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Ask Slashdot: Undoing an Internet Smear Campaign? 338

Posted by Soulskill
from the time-for-the-more-speech-defense dept.
An anonymous reader writes "My fiancee is a professional writer. She has a great industry reputation and everyone that knows her loves her. But her ex-husband has maintained a number of websites in her name (literally, the URL is her name) that are filled with insane ravings and defamatory content. Have you ever had to deal with an internet smear campaign? The results float to the top of every Google or Bing search of her name. He currently lives abroad and cannot be served with legal papers. His websites are hosted overseas as well, and do not respond to conventional letters or petitions. Because of his freedom of speech rights, few U.S. courts will assert that his websites are truly libelous, either, and it's still difficult to prove any real 'damages' are done by it. Still, we'd like to see them go away. I'm turning to the best community of geeks in the world: how do I deal with this given the limited options at my disposal?"
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Ask Slashdot: Undoing an Internet Smear Campaign?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @07:01PM (#42455585)

    " This policy has now been replaced with a Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy created by ICANN and used by all accredited registrars. Under this new policy, a trademark owner can initiate a relatively inexpensive administrative procedure to challenge the existing domain name. In order to prevail, the trademark owner must show:

            that the trademark owner owns a trademark (either registered or unregistered) that is the same or confusingly similar to the registered second level domain name;
            that the party that registered the domain name has no legitimate right or interest in the domain name; and
            that the domain name was registered and used in bad faith.

    If the trademark owner successfully proves all three points in the administrative proceeding, then the domain name can either be cancelled or transferred to the prevailing trademark owner. If the trademark owner fails to prove one of these points, the administrative panel will not cancel nor transfer the domain name."

    http://www.bitlaw.com/internet/domain.html

  • WHOIS (Score:5, Informative)

    by yakatz (1176317) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @07:05PM (#42455631) Homepage Journal
    Check the WHOIS information for the domains. If there is any missing information at all or if the phone numbers or email addresses don't work, you can file a report with ICANN [internic.net]. I have found that many times people will not reply to the complaint which means the domains are shut down within a few weeks.
  • Re:Don't bother? (Score:4, Informative)

    by rgbrenner (317308) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @07:10PM (#42455691)

    He said the material is not libelous. I'm allowed to start a domain called SheetrockIsATerriblePerson.com and post criticisms about you. That's not trademark infringement. You cannot use trademark law to silence critics.

    Wal-mart tried this in 2008:
    http://www.citmedialaw.org/blog/2008/court-rejects-wal-marts-bid-silence-criticism-through-trademark-law [citmedialaw.org]

  • Re:ICANN (Score:5, Informative)

    by g0bshiTe (596213) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @07:18PM (#42455775)
    It would be trademark, not copyright.
  • by Kergan (780543) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @07:37PM (#42455953)

    I've been through this myself...

    As a temporary action, get the word out -- literally. Build a site or two of your own on her if needed, e.g, her official site, then get in touch with her fans, list, the press, whatever, and serve them a sensationalist "writer gets libeled online by her ex" story... If they bite, the site with her name in the domain won't get to Google's first page of results with a little luck. Even if it does, the many results that mention the smear campaign on the same page will serve as a counterweight and douse it.

    In my case, that was enough to get the domain. In case it's not enough for you to do the same, sue...

    Sue the ex-husband for libel, defamation, whatever... but also -- and more importantly -- to recover the domain name. If it's a .com or any other US tld, it's under US jurisdiction and can be seized by a US court; period, end of story -- irrespective of where the ex-boyfriend might be based or hosted. If the MAFIAA can shut down .com domains that serve torrents, and big business can grab domains on grounds that they're too similar to their own, you can shut down or retrieve a domain. Her name is her de facto trademark. Don't just sue the ex-boyfriend, either. Also file complaints with the registrar, the hosting business, etc. They'll take pre-emptive action more often than not when contacted. Consult with an attorney specialized in this kind of stuff, and take action under his guidance.

  • by jimshatt (1002452) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @07:38PM (#42455975)

    that the domain name was registered and used in bad faith

    The domain name seems to be registered in good faith. Depending on prenuptial agreements, she might have as much claim on the domain name as he has already. A divorce lawyer might be able to help you out (IANAL tho).

  • Re:No. (Score:3, Informative)

    by jb11 (2683015) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @07:42PM (#42456029)

    That link is about folks who actually did those things and want to bury things that they think a future employer may find objectionable.

    In this case, someone is making shit up and defaming someone.

    The person asking this needs to have his wife sue. Do not pass go. Go directly to lawyer.

    Actually, the example in the article is about a girl that had a common name that was returning search results that were not about her.

    "From the article: "Samantha Grossman wasn't always thrilled with the impression that emerged when people Googled her name. 'It wasn't anything too horrible,' she said. 'I just have a common name. There would be pictures, college partying pictures, that weren't of me, things I wouldn't want associated with me.'"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @07:53PM (#42456145)

    it might have been registered in good faith, but it doesn't sound as though it is being /used/ in good faith. Thus, ICANN's rules apply to the situation (assuming the situation was described accurately).

  • Re:four letters... (Score:5, Informative)

    by dgatwood (11270) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @08:58PM (#42456667) Journal

    That's only the first half of it. First, file a legal trademark on the name. Then file a UDRP complaint and take the domain.

  • Re:Possibility (Score:5, Informative)

    by GryMor (88799) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @09:30PM (#42456853)

    I may of course be missreading things, but what I gathered is that the ex is writing insane ravings on the site (using your name placeholder) sallysmith.com, not about Sally Smith, but implicitly AS Sally Smith, with the intent of making it look like Sally Smith is a raving nutjob to those who do a search for her name. Presumably, it's a rather more unique name than Sally Smith, so there is less probability of it being ignored as a naming collision. However, as the OP's fiancee is apparently a writer, it could be written in a way to make it really look like the author of the books and the author of the crazy screed are the same person without actually claiming they are.

    If the site DOES claim to be the author, the fiancee may have grounds for slander of title, or, in some jurisdictions (and heavily dependent on the content of the crazed ramblings), there may be infringement on moral rights related to the original works.

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