Popular complaint sites like Ripoff Report have a tremendous influence on Google, Yahoo and Bing online search results.
It is a shady world where customers, competitors and crackpots can damage a company with the click of the mouse, business owners and professionals are looking for ways to remove or delete a Ripoff Report from search engine results.
Under the Communications Decency Act, websites like Ripoff Report are protected from most forms of civil liability arising from publishing the content of others. The publisher is generally not responsible even if the information is false and there is no duty to investigate the accuracy of a complaint.
There are several ways to remove a Ripoff Report.
1. VIP Arbitration Program
Victims of a false Ripoff Report are able to submit a written statement identifying the inaccurate statements and can include documentary evidence and/or sworn affidavits. There is a filing fee of $2,000 for the VIP Arbitration program.
The arbitrator will render a written decision after reviewing the evidence.
In the event that the arbitrator determines that the Ripoff Report is accurate, there will be no updates or changes to the website. According to Ripoff Report, if the arbitrator finds that statements in the Ripoff Report are false, the title of the report will be updated, posting this phrase BEFORE the original title: "Notice of Arbitrator Decision: A neutral and independent arbitrator has determined that the following Report contained one or more false statements of fact. The false statements have been redacted."
The arbitrator's decision will be posted in its entirety before the Ripoff Report appears. Any statements of fact that the arbitrator determines to be false will be deleted from the original Report.
2. Sue Ripoff Report
The broad protections of the Communications Decency Act shield Ripoff Report and their officers and directors from civil liability. Although it may be possible to use Ripoff Report — and many have tried — plaintiffs have been largely unsuccessful in getting Ripoff Report to remove user-generated content through litigation.
3. Sue the Author of the Ripoff Report
While most postings on Ripoff Report are anonymous, it is possible to sue the author for defamation. First, you will need to file a lawsuit against the unnamed author. Then you must seek a subpoena to obtain the identity (e.g., name and IP address) of the author from Ripoff Report. Finally, you must obtain a court order that the post is false or defamatory. After you receive the court order, there is a form to Submit a Court Order to Google in order to get Google to remove the offending page from its search index.
If all this sounds like a lot of work (and money), it is. So if you can't remove a Ripoff Report and would rather not spend the next several months talking to lawyers and visiting a courtroom, what else can you do?
4. Hire an Online Reputation Management Firm
Online reputation management can displace false, embarrassing or irrelevant content by using social media, blogs, news media, personal websites and other tools to diminish the ranking of negative online content. An online reputation management firm will be able to generate positive content, optimize the content to appear higher than Ripoff Report results and push negative results off the first few pages of Google.