How to Remove a News Article from the Internet

July 7, 2021

Have you ever been the subject of a damaging news article?  Before the internet, when a news article was published, it was circulated and then discarded, available for viewing only in library archives. In the age of the internet, news is now published online in perpetuity, and a negative news article can be devastating to a person or businesses reputation.  Thankfully, news articles can be removed from the Internet.

While you can sue a newspaper to compel a publication to remove an untrue article, this is not always the best option for people whose primary goal is content removal. Litigation against a news publication can generate more internet content and exposure related to the issue you are trying to suppress.  Litigation is also extremely expensive. Additionally, litigation is not an option for people who are the subjects of news articles that are damaging but true.

The good news is that it is not necessary to sue a publication to secure the removal of an article. A strategic editorial request drafted by a content removal attorney can help remove damaging news articles from the internet.

What is an Editorial Request?

An editorial request is a carefully drafted persuasive letter directed towards a news publication which requests removal of a damaging news article.  An editorial request focuses on a combination of journalistic ethics and legal concepts.  While a singular editor or content manager can review an editorial request, many publications have an editorial team that reviews removal requests.  These teams meet, review the letter and evidence, and then vote on whether an article should stay published or be removed.

What Types of Relief can I Secure with an Editorial Request?

While editorial requests often ask for the full removal of a news article, there are many alternative forms of relief that an attorney can secure. Beyond full removal of the news article, an editorial request can help the client attain the following:

  • An update at the top of the article
  • Edits within the article to make the article more accurate
  • Redaction of names or identifying information
  • Removal of photos or mugshots
  • Deindexing the article from Google search results so that it doesn’t show up when people search your name on the internet

Are Some News Articles More Difficult to Remove than Others?

While the success of a news article removal is largely dependent on your individual circumstances and the opinions of the person conducting the editorial review, there are certain scenarios that make a news article more difficult to remove.  In our experience, the following types of articles make an editorial request more difficult:

  • News articles that were published recently
  • News articles that have already had an editorial request denied
  • News articles mentioning a lawsuit
  • News articles mentioning a sexual crime
  • News articles that are completely accurate
  • News articles that mention other people, like police blotters
  • News articles that have gone viral
  • News articles mentioning a celebrity, athlete, or notorious person
  • News articles discussing a crime in which the person was sanctioned or penalized, but that person has not yet served the terms of his or her probation/ sanction/ penalty

On the other hand, stronger fact patterns supporting removal include news articles about charges that have been sealed or expunged, news articles where the subject was exonerated from charges, or news articles with proven factual inaccuracies.  The fact that a news article is damaging, old, and no longer newsworthy can also be a persuasive argument supporting removal.

Sometimes, after a news article is updated or removed from the news publication’s website, it can still show up in Google search results. An attorney can also help you remove the article from Google search results.

Are There any Risks to Attempting to Remove a News Article from the internet?

The biggest risk of requesting removal of a news article is that a publication may deny your request. Ultimately, whether a news article is removed is up to the discretion of each individual news publication, regardless of the strength of your arguments.

People pursuing content removal are often worried about the risk of the Streisand effect. The Streisand effect is an internet phenomenon where in attempting to suppress internet content, a person brings more attention to it, generating more visibility to the harmful content. While any person pursuing the removal of content from the internet should always be aware of the risks of the Streisand effect, this is often not as big of a risk with professional news organization as it is with individual bloggers.  It is unlikely that a request for removal will result in more news articles.

People targeting harmful news articles should know that when a news article is removed, search results will shift dramatically. Constant monitoring after a removal can help you stay ahead of shifts in search results.

Why Should I Hire a Content Removal Attorney to Help me Remove a News Article?

If you are the subject of a damaging news article that is tarnishing your online reputation, you may be inclined to reach out to the publisher in anger to demand removal. This approach will decrease the likelihood that the harmful news article will be removed.  Additionally, once a publication denies your removal request, subsequent requests for removal will be less likely to achieve your goals.  Before making a quick request, you should consider reaching out to an experienced content removal attorney for help.

An attorney is a non-emotionally attached third-party that can help you compile evidence and formulate your best arguments for removing distressing content. Attorneys that regularly request the removal of damaging news articles can also assist in evaluating the best points of contact at a publication. The best point of content is rarely the actual author of the article.  While many publications have editorial boards that conduct editorial reviews of published articles, the most sympathetic point of contact can also be an editor, content manager, or affiliated company. After a news article is updated or removed, an attorney can also help you clean up your Google search results. .

Your online reputation effects your career opportunities, your relationships, your mental health, and your future. Thankfully, negative news articles can be removed from the internet. If you have damaging news articles in your search results, don’t hesitate to contact Internet & Defamation Attorney Alexandra Arko (ALA@kjk.com; 216.716.5642) for more information.