It's one thing to send a bogus legal threat in an effort to suppress criticism, because usually the only consequence of that is public humiliation and a little Streisand Effect heat; but if you really want to score an own-goal, the best way to do so is to send a fake court order to Google ordering removal of someone else's embarrassing post from its search index, forging a judge's signature to give it that really authentic look-and-feel.
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If you want to get a piece of information removed from the internet, there are few tools more powerful that a court judgment saying that it is defamatory. A judgment like that will get Google to de-index the result and frighten most web-hosts into getting rid of it. So it follows that the sleaziest end of the "reputation management" industry has occupied itself with securing these court orders at high volumes and low costs. Read the rest
Back in April, we learned that UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi had hired a sleazy "reputation-management" company to scrub her reputation and that of the university after the 2011 incident in which university police lieutenant John Pike hosed down peaceful protesters with pepper spray, jetting chemical irritant directly into their open mouths and eyes. Read the rest
Pissedconsumer has noticed that a bunch of "reputation management" companies are filing lawsuits to get anonymous customer complaints removed, and very quickly identifying the anonymous posters, who swear affidavits okaying the removal of their complaints. Read the rest
Retraction Watch, a website that documents the retraction of scientific papers, has had a series of articles about disgraced cancer researcher Anil Potti abruptly censored by WordPress in response to a DMCA copyright complaint from a dodgy Indian website that appears to have copied all the articles to its own site, then complained to WordPress on the grounds that Retraction Watch had copied it:
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One of the cases they followed was Anil Potti, a cancer researcher who, at the time, worked at Duke University. Potti first fell under scrutiny for embellishing his resume, but the investigation quickly expanded as broader questions were raised about his research. As the investigation continued, a number of Potti's papers ended up being retracted as accusations of falsified data were raised. Eventually, three clinical trials that were started based on Potti's data were stopped entirely. Although federal investigations of Potti's conduct are still in progress, he eventually resigned from Duke.
In all, Retraction Watch published 22 stories on the implosion of Potti's career. In fact, three of the top four Google results for his name all point to the Retraction Watch blog (the fourth is his Wikipedia entry). Despite the widespread attention to his misbehavior, Potti managed to get a position at the University of North Dakota (where he worked earlier in his career). Meanwhile, he hired a reputation management company, which dutifully went about creating websites with glowing things to say about the doctor.
This morning, however, 10 of the Retraction Watch posts vanished.