Determine the nature of the content and your reasons for taking it down
There are two major reasons why an online service provider (such as Facebook, MySpace or YouTube) will take down content: Intellectual property (IP) rights infringement or violations of the site's terms of service or community guidelines. The site will rarely take something down simply because you find it embarrassing or unflattering; there must be a legal reason for the take-down request.
If an IP claim, determine whether it is copyright or trademark
Copyright claims are what they sound like. If you took a photo and someone else uploaded it without your permission, or you are an author and they uploaded one of your articles, they are violating your copyright in the photo, because only you have the right to copy (or authorize copies) of your own work. These are the simplest claims to deal with, as described below. Trademarks refer to company or product names and logos. If a competitor displays your logo on its Facebook page as part of an ad for its own services, that is (at least arguably) trademark infringement. However, trademark issues are complex and can't easily be resolved without a lawyer's involvement.
If a copyright claim, find and follow the site's DMCA take-down procedure
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) specifies a procedure under which commercial social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace can avoid liability for copyright infringement if they respond timely to a request from the content owner to have infringing materials taken down. Accordingly, these sites have pages and links which make the process relatively straightforward. You will need to sign a declaration under penalty of perjury that you own the copyright in the offending content and that it was uploaded by another person without your permission. For example, see Section 9 of the MySpace Terms and Conditions linked below.
For a non-IP claim, review and identify violations of the site's terms or community guidelines
Most social media sites set their own standards for conduct. Typically they prohibit posting of content that is obscene, defamatory, harassing, offensive, illegal, etc. Assuming you can find one or more categories that apply (even arguably), report the content to the website as inappropriate, using a link or email address as designated by the site, and being as specific as possible about the nature of the violation. See link to MySpace Terms and Conditions below for an example.
For all other claims, consult an attorney
There may be other grounds for requesting removal of content, such as invasion of right to privacy or publicity under state law, or trademark infringement or dilution, but these require fact-intensive analysis by an attorney. It is often best just to live with the offending content and let it recede into the background over time, but if the content is simply too damaging to ignore, it is worthwhile to get a good lawyer on your side to send a cease-and-desist letter, and perhaps more.
Additional resources provided by the author
See Chilling Effects (linked below) for more information regarding the DMCA and related subjects.
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