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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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  • three letters... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jfalcon (163956)

    SEO

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @06:59PM (#42455563)

      mmmm... I wouldn't bother. Seems like you'd be feeding the troll. Why spend time and effort on that?

      Honestly, the only thing I could say is just endure and tell people the truth of the situation if they ask. If this guy maintains this for any huge length of time, he just looks sad.

      • Re:three letters... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Tanktalus (794810) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @07:48PM (#42456095) Journal

        Of course, if it's a potential client who is simply nervous about her, she could lose gigs. I mean, as long as she has no problems finding work, that's not an issue, but it could mean less competition for her services (less demand may mean less pay), or simply an extra week, month, whatever, that she might have been able to fill with work that she may not be able to this way.

        Socially? Sure, no problem. I mean, if you googled my real name, one of the top hits would be a black dude trying to find a date from prison. My coworkers and I have laughted about that. But if that has in any way impeded my ability to job search, that would be, at the very least, unfortunate. (But, in my case, I can't even fathom any suggestion that there is malice here, nevermind something illegal to hang a legal battle on. Poor guy just wants a date. Much unlike the OP's problem.) In a social situation, there's no point in feeding the troll, but in a job search situation, there may be a bigger reason for wanting to bury the ex's ramblings behind a page or three of search rankings.

    • Re:three letters... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @07:02PM (#42455587)

      Indeed. Google and Bing consider the "insane ravings" as more relevant than the articles your fiancee writes, which doesn't say much about the popularity of your fiancee's work. Given this, it's fairly unlikely that she is losing any significant readership as a result of the ex's campaign.

    • Re:three letters... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by brokenin2 (103006) * on Thursday January 03, 2013 @12:56AM (#42458145) Homepage

      Even better.. Hire a reputable SEO company for yourself, and hire a dirtbag SEO company that does their best to cheat the system (link sites linking to more link sites etc) to promote the Ex's BS sites.... If you do it right, you should be able to promote your own a bit, and get google to ban the other sites for search engine manipulation.. Google has some very strict rules, and you just have to make sure you break them when promoting the undesirable site.. Wasn't it Sony that Google banned temporarily for improper search engine optimizations? I don't think Google's bans are normally temporary.. if they are though, I'm pretty sure they're not short term.. Sony had to kiss some butt to get into Google after only a few days..

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @06:52PM (#42455465)

    Put up your own website... fill it with good content... get links?

  • by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @06:52PM (#42455471) Homepage Journal

    What Happens On The Internet, Stays On The Internet.

    • by Jetra (2622687)
      However, people often lose interest and it falls out attention in like, what? 3 days?
  • Possibility (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @06:53PM (#42455479)

    "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."

    Simple. Form a Corporation using the name. Instant win.

    • Re:Possibility (Score:5, Interesting)

      by exomondo (1725132) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @07:21PM (#42455805)

      "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"

      This makes me wonder what exactly the content is, if it's not truly libelous and there is no real damage being done is there really a problem? Seems more like a 'he's written something i don't like' situation, can't really tell without know what the content is though.

      • Re:Possibility (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @08:08PM (#42456255)

        I agree, this sounds like "I don't like what he's saying about me, and I can't do anything about it legally". The answer is man-up (or woman-up) and ignore it, or as others have said, or create a website to refute his claims, etc.

        One step away from a personal army request...

        • Re:Possibility (Score:5, Interesting)

          by rtb61 (674572) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @08:46PM (#42456567) Homepage

          Reality here. Take a deep breath, realise that there are tens of billions of pages and by far the majority get seen by very few people. The next step is really hard "ABANDON YOUR DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR" forget the pseudo celebrity bullshit, by far and I mean well and truly by far the majority of people on the planet do not give a shit one way or the other. Seriously so what?

          As for getting to the top of searchers simply report those pages as gaming the system to google and bing for advertising revenue. Generally those the freak out the most about what is on the web about them, lawyering up and such, well, it often because it is true and they make more profit from the lies.

      • Well, but things can be nasty, and "insane ravings" without being libelous. Laws vary state to state, and federally, but generally opinions are not libelous. I can write "I think exomondo is a jerk!" all I want and you'll never win a libel suit against me in the US. But if I write "exomondo is a jerk because he stole $10,000 from me," and you didn't actually steal any money, now we're talking libel.

        So the ex-husband can go on a TimeCube-esque rant about how the ex-wife is crazy and she's stupid and she's

        • 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.

  • Murder (Score:2, Insightful)

    Or counter-smear.
    • Re:Murder (Score:5, Funny)

      by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @07:31PM (#42455893)

      Concrete shoes.

    • Re:Murder (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Genda (560240) <mariet@@@got...net> on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @07:42PM (#42456035) Journal

      Might I suggest hosting the site in third world country without diplomatic ties to the U.S. or any of the countries he lives (or has lived) in. Have the site host the most vile and disgusting human perversions... links to NAMBLA, Neo-Nazi Organizations, Satanic Churches, and perhaps Skat-Play with Enema Porn as a cherry on top. Attack all good and reputable organizations you can think of. In short, make it a festering sore on the ass of the universe. Have the site advertise in papers in his local town. Have a man with a thick accent, call him or email him with a demand for 10 $1,000 checks to close down the site (checks must have "Pay To" left blank.)

      Fill checks out to grotesque organizations and institutions and make donations. Send Anonymous letters to local newspapers about the "Monster" living in our midst. When it comes out that he's only getting what he's giving... he'll be a social pariah. He started this, the best he can do is complain that he's getting better than he's giving. Make certain you appoint an MC and never contact them again. You know nothing about this, have nothing to do with this and don't care to be a part of the drama he's created. Of course this could easily escalate into death and dismemberment. Not to mention the bad karma.

      A better ploy would be to Create a Nonprofit Organization for the protection of people from Stalkers, Abusers, and Infantile Ex's who seem to be unable to move on with their lives. Use his sites and his attacks as examples of the evil idiocy perpetrated by angry men with small penii, and explain that people being abused by the small minded and even smaller hearted need to stick together and expose the Bozo's publicly. Speak with your Senator about passing a law that prevents this kind of abuse in country and contact the nation he's in to inform them that he's using their infrastructure to perpetrate evil acts half way around the world. Take the high ground. Help people. Show him compassion he doesn't deserve. Send him pictures of you smiling and thank him for inspiring you to create an organization to help women being abused by Idiot Exs. Let him know he's made you a better person, stronger, happier. Thank him. It'll drive him crazy.

      • Have the site host the most vile and disgusting human perversions... links to NAMBLA, Neo-Nazi Organizations, Satanic Churches, and perhaps Skat-Play with Enema Porn as a cherry on top

        You kind of went down in vile and disgustingness there. Would have been a more effective statement had you worked UP to NAMBLA rather than down from it.

    • Drone Strikes. It seems to work for Uncle Sam.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    DDOS

  • ICANN (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ilikenwf (1139495) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @06:55PM (#42455511)
    Copyright the name, contact ICANN and have the domains yanked.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @06:56PM (#42455523)

    ... is the legal term you're looking for.

    A trademark doesn't have to be registered. If she's been writing under her own name for years, then her name is a valuable piece of intellectual property and it's entitled to exactly the same protections as the name of 'Mickey Mouse'.

    Of course, that means you need to act quickly before the trademark is considered to be officially diluted or worthless.

    IANAL, TINLA etc.

    • by flyneye (84093)

      Anon cow may be right about TM violation.
      Outside of that, there is only stooping to his level.
      What country does he live in? In Mexico and S. American countries , a couple hundred U.S. dollars go a long way toward removing his hands to keep him from typing.
      Do some of the old school hacks on him; call up and have his utilities shut off, use a remailing service to have him loudly proclaim anti-govenment sentiment or terrorist threats to his local newspapers. Have illicit internet recreational drug sites start

  • IANAL (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rueger (210566) * on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @06:58PM (#42455551) Homepage
    And obviously neither is the OP: "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,

    For God's sake begin by hiring someone who actually knows about this stuff instead of relying on what you learned from daytime TV.
  • If Chewbacca lives on Endor, you must shut down these websites!
    • by guttentag (313541)

      If Chewbacca lives on Endor, you must shut down these websites!

      I thought the Chewbacca Defense involved speaking loudly and unintelligibly until the other side gives up in frustration. It "works" for most politicians.

  • Don't bother? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sheetrock (152993) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @07:00PM (#42455569) Homepage Journal

    She has a great industry reputation and everyone that knows her loves her.

    That's what matters. Maybe she can trademark her name and seize the domain as being confusingly similar, but it's still throwing time and attention at somebody who clearly craves it, for dubious gain.

    • 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]

      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        Right, but on the other hand, you're not allowed to register the domain "walmart.com" (in a parallel universe where Walmart has, for some strange reason, not already registered this domain) and then post criticisms of it. With "walmart-sucks-and-i-hate-them.com", you're not posing as Walmart themselves, it's clear that you're a separate party that just doesn't like them.

      • by Sheetrock (152993)
        I was thinking of this in terms of ICANN's UDRP [wikipedia.org], not American libel or trademark law.
    • by ZeroPly (881915)
      You can do all this legal stuff, and maybe after spending a few thousand he'll find a different venue, or...

      Find out where the ex-husband works. Obtain an employee list. Start sending mail to people detailing what he's doing, with screenshots of the websites. Repeat with his friends. Repeat with his family. Repeat with anyone he's dating.

      Anonymity works to your advantage as well as the ex's...
  • by hguorbray (967940) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @07:04PM (#42455615)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cybersquatting

    http://blogs.lawyers.com/2012/11/internet-defamation-cybersquatting/

    http://www.traverselegal.com/internet-defamation/defamation/what-is-a-defamation-of-character-assessment/#more-129

    I'm sure that many laywers will do this for you for $$$, but it may also be possible to have the victim file under ACPA to force the domain names to be given to them
    http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/property00/domain/legislation.html

    but that may only apply to trademark owners and not defamation victims.

    -I'm just sayin'
  • by headhot (137860)

    Many countries like England have extremely strong libel laws. She should hire an english attorney and have him prosecuted in the UK. Its pretty much irrelevant to the UK system where the harm took place.

  • 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.
    • by Bill Dimm (463823)

      I think you got lucky. Several years ago, I discovered that some jerk cloned one of my company's websites. I tried to contact the person through every piece of contact info in the WHOIS record (even sent a letter half way around the world and waited for it to bounce) and it was all bogus. I reported it to ICANN and the response I got after a long wait was something like "the registrar says the contact info is fine." Fortunately, the hosting company was much more responsive and made him change the site.

    • Re:WHOIS (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @08:05PM (#42456241) Journal

      The submitter sounds like they are describing textbook cybersquatting.
      So alternatively, they can try Domain Name Dispute Resolution
      https://www.icann.org/en/help/dndr/udrp [icann.org]

      Disputes alleged to arise from abusive registrations of domain names (for example, cybersquatting) may be addressed by expedited administrative proceedings that the holder of trademark rights initiates by filing a complaint with an approved dispute-resolution service provider.

      You can register [person]sucks.com and shit on them all day long, but you can't expect to register [person].com and keep it.

  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @07:08PM (#42455657) Homepage Journal

    Maybe she should pick a new name, possibly a business name to work through and notify her current circle of contacts of the change.

    • by Hentes (2461350) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @07:14PM (#42455731)

      Or get her to take his name when they marry.

    • Maybe she should pick a new name, possibly a business name to work through and notify her current circle of contacts of the change.

      The problem is every job application I have ever went through demands former names listed so they can do a credit and internet check on your name. She will still get blacklisted after the reporting agency mentions the other sites. They no longer just do criminal background checks anymore.

      There are one or two sites where for a monthly fee an employer types a name and everything about you including lawsuits, blogs, facebook, myspace, livejournal, divorces, and loans pop up that employers use for hiring decisi

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @07:08PM (#42455667)

    This sounds like a tactic to get you to set a date for the wedding... Being a woman, she would have already through of this as the easy out that once she get's married she'll likely change her last name which would help greatly with this issue. Given you haven't brought that up in your post, I'm guessing she hasn't mentioned it to you. This means that your wedding isn't any time in the near future or a date hasn't been set at all. So, I'm guessing you've proposed at some point but aren't commited enough to tie the knot. Once a big deal has been made of this situation, she will suddenly come up with the 'idea' that getting married will solve things, and the sooner the better.

    I'm telling you this because you also need to keep an eye on things in the contraceptive department because if this little ruse doesn't work to get you to hitched, that will be next on the list.

    Look, I know a lot of people here claim to know things they don't, but I am posting as Annonymous Coward because I don't have a slashdot account so you can trust that I know a lot more about women than most people her. Stay strong my brother.

  • Lawyers are much better than slashdot at telling you what your legal options might be.

    Seriously, where do you get this stuff? There's not a lot of obvious overlap between libel law and free speech. At least in the US, the issues are whether material is (1) defamatory and (2) untrue. So far as I know, that's it; if the material's untrue, then saying false things about people is not generally regarded as "free speech". (Note: "untrue" means "provable as a matter of fact to be untrue", not just "I don't think

    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      It's still "free speech", even if it's untrue. However, if it's untrue and someone gets mad, they can sue you for civil damages for that speech. You won't go to prison, however; that's why it's free speech: there's no criminal penalties. Remember, in the legal world, there's a huge difference between civil and criminal law. You can get sued (and lose, and have to pay a lot of money in damages) for all kinds of things which are perfectly legal and there's no laws against them. You can only go to prison

  • by walmass (67905)
    You can easily get the domain name that matches her name.

    1. Have her trademark it
    2. File a UDRP [icann.org]


    For the rest, SEO.

    BTW, you are not the crazy ex trying to figure out how she can take away your cyber-stalking, right?
  • 4chan (Score:5, Funny)

    by WillgasM (1646719) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @07:19PM (#42455779) Homepage
    I'm pretty sure you meant to post this on /b/
  • This website is designed specifically for this, and is free.

    http://brandyourself.com/ [brandyourself.com]

  • Using Bing, Google etc., there are about eight web pages or so that I would not want out there. Oddly enough, the origin of those web pages were back in 1989 when I gave my name and phone # to some local BBSs. BBSs and IRC channels I stopped talking on about 17 years ago. For whatever reasons, these things float back up. They're not all bad, I'd just rather they not be around.

    A solution - on Google a search for my name, first page is my Github, my Twitter, my Stack Overflow, my Facebook (which is fairly

  • 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.

  • The UK is reputed to be the best venue to sue -from- (if you can afford the legal fees).

    Others may be able to share their success stories...

  • Those in glass houses shouldn't throw website URLs. Don't actually do the same to him, just let him know that you can and would and he'll take them down ASAP.
  • I would assume that what is most worrying is that most people that google her wouldn't tell you that they did so. To at least defend against that, your fiancee should create a blog defending herself from the accusations, so at least her side would be expressed.

    At least it would garner sympathy for her, and potential employers/clients may feel pity for her more than anything and overlook the whole mess.

  • "Hey, how best to censor someone saying something I disagree with?"

    Any trick that will ultimately work for you, will work for some religious group trying to shut down opposed discourse. I'm sorry your ex had such terrible choice in mates before you, but I don't think there's a way to silence him saying crazyass bullshit.

  • ...because personally I would have given up after reading half of the utterly useless comments here.

    This is what you need to do and it will work:
    Find a highly reputable P.R. firm that deals with SEO. I'm not talking about the kind of SEO "specialist" that you find on Craigslist - I'm talking about the kind that handles Fortune 500 businesses. The P.R. firm will begin creating sensible blogs in your name having something to do with an interest of yours or possibly a business. The will create Facebook pag
  • by Seumas (6865) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @12:48AM (#42458065)

    Angry at an ex? Angry at an employer? Angry at your neighbor? Pissed off that you hit on a guy and he wasn't interested and shot you down? You can easily ruin someone's life by just posting shit about them on a site called the Rip Off Report. Google curiously gives them incredibly high page ranking, but the site is nothing more than a scam. They NEVER REMOVE ANYTHING and they're proud of it. Even if you go to court. And you can be anonymous, while putting up real information (including name, etc) of your "target". It'll sit there forever. It'll get ranked high up on the first page of Google. They exploit shady SEO practices. And the only way they'll work with you is IF YOU PAY THEM for a "partnership service" that they advertise. Reportedly, it's around $5,000 -- give or take.

    You can google for all sorts of controversy regarding it. It has ruined a lot of people's lives -- and you're not even dealing with international issues or anything.

    I had someone defrauding users on my site, once. I banned them for it and next thing I knew, I had a really scummy "review/complaint/whatever" on this site. Absolutely no recourse and the other person is anonymous (though, obviously not -- since I recognized their insane babbling just like the hundreds of emails they sent me for a year after they were banned).

    It's really really shady shit and I don't think they're the only site that does it.

  • by terjeber (856226) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @04:47AM (#42459673)
    They are cheap in most places defined as "abroad".

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