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How to Remove a News Article from the Internet

June 12, 2024
NCAA

Have you ever been the subject of a negative news article?  If you have, that news article likely shows up at the top of your search results, even if it is old and outdated.  While search engines like Google and Bing consider many factors when determining where to sort content in search results, news articles are often prioritized because search engines consider news outlets to be credible sources of information. This is extremely problematic for the subjects of negative reporting, who often struggle to move on from the narratives disseminated by old articles. What’s worse is that every time a news article is clicked, Google’s algorithm sorts it higher in search results.  Unfortunately, unless old articles are removed or updated, they are likely to continue to appear prominently in search results.

The Evolution of the News

The issue of a negative news article following a subject forever is a new problem in the history of news media, which historically focused on localized readership and shorter news cycles.  Before the internet, when a news article was published, it was circulated and then discarded, available for viewing only in archives. As traditional print media moved online, audiences expanded globally, and news gradually became memorialized in perpetuity.  Thankfully, news articles don’t have to follow a subject forever. An encouraging trend in journalism has emerged where publications will consider removing a news article if it meets certain editorial considerations.

WHAT IS AN EDITORIAL REQUEST?

An editorial request is a carefully drafted persuasive letter directed towards a news outlet requesting removal or an update to a damaging news article.  While an editorial request does not have to be written by an attorney, it often increases your chances of removal, as successful requests often focus on a combination of legal concepts and journalistic ethics considerations.  While some media outlets might have a singular editor or content manager who reviews editorial requests, other publications have editorial teams that meet to review and vote on requests.

WHAT TYPES OF RELIEF CAN I SECURE WITH AN EDITORIAL REQUEST?

While editorial requests often request full removal of a news article, there are many alternative forms of relief that an attorney can secure to help them reclaim their search results. 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 HARDER TO REMOVE THAN OTHERS?

The success of a news article removal is largely dependent on the facts of your individual circumstance, the evidence you have favoring removal, and the personal opinions of the person conducting the editorial review. However, there are certain scenarios that make a news article more difficult to remove.  The most difficult types of articles to remove are:

  • 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.

What Are The RISKS Of 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 at 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, the search results will shift dramatically. Constant monitoring after a removal can help you stay ahead of shifts in search results.

Can I Remove a News Article While I Have Criminal Proceedings Pending Against Me?

You can request the removal or update of an article at any time. However, acting too quickly can be detrimental and may reduce the likelihood of achieving complete removal in the future, even if you later obtain exculpatory evidence. For instance, if you seek the removal of an article while charges are still pending, the news outlet may deny your request and only provide a partial update. Although this update might offer temporary relief, it may not sufficiently disassociate you from the alleged crimes or the damaging narrative.

Moreover, a poorly timed request can draw renewed attention to your case, prompting reporters to “follow up” by publishing additional articles. Each subsequent takedown request becomes increasingly difficult.

Lastly, any person providing statements to a news outlet, such as an insistence of innocence, should know that this could be considered a ‘statement’ which can be published. Once you give a statement to a media outlet that is published in connection with a story, it is much less likely that the article will be removed.

Can I Sue A Newspaper to Remove A News Article?

Any person or organization who publishes false information about you that harms you can be sued. But, if your primary goal is content removal, suing a publication may not be your best option. Litigation against a news publication often generates more internet content related to the issue you are trying to suppress.  In addition, news publications are frequently threatened with litigation and have a variety of protections that shield them from liability. Litigation is also not an option for people who are the subjects of news articles that are damaging but were true at the time they were reported.

The good news is that it is not necessary to sue a publication to secure the removal of a negative article. Editorial requests are often more cost effective and successful in removing content than litigation.

Legal Content Removal Or Suppression?

Content Suppression

Suppression services are reputation management services designed to bury negative content in search results. The services generate positive content, which is designed to appear higher in search results than the negative content.  Suppression services often require ongoing efforts, making them extremely expensive services to maintain.  However, they are a great secondary option for the subjects of reporting if a news publication decides not to remove an article. Additionally, this may be a great option for individuals who are looking to suppress content while an editorial request is pending.

Legal Content Removal

Legal content removal involves working with an attorney to permanently remove the news article at its source so that it no longer appears in search results.  Full removal provides a more permanent and reliable solution for the subjects of negative news articles.

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 harming your reputation, you have options. An attorney is a non-emotionally attached third-party that can help you gather evidence and craft a persuasive editorial request to remove the article at its source. After a news article is updated or removed, an attorney can also help you clean up any remaining broken URLs that appear in your Google search results.  Even if the article is not fully removed, a content removal will be aware of other options for relief, such as simply removing the article from search results so that it remains published on the website but does not show up in a Google search of your name.

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) or Hannah Albion (hra@kjk.com; 216.736.7268) for more information.