Remove Negative News Articles Online.
The rise of reputation management is being fueled by misleading journalism. In fact, we are discovering that newspapers are leveraging the fact that news articles stay on the Web forever.
Newspapers have always been an important historical resource. We do not take the position that the medium is trivial. We need newspapers for a host of reasons, but the digital transformation of the medium has become a major issue for most of our clients.
Before the turn of the millennium, if any of our clients received negative press, the entire thing would boil over on a few days, much like it does now. The only problem is that the retrieval of the information would require considerable effort.
Today, anyone can invest 2 seconds to google a company name or a person and have access to this “history”. The problem is a question of degree.
Most clients feel branded by the practicality involved. When interfacing customers some old articles keep coming up. It is true that news organizations are becoming slightly more receptive to the idea of limiting the history of publication in at least some extenuating circumstances. Most of the time they are motivated by negative circumstances themselves. This is because judges have started ordering newspapers to expunge news reporting in cases where the criminal record has also been expunged.
We feel this is a fair tradeoff and believe that a body of law will emerge to make this a common procedure. We also feel that there still many more nuances to take into consideration. For example, in a recent case a 73-year-old instructor at an elite Montreal private school lost her job after it was discovered she appeared nude in several films in Europe more than 40 years ago. The position of the school was the following:
“The fact that these films were shot 40 years ago doesn’t change their bold and suggestive – even explicit – character,” said the college. The Internet had brought the “erotic portion of career into the present,” and the students’ discovery of their teacher’s films affected the atmosphere in class”
Out of respect for the person’s privacy we choose not to mention the name here. In our opinion, she is a victim of the press and a victim of the freedoms exercised in the press and Google’s indexing of the content.
We believe that cataloging this information for the whole world to see comes with some responsibility. Clearly, after 40 years, the person has the right to move on with their life. The right to be forgotten is an important concept of law that permeates everything from tax law to penal code and should also be argued in the legal arena.
Currently, very little industry consensus as to when the deletion of an article is justified.
In 2009, Kathy English of the Toronto Star released an in-depth study on the issue: “The Longtail of News: To Unpublish or Not to Unpublish.” Read this report before you approach any newspaper with an unpublishing request.
Newspapers will generally reject your request to have an article unpublished. The study clearly illustrates how they are less concerned about protecting your online reputation.
Even if you do get your article unpublished, deleted articles do remain on the Internet regardless. A blogger may have republished it or the article may come up in an Internet archive. Videos can spread virally not only via sharing but through third party reporting and curating of the original content.
A classical illustration of this is the republishing of a 2009 video taken at a Domino’s pizza outlet, which the company legally got Youtube to take down. It is still here for you to see on Youtube years after the original posting.