ANYONE who has ever attempted to have content about themselves or their company removed from Google search results will know it is no easy task.
Often these are negative comments posted on blogs by disgruntled ex-employees or business competitors hoping to damage the reputation of their target to simply get even or gain a competitive advantage, in the case of the latter.
Google has now revealed a growing number of removal requests received from governments and copyright holders around the world.
The half-yearly Transparency Report (full report: www.google.com/transparencyreport/) was launched by Google in 2010 and has since grown to include other features.
The report includes graphs showing traffic patterns and disruptions to Google services from different countries and a new section shows requests from copyright holders to remove search results that link to material that allegedly infringes copyrights.
This latest report shows the number of requests to remove blog posts or videos or hand over user information in the last six months of 2011.
During the period covered by the Transparency Report, Google complied with an average of 65 percent of court orders, and 47 per cent of ‘informal requests’.
But it is not only private individuals and companies concerned with protecting or ‘managing’ their reputation (reputation management); there has been a growing trend of governments seeking to remove political content users had posted on Google.
According to Google: “We noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services. We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it’s not… we’ve been asked to take down political speech. It’s alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect—Western democracies not typically associated with censorship.”
The Spanish government asked Google to remove 270 search results linked to blogs and newspaper articles which mentioned several government officials including mayors and public prosecutors.
Getting content removed from Google can be expensive, lengthy and complicated.
This reality has led to a growing demand for alternative ways for companies and individuals to be able to protect themselves from this form of cyber harassment.
In the past month alone Google says it received more than 1.8 million requests to from copyright holders to remove URLs.
Catherine Defoe, Founder of leading Reputation Management company Voodoo Designz says companies such as theirs can help.
“There are many ways we can help deal with this relatively new and often seemingly unregulated form of libel. Nobody should have to accept it, whether it be Google, Yahoo or any other search engines, they should contact a company specializing in Reputation Management such as Voodoo Designz immediately.”