The internet is forever…right?
Maybe not. Although it can be difficult, takedown services can be an option if you have content online that is harming your or your organization’s online reputation.
So where should you start? What does content removal entail? Who can help remove content?
In this article, I answer some of the most frequently asked questions about takedown services and online content removal so you can take control of your online reputation.
What is a takedown service?
Takedown services, also known as online content removal, refers to the process of completely deleting (or taking down) content from the internet. There are several reasons an organization or individual may want to remove digital content, including privacy violations, copyright infringement, defamation, and the spread of harmful or illegal content.
In some cases, the content is not deleted, but deindexed, which means that, while the content still exists, it will not show up in search engine results pages.
Why would you request takedown services?
As stated earlier, the reasons behind a removal request can vary but, generally, takedown services are used for content that violates your privacy, contains copyrighted material, or is, in any way, damaging to your or your organization's reputation.
What kind of content should be removed?
The content that should be removed is contingent on the content that is online about you or your organization and whether or not that content has a negative impact.
Examples of content eligible for takedown services include:
- Defamatory content
- Revenge porn
- Content containing hate speech
- Content that exposes personal information
- Copyrighted content
This content can include news articles, blog posts, dedicated websites, reviews, social media posts and comments, and threads on forums.
It is important to note that, while any content online can be removed, that does not mean that it will be. Depending on the nature of the content, the owner of the website, and whether or not content violates Google guidelines or laws, you will experience different degrees of difficulty when pursuing content takedown.
Where should I start with content removal?
The first step in content removal is to evaluate the importance of removal and the nature of the content you want removed. In some cases, pursuing removal can actually exacerbate the issue. If your negative content is not ranking well in Google search results or does not seem to have a tangible impact on your reputation, you may be better off leaving it be.
When you have determined that the best course of action is removal, you will want to work with a takedown service. Takedown services are experienced in online content removal and will have the greatest likelihood of success. Engaging with a takedown service will also help you to avoid aggravating the issue.
A firm that specializes in takedown services will pursue deindexing or removal based on Google’s guidelines. In cases where the content does not violate Google guidelines, they will determine ownership of the website hosting the negative content and communicate directly with the owner to have the content removed.
If you believe the negative content breaks a law, you may have legal grounds for removal. In these cases, you can consult with an attorney to explore removal options.
How can I remove content that I’ve posted?
If the content that you want removed is content that you have posted, the process to remove the content should be much simpler. To do so:
- Save the URL to the content you want to remove. Whether it is a picture, a post, a comment, a blog post, etc., be sure to have the URL on-hand for easy access.
- Log into the platform (whether it is a social media platform, website, or blog). If you do not have login credentials, or cannot remember how to access the account, follow the account recovery instructions specific to the platform.
- Find the content (either through the URL you saved or by navigating to the content through the platform) and follow the removal instructions. Most platforms have options to delete, remove, edit, or something along those lines.
- If you are deleting content from a website, be sure to clear the website’s cache to ensure that the content is no longer visible. You can utilize the Outdated Content Tool to remove deleted content from being indexed by Google.
It is important to note that, while content you post is more easily removed, content that is posted on the internet has staying power. Be sure to exercise caution when posting content online to avoid headaches in the future.
What do online content takedown services entail?
Content takedown services implement several strategies to remove unwanted online content. This can range from reporting guideline-violating content to Google to contacting site owners to edit, update, or remove content. These experts will take into consideration several factors, such as where the content is hosted, the nature of the content, whether or not the content is outdated or inaccurate, and much more to mitigate risk and achieve your desired results.
Is it possible to completely remove content from the internet?
The short answer is: maybe. In some cases, content can be completely removed; however, depending on how long the content has been live, where it has been published, how much it has been shared, and the audience, it can be a challenge to fully remove due to the undesirable content being republished, backed up, and shared.
Even deleted content can still be accessed in certain cases. If someone has saved a copy of the content or it is cached somewhere, it is still possible for people to access it. While removing it from the original source or search engines can reduce the impact of negative content, it can be challenging to ensure all traces of the content are gone.
Can content be removed from Google search results?
Yes. Deleted content can be reported to Google’s outdated content tool to have it deindexed from Google search results.
But that isn’t the only way to remove content from Google search results. Even if you are unable to remove content from the internet, content that violates certain laws or Google guidelines may be eligible for deindexing, meaning that, even though the content still exists online, it will not appear in search results.
Can I have a negative review or comment removed from a website or social media platform?
It depends. Whether or not reviews can be removed is based on the policies of the specific platform and whether or not the content of the review or comment violates any of the terms. Generally speaking, reviews or comments that are untruthful, irrelevant, or contain hate speech or other harmful content are all eligible for removal.
How do I request an online content takedown?
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to a content takedown. The nature of the content, popularity of the platform, prominence in search results, and how long the content has been live all factor into how you should best approach it. In some cases, approaching the author directly may be the best move, while in other cases that could be the worst possible approach.
As such, it is vital to work with a professional agency to report the content to either Google or the platform directly, providing necessary information, and explaining the necessary reasons for removal. Professionals will know the best way forward in your particular situation, and will help mitigate the negative impact on your reputation.
What obstacles can I expect when pursuing a takedown?
Unfortunately, takedowns can come with many obstacles, including:
- Determining if there is legitimacy in the removal request
- Navigating vague or false claims
- Balancing freedom of speech
- Navigating international jurisdictions for global platforms
- Aggravating the owner of the negative content, which can result in greater tension and more negative content
- Not receiving a response from the owner of the negative content
- Other sources sharing the original content
- Encountering scams or websites that require you to pay for removal
- Emotional distress that comes from dealing with negative content
These are only a few of the obstacles that you could encounter, and further emphasize the importance of allowing professionals to handle your takedown requests. A professional can take on the emotional and practical burden, and be sure that you go about the removal request in the best way for your particular situation.
How long does it take for content to be removed after I've requested its deletion?
As you may have gleaned from this article, each content takedown process has its own timeline. How quickly content is removed is determined by the platform, responsiveness of the author or website administrator, how widely spread the content is, etc. In some cases, it may be a matter of hours, while other cases can stretch over weeks or months.
That said, if you have successfully removed the content, you can submit the page for deindexing immediately, and should see the content removed from Google search results in a relatively short amount of time.
How can I remove my personal information from online directories?
Data broker websites and online directories present their own challenges, publishing your contact information online. Most directories and data brokers have an opt-out procedure, but the process is likely to vary from site to site, and you will likely have to go through them individually.
That said, if you are receiving unsolicited communications, or are concerned about your information being out there, pursuing the opt-out options on these sites is worthwhile. Create a list of the sites that populate with your data and begin working your way through them to ensure your information is not being shared online.
How can I remove images or videos of me from a website?
Images and videos are similar to any kind of content you may want removed, but there are a few more guidelines that can make removing them a bit simpler. If you didn’t give permission for an image or video of you to be shared, or it is being used inappropriately, you can pursue takedown requests through reporting the image or video to Google or working with a takedown service.
If you took the image or recorded the video, it may also be subject to copyright claims.
What is a DMCA takedown?
A DMCA takedown refers to content that infringes on copyrighted material. To pursue a DMCA takedown, you can send a takedown notice on the basis of copyright to the website owner. If they do not respond or do not remove the content after receiving your notice, you can pursue legal action.
Can I take legal action to have content removed?
If the content is violating a law, you can take legal action. As I said, content that infringes on copyright is eligible, as well as content that is defamatory or violates other legal rights. In these cases, you will want to consult an attorney. Even if you are aware of the laws being broken, working with an attorney will ensure better results as you pursue removal on legal grounds.
How can I stay up-to-date on online content removal practices and regulations?
Staying informed about the latest practices and regulations by following experts in the field of content removal and online reputation management. This can be helpful for people in industries that are prone to copyright infringement, those in controversial fields, those who have experienced attacks on their online reputation before, or anyone interested in safeguarding your online presence.
How can I prevent my personal information or content from being posted online in the first place?
It is extremely difficult to ensure that none of your personal information is accessible online, due to things like college directories, professional profiles, etc. That said, the more caution you exercise when it comes to sharing personal information online, the more protected you will be. Additionally, utilizing stricter privacy settings and being aware of the terms of service of the online platforms you use can also protect you online.
Are there alternatives to takedown requests?
Not all content can be removed. If you find yourself working with an uncooperative website administrator or find that the content that has been shared on multiple platforms, you may be out of luck in the way of removal.
But that doesn’t mean that you are out of luck entirely. Online reputation management (ORM) is a strategy that can help you promote positive content and put your best foot forward online, suppressing and reducing the impact of negative content on your online reputation.
Like takedowns, ORM requires expertise and should be handled by an ORM firm. You can reach out to Status Labs for a free consultation if you would like to talk through your reputation management options.