Fighting online defamation can feel like a helpless task in a world of sensational fake news designed to spread rapidly online, however there are ways you can take action against it without fighting lengthy and expensive legal battles. In this article we’ll cover the basics of taking down online defamation and enforcing your right to be forgotten in the European Union.
The Right to Be Forgotten
If you live within the EU, you have a right to have certain kinds of information about you deleted so that others cannot find it via search engines. This typically relates to sensitive information or past mistakes which have already been punished that could be used to negatively impact your life or career. This can cover anything from a poorly-judged photo on social media to a spent criminal conviction. The purpose of this is to stop private or personal information continuing to cause unnecessary or unfair attacks against your character.
The right to be forgotten only applies to individuals and not companies, but it can still be used to protect you from past professional errors, as demonstrated in a landmark case at the beginning of this year.
The most obvious place to start when trying to get rid of defamatory information online is to simply contact the website responsible and ask them to take it down. In a lot of cases this won’t work however, particularly if the website is popular or they are getting a lot of clicks on their article. Larger sites will also be more willing to fund a legal battle to keep the defamatory content online, whereas less popular sites may not want the expense and potential bad press.
Remember that there is nothing to stop the website writing a new article about your request to take down their content, so be civil and consider what the response is likely to be before pursuing this option.
A safer option is to report the issue to the service or platform the content is hosted on. They will likely be more neutral and less emotionally invested in the article than its creator, and if they agree to the request they can prevent the creator posting future content on the same topic.
Google, Yahoo and Bing now provide removal request forms in order to comply with the right to be forgotten. Completing these forms along with legal identification will cause the search engine to review the case for delisting a link from their platform. The content itself, however, will remain online. Social media sites also allow you to report defamatory or confidential information, and generally do so more reliably than search engines. If you fail to have the information removed by the source or search engine, then you can request an independent intermediately take a look at your case, for example, in the UK the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has the ability to request that Google take down any content it deems to not be in the public’s interest.
There are simple methods available to remove online defamation from most sites and platforms, but the real issues are time and thoroughness. News and rumour spread across the internet extremely fast, and tracking down every instance of defamatory content is a gargantuan task. That is why ReputationDefender has a team of online reputation specialists to take action against false information and protect your right to move on from past mistakes.
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