A very common question that I am often asked is whether it’s possible to remove news articles from the Internet. Many people wrongly believe that it is impossible to remove news articles and press releases from the internet because they are usually factual in nature and authored by reputable organizations, like news outlets or government agencies. Although it can be difficult to remove news articles from the internet, it is not impossible, it can be done.
For better and for worse, the internet has completely changed the way that public information affects our daily lives. In the past, newsworthy information would be disseminated by traditional lines of communication: print, television, and radio. Most information was heard or read for a short period of time and then usually forgotten. Now, news is disseminated online and information about individuals and companies is accessible indefinitely with only a few keystrokes. Additionally, because of their perceived importance, many news stories often appear prominently on the first page of Google search results.
To make matters worse for some, many news organizations and private companies have started publishing online archives of news stories going back decades. This fact can be startling to many. Information published decades before the internet even existed and thought forgotten is suddenly discoverable with ease. Many times this information can be extremely harmful to a person’s reputation. Fair or not, people and companies will continue to be judged by acts or mistakes that occurred years in the past unless the information is removed.
Although some courts have started to take lawsuits to remove old news articles from the internet seriously and lawmakers in certain states have finally started to pass legislation that prohibits mugshot websites from extorting money from people to remove mugshot pictures, at this time, many are left without a cost-effective and immediate options for relief.
When determining whether it is possible to remove a news story from the internet, there are many factors to take into consideration, including:
• Does the news story contain information that is false, defamatory, or creates a false light?
• How old is the information, is the news outdated, and is it inaccurate or unfair?
• Is there defamatory or inflammatory language in the comments of the article?
• Is the website publicizing your name or likeness illegally for profit?
• Does the information violate copyright or trademark laws?
• Is there personal information published (social security #, credit card #, banking information)?
• Does the article contain information about someone who is a minor?
• How many sources or websites is the information published on?
Typically, when information published is factual news, the most important factor in determining whether removal is possible is who the webmaster or organization that published the content. In most circumstances, the only way to get factual news stories removed is to contact the organization or webmaster that published or is hosting the content. Whether a particular organization will remove an article will depend heavily on the internal policies of that particular organization and how convincing your reasons are for having the content removed.
For example, The New York Times will usually agree to edit or publish corrections to articles that contain information that is inaccurate, false, or outdated. Other organizations will sometimes agree to completely remove information that is extremely old or unfair. Other webmasters will also agree to put in Robots.txt in the HTLM code of the web page, which prevents a particular website from appearing in search engine results. If Robot.txt is used, an article will remain published and available to users of a website (or people that have direct knowledge of an actual URL), but the information will not be available as easily to the public at large.
Other times, organizations and webmasters do not even have a formal policy regarding removal requests. In these situations, it’s very important to have someone who has experience with these types of issues to be able to discuss what options are available.
It is extremely important to work with an experienced attorney when determining: (1) whether it is possible to get content from the internet removed; and (2) how to go about contacting a webmaster and requesting that particular content is removed.
You only have ONE SHOT to get it right and to remove news articles from the internet. Most news organizations are initially not very receptive to removing, editing, altering, or correcting content. However, if you take the correct approach and are able to make a persuasive case as to why your particular request should be granted many webmasters will be happy to comply, as it will be the right thing to do.
If you or your business has damaging content published about it on the Internet, call Aaron Minc at the law firm of Meyers Roman Friedberg & Lewis, LPA (216) 373-7706. We have experience working with websites and news organizations and have had success removing news articles from the Internet. Every situation is different and requires individualized analysis and attention. Contact us today to find out more information.