-indexing as at the bottom of Google search results the following notice will appear:
"In response to a legal request submitted to Google, we have removed 1 result (s) from this page. If you wish, you may read more about the request at ChillingEffects.org."
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