How Do I Remove Negative Content About Me From the Internet?

Working with sites and posters to remove negative search results

By Benjy Schirm, J.D. | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on November 13, 2023 Featuring practical insights from contributing attorney Aaron M. Minc

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The internet disseminates information at an inconceivable speed, making almost any piece of information available at our fingertips. But with this power may come great detriment to those who have less than flattering information out there.

The First Amendment is one of the reasons negative information is not taken down willingly. Though the amendment protects free speech, it doesn’t protect all speech—namely obscenity, hate speech, and defamatory speech.

So, unless something posted about you on the internet, including social media, is obscene, a threat, false, or damaging to your reputation, that post is protected.

How to Take Down Negative Content Depends on the Type of Content and Who Controls It

“If a person has an interest in taking something down off the internet, we are more than happy to help, and we are largely successful in doing so,” says Cleveland attorney Aaron Minc. Minc handles not only illegal content cases such as revenge porn and defamation but also cyberbullying and online reputation management and repair. In those cases, the attorneys at his firm go to the source, including the website hosting the information and the person(s) who posted it.

The process of taking down information from the internet is largely dependent upon what’s been posted and who controls that information. To start, you’ll have to track down who is responsible for posting the content. Then you must examine the responsible party’s content removal policies.

“Even if the content is true and is therefore not defamatory—or if the time period for requesting removal has passed—there is likely an amicable way to resolve the issue,” Minc says.

Even if the content is true and is therefore not defamatory—or if the time period for requesting removal has passed—there is likely an amicable way to resolve the issue… But there are times that these negotiations turn from amicable talks to an adverse confrontation over privacy and the First Amendment.

Aaron M. Minc

Options if a Removal Request is Denied

Often, conversations with publishers center around the removal of content on forums, webpages, and other portals of online content they have a right to keep up and running.

If the reasons for keeping the post up outweigh the personal concerns of an individual, there is often a satisfactory way to resolve the issue. For example, “removing the post from [Google search results], editing out unnecessary content that clouds the story, or taking down pictures which have no real necessity to the post,” says Minc.

There is further an ethical obligation on the part of journalists to report the facts fully and correctly. This is especially true in the realm of criminal justice, where someone accused of a serious crime is deemed innocent. “Often, we will agree to have the story updated if it’s about an arrest, with the charges being dropped and the record of this individual cleared in a prominent location in the post,” says Minc. “As the facts of stories change, the posts about the stories must reflect these changes.”

Some social media platforms and websites require fees to take a post down. If it’s a blog post, most of the time, negotiation will do the trick. “But there are times that these negotiations turn from amicable talks to an adverse confrontation over privacy and the First Amendment,” Minc says.

No matter the post, or the reasons for wanting something off a website or search engine, seek out a reputable and experienced attorney to guide you through the process. For more information on privacy laws and defamation lawsuits, see our overview of defamation law.

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