- Is it possible to remove content about myself that I did not post?
- What are my options if something cannot be removed?
Consider these questions as you review the examples below. Try the quiz from the left menu: What Have You Learned? after you’ve spent some time with this section.
When a Georgian Luger died during a practice run at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, footage of the crash posted to YouTube was immediately taken down by the site, but only to have it return repeatedly by those who had cached the material on their own computers. The footage was very upsetting, but when news agencies started hosting the images on their own sites, it was out forever.
Google has a procedure that allows users to request content to be removed. This process works similar to flagging a site, with the exception that it pertains to content posted independently of sharing sites. This will not, however, stop people from re-posting what has been cached onto other sites and blogs, as in the case above. Beyond lobbying servers, building a positive Internet presence is the only option. Internet reputation companies cite that only 94% of searchers only look at the first page of results. In lieu of removing content, their suggestion is to make sure that the best of yourself is in that top ten.
Another way to think about the difficulty to remove content is in terms of traditional book publishing. If a book with embarrassing photos and ‘tell all’ interviews was printed about you, how could you go about halting its publication? Chances are, unless you had an excellent lawyer, you couldn’t.
Even high profile public figures like Bill Clinton, or British Columbia’s Premier, Gordon Campbell, who would certainly love to have certain photos’ removed, have found that it is not possible.
Your only hope is to lobby the publisher or hire somebody to help.
The internet is full of tutorials that will teach you how to adjust privacy settings, remove caches, delete search history, disable robots, un-tag yourself in photos, outwit spyware, etc… but an eternity of searches will not find you a ‘delete button’ for things you do not want about yourself out there – hence the purpose of this project. The key is to build a positive on-line identity and to avoid unsavory content getting out there in the first place.