If searching for your name in Google brings up pieces of unwanted content which you’d prefer wasn’t there, how do you go about controlling that information?

It’s often said that your reputation precedes you and increasingly, more people will search for you online before actually coming to deal with you directly.

Therefore, if your online presence is likely to give a negative perception of your character, then it could affect you on a personal and business level.

What unwanted content can be removed?

Unwanted content can come in various different forms, much of which depends on your personal preferences.

It’s generally information about you which is displayed without your consent, and it could range from being a minor inconvenience to a potentially harmful piece of private information.

Here are some of the categories of ‘unwanted content’ which could have a negative impact on your reputation, along with the various strategies you can use to deal with them.

  • Private information: Whether it’s as simple as your home address, date of birth or personal mobile number, these records can easily find their way online. You may have owned a business which requires you to put personal information down on the business records, in which case you’ll struggle to remove these. If it’s simply as part of a directory listing, then there are ways in which this can be hidden or removed.
  • Private or unwanted images or videos:
    • Revenge porn has been a hot topic in recent months. This is the publication of explicit material portraying someone who has not consented for said material to be shared online. A revenge porn law came into effect in 2015 which means perpetrators could be jailed for up to two years.
    • If there are some images which you haven’t consented to being published online, but don’t necessarily break any laws, there are options to challenge the sites hosting it and prevent them from being displayed in the search results. You can also use the Google Removal tool to get the material deleted from the search results for a search for your name, although it’s best to ask an expert to process this for optimum results.
    • You should be sure to take care when uploading photos or videos online, even if it’s on a site which has high privacy settings. There is always a way for these to be leaked and cause damage to your professional reputation.
  • Persistent online trolling: If someone is harassing you online and posting unwanted things about you on social media and forums for example, you can generally go directly to the site’s moderators. They may decide to remove the content and/or block the user, though it can often be difficult to track and monitor. Using Google Alerts will allow you to monitor when people mention your name, although if you have a fairly common name then this can be a thankless task. It’s best to focus on the ones which are causing the most harm to you first.
  • Unwanted press articles: These can prove difficult to remove, particularly if it’s a large organisation, with a high site authority, which is publishing the article. They can be approached and asked to remove the article, but if it’s deemed to be in the public’s best interest then there isn’t much leeway. You can use Google’s Right to be Forgotten (RTBF) tool but again, they take public interest into consideration. There are some effective ways to ensure the press articles are less influential on your online reputation, namely by releasing positive, news related PR and sustained content online.
  • Defamatory content: If there’s content about you posted online which is false and damaging to your reputation, there’s a good chance you can get this taken down. This can come from individual blog sites, which can be contacted directly or removed through Google’s RTBF, or they can come in forums which can also be contacted directly. Whether it’s an outright lie or a misrepresentation of the facts, this falls into the defamatory bracket.

Repairing your reputation

Whatever issues you’re facing online, there’s a high chance that these problems can either be solved or eased through the generation of positive content and online activity.

If the unwanted content breaks a law or is defamatory or unsubstantiated, then this will be removed once it’s reported, in most cases.

Other information also has a high chance of being either removed or pushed down the search results for your name, at least from google.co.uk, so there’s always a way to repair and recover your online reputation by removing unwanted content.

Each case can differ in difficulty, so in some cases it’s worth contacting a reputation expert such as Igniyte, which has years of experience challenging and removing content online. It may also be worth contacting a legal expert if there’s a clear case of broken legislation.

Many cases require prompt responses for the best results; this can be a lengthy procedure, depending on the other party’s cooperation and the other factors in the case.

Partnering with legal experts in intellectual property and media law, Igniyte offers various services including advice on copyright issues online and as the legal options available to you when challenging online content.

We strive to transparently communicate the best available options to you and what’s likely to be most effective. Once you’re aware of the realistic chances of your unwanted information being removed, you can look to improve your online representation as a whole.

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