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. Your only hope is to lobby the publisher or, in the case of the web, hire somebody to help.
Even high profile public figures such as Hollywood celebrities and politicians have photos on the Internet that they would like removed, but have found that taking them down is relatively impossible. For example, the Smoking Gun website keeps an up-to date gallery of celebrity mugshots, the exact type of image a person would want to disappear forever.
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. If you need to delete something from the internet this Cnet article lists six great, not foolproof steps.
The Digital Tattoo Project encourages critical discussion on topics surrounding digital citizenship and online identity. There are no correct answers and every person will view these topics from a different perspective. Be sure to complete the previous sections before answering the questions.
- What would you do if there was something on the internet about you that you did not like?
- Have you ever experienced trying to remove something about yourself from the internet? What was the result?