Google thaws (a little) on defamation cases
Would-be-legal remedies for online reputation issues are still up in the air, explains contributor Chris Silver Smith, arguing that it may be time to amend the applicable legislation.
Google’s recent freeze on granting defamation removal requests has thawed a little. Even so, the company’s actions around harmful and dishonest items attacking the reputations of individuals and organizations continue to be mystifyingly inconsistent.
In this column, I’ll share some facts and thoughts on how defamation victims should proceed given the current environment.
Before I start, let me first take a moment to disclose that I work in the online reputation management field. In my previous article on this subject, one online pundit claimed that I’d failed to disclose that I do so “in the normal place for such disclaimers,” though I mentioned working on such cases in the text of the column.
While this critic did not point out anything that I had written that was erroneous, he implied that my points should be either discounted or suspect because I work to help people manage and repair their reputations online.
Actually, despite my somewhat passionate railing against Google on behalf of online defamation victims in that earlier article, I stand to profit if Google halts removals because my firm makes money by helping people manage their online reputations using search engine optimization (SEO) and other tactics that aren’t necessary when removals occur.
The background on the freeze
As I outlined a little over a month back, Google essentially halted processing of defamation removal requests, even when accompanied by duly executed court orders specifying URLs containing defamatory content.
I learned this by polling a number of the attorneys across the US that specialize in defamation cases and using court orders establishing content as defamatory as a means of petitioning Google to remove the URLs from their search results. For perhaps as long as a decade now, this process has provided relief to people who really had no other options for removing damaging and untrue representations about themselves from highly-prominent visibility.
According to the attorneys I polled (some of whom showed me communications directly from Google), at that time, Google had largely suspended all new removal requests.
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