I get lots of prospective clients contacting me that object that “private” information on social networks, particularly Facebook and Twitter, has become public, and embarassed or financially damaged the poster. The content has often become public because a third-party, including other Facebook or Twitter users, or a third party blog, reposts the information, often in a negative light.
An embarassing photograph, or a rash or unwise Facebook comment or Twitter post is often the source of the problem. Another concern is direct messages on Twitter or wall-posts on Facebook. Usually the potential client wants to know what can be done to remove the unwanted or offensive post.
Sad to say, however, the answer is that there is usually little chance to remove such content. This is because there is no legal ground for removal. User posts are generally not legally protected from further dissemination or commentary, except in very special cases where other legal principles such as copyright protection, false light or defamation may apply. Contact me or another Internet lawyer if you think your situation involves copyright infringement or defamation.
Here are 3 tips to consider:
1. Assume that once you post, it will be available to anyone anywhere. Is this something you don't want? Then, don't post! Revise it to be something you don't care who sees.
2. Don't issue any type of takedown notice unless you know you have a really good basis. Most such notices are as ill-considered as the original post, so individuals that were willing to post the original content in a negative light are quite likely to post your takedown notice as well, compounding the problem. And, there is little chance that the original posting will be removed as a result of the takedown notice.
3. Damage control requires CONTROL. Register and develop the .com version of their full name as a moderated blog or captive site so you have a trademark basis for objecting to posts and so you control the site, and so that you have an easy place to correct false information about you. Once you do this, your site should work its way up the search rankings to where you can control it and effectively use it for reputation repair and damage control by telling your side of the story without the other party having any control over it and no ability to respond on that site without your approval.
Bruce E Burdick, Managing Attorney
The Burdick Law Firm www.burdlaw.com