How to delete things from the internet: a guide to doing the impossible

Title: How to delete things from the internet: a guide to doing the impossible

Author: Sarah A. Downey

Full Text & Source:

The Internet, Online, 20/3/2015

Sample Text:

You want to delete something from the Internet:  maybe it’s an article, a picture, a blog post, an account, or a video.  It’s not always easy, but it can be done.  We’ll tell you how.

We’ve spent years deleting people’s info from data broker websites with our product, DeleteMe, and we’ve learned a lot. Before we get to our 7 deletion tips, let start with some basic rules of the web.

Web Rule 1:  Walk before you run.  Deletion must be done from the original source before Google will notice.

In this guide, we’ll call the website that’s actually hosting the content you want removed–the original source–the publisher.  Blogs, newspapers, forums, Facebook…they’re all publishers.

Let’s say that someone wrote a really unflattering blog post about you and now it’s showing up in Google’s search results whenever someone searches for your name.  Naturally, you want it taken down from Google.  Here’s the important thing:  Google is not the source of that post; it’s merely letting that post be found more easily.  The post is actually hosted on the blog, which might be WordPress, Posterous, Tumblr, or another popular blogging site. Google does not have the file, nor can it delete the file.

To remove something from Google’s search results, you have to remove it from the original source first.  Once you take down a piece of content, Google and other search engines will naturally filter it out of search results.  However, there is a way to speed up that process:  see point 2 below.

Web Rule 2:  You’ll hit some red lights.  In most cases, websites don’t have any duty to remove anything.

Most of the things that people want removed are things they voluntarily posted at an earlier time.  Under many websites’ Terms of Use, you lose rights in whatever you post as soon as you post it.  That’s why it’s absolutely key that you think before you post, because it could be on the Internet forever.

You also have to have a really good reason to force a website to remove content.  Looking bad in a picture or disliking a comment someone made on your Facebook wall isn’t enough.  We’ll get into these serious reasons later on in this guide. The good news:  even though sites don’t have to take content down, they may do it just to help you out.  Asking nicely can go a long way!

Web Rule 3:  Keep it up.  Persistence pays, so if you hit a wall, go around it.

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease” is truer than ever when it comes to takedowns.  You’re going to have to speak up, speak often, and keep at it.  Eighty percent of whether an item is removed depends on how dedicated you’re willing to be.  You can’t take a lack of response for an answer.  You’re competing for the limited time of very busy people and companies. Without further ado, here are our 7 tips on how to get something deleted from the web.

1.  Find someone, or at least a department, to talk to

To actually remove an item, you’ll have to get in touch with someone who’s in charge of managing the particular website on which it appears.  If it’s you and it’s your account or website, even better.  Some sites have systems in place for requesting takedowns, but your odds are better if you speak to an actual human being.

Try to find a phone number for a website editor, webmaster, or writer at the publication.  In our experience, the best person to talk to is someone who’s tech-savvy enough–and has the authority– to remove content himself.  That way they can handle your request right when you ask, not go through a long chain of decision-makers who may forget about you.  The department that will take the longest to get back to you?  Legal.

You can usually get a number at the “contact us” link on the very bottom of most websites. If no contact information is listed, you can do a special search to see who registered the site.  This is called a “Who Is” search, and you can do it for free on Google.  Simply type “whois http://www.[the site you’re looking up].com” in quotes, and you’ll get a result for the person who registered it.  If you wanted to do a Who Is search on us, for example, you’d type in “whois” into the search bar.  Who Is searches will provide a name, address, and phone number for an administrative contact at the site.  Note that the contact information may be anonymous if the site was registered through a proxy service.

If you can only find a general phone number for the front desk (this often happens with newspapers), tell the receptionist that you’d like to be connected to someone in charge of website content about a takedown request.  If you’re dealing with a big company with an automated phone menu, be persistent until you get another person on the line.

2.  If you can’t talk, email

If you can’t find a phone number, look for a personal email.  When you’re picking out a person to reach out to, follow our tips from point 1 above.  Even if you can’t find personal emails, most sites use a standard format for employee email, and you can guess at an email with a bit of work.  For example, we use the format “first name at Abine dot com.”  This website, Email Format, can help you guess by providing formats for many popular websites.

3.  Make your case, and make it well

There’s usually no legal reason to get an item taken down, so you’ll only succeed if you ask respectfully and eloquently.  Think of yourself like an attorney:  you have to represent yourself and make a compelling argument.  If they do remove the item, they’ll be doing it as a favor to you.

About Author Annette J Dunlea Irish Writer

Irish Writer Website: Twitter: @adunlea Facebook:
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