9 strategies for removing negative content from the web

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Here are methods for eliminating webpages and online posts that can harm your brand, encompassing privacy disputes, copyright violations, and legal actions. The consequences of adverse, untrue, or defamatory online content can be significant for both businesses and individuals, particularly when it appears prominently in Google search results.

This article delves into nine prevalent and efficient strategies for eradicating unfavorable content from the internet. The efficacy of these approaches may fluctuate based on evolving legal regulations, search engine policies, and the unique circumstances of your situation.

Violations of community guidelines

Most websites that facilitate user-generated content (UGC), such as Facebook, Reddit, and Yelp, establish clear community guidelines that define the acceptable and prohibited types of content on their platforms.

To locate the community guidelines for a particular website, a straightforward search on Google using the format ‘[site name] + community guidelines’ should yield relevant results.

If you come across negative content that violates these guidelines, you have the option to flag or report it for removal. Typically, you can expect a response from the website’s content moderation team within a few days.

It’s important to note that due to the Communications Decency Act, specifically Section 230a, website owners hosting user-generated content bear no legal responsibility for the content published on their platforms.

In the United States, websites hosting UGC have the authority to decide what remains or gets removed from their platforms. If your removal request is declined, your best course of action may involve responding to or minimizing the impact of the harmful content.

Personally identifiable information (PII) and doxxing

Alerting Google about false and defamatory content that includes personal information can lead to the removal of links from search results. Here is a comprehensive list of the types of personal information that Google will consider for removal from their search results:

  1. Confidential government identification.
  2. Identification numbers (such as U.S. Social Security numbers).
  3. Bank account numbers.
  4. Credit card numbers.
  5. Images of handwritten signatures.
  6. Images of identification documents.
  7. Highly personal, restricted, and official records (including medical records).
  8. Personal contact information (such as physical addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses).
  9. Confidential login credentials.

Copyright infringement

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a federal law designed to address the issue of copyright infringement. It becomes relevant when your copyrighted material is posted on a website without your permission.

Website owners in the United States take copyright laws seriously due to the potential legal consequences they may face if they fail to promptly remove access to infringing content.

If a website does not comply with a DMCA notice, you have the option to submit a copyright infringement notice to the website’s hosting provider, such as GoDaddy or Google. If Google approves the notice, they will permanently remove the link hosting the infringing content from their search results.


Mediation can prove to be a successful approach for content removal.

When the creators of negative content have the ability to delete it, and they can be reached for communication, a third-party mediator or reputation management expert can play a crucial role in facilitating the removal of such content.

It’s important to approach this process with care, as an incorrect approach can potentially exacerbate the situation.


In certain situations, there may be an opportunity to engage in negotiations with the publisher of negative content in order to encourage them to revise or remove it.

For instance, if a customer has left a negative review, engaging in a conversation with them to address the issue and reach a mutually agreeable solution could be the most favorable course of action.

This might involve extending a full refund for your service to the customer and politely requesting that they consider editing or removing their initial negative feedback.

Reporting exploitative removal practices

Google has a policy in place to eliminate content from their search results if you have been subjected to exploitative removal practices.

If you come across a website containing negative content about yourself, and the website owner insists on payment to remove it, you have the option to contact Google for assistance in removing it.

To have your removal request considered, you must meet the following requirements:

  1. You are the individual or subject of the content found at the submitted URL.
  2. The website in question is not primarily a platform for business reviews.
  3. The website employs removal practices that demand payment to the site or other entities for content removal.

Sexually explicit content

Google has taken steps to safeguard users against the dissemination of non-consensual and explicit imagery. Individuals who have become victims of such content can seek the removal of these images or videos from search results by submitting a removal request.

Websites often emphasize the significance of consent when sharing explicit material and may provide reporting mechanisms to address such content.

In addition to these concerns, there is a troubling emergence of AI-generated ‘fake pornography.’ This involves the unauthorized use of machine learning technology to insert someone’s likeness into explicit videos. To combat this issue, Google has introduced a reporting form for the removal of such content.

The right to be forgotten

In 2014, the European Union introduced a regulation referred to as the ‘right to be forgotten.’ Under this ruling, EU citizens have the privilege to request the removal of content associated with their name if it is deemed ‘inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant, or excessive.’

As a result of this regulation, over a million EU citizens have submitted requests to have content removed from their Google search results. Regrettably, as of now, the United States does not have a similar law in place.

Court order

As a final recourse, legal strategies may become an option for the removal of negative content from the internet. One method to eliminate defamatory and adverse content from Google involves the acquisition of a court order.

When a website is served with a court order declaring the content it hosts as defamatory, legal obligations compel them to remove it. Should the website fail to comply with this requirement, you have the option to submit the court order to Google’s legal department, which will then proceed to remove the corresponding link from search results.

It’s vital to consider the potential implications, including public exposure and legal expenses, when contemplating the initiation of a defamation lawsuit, as it serves as the initial step towards the possible acquisition of a court order.

Protect your brand from harmful online content

The removal of negative or harmful online content is achievable, contingent upon your specific situation.

If you discover that your reputation is being adversely affected by online content, there’s no need to panic. Even in cases where removing the content proves to be challenging, there are always alternative strategies available to minimize the impact and visibility of these negative results.

Original news from SearchEngineLand