Over the years, attorneys Aaron Kelly and Dan Warner have helped — and continue to help — defamation victims reclaim their good names. Kelly and Warner afforded hundreds of libel victims reprieve from unjust reputation attacks by working with Google’s de-indexing program. However, the search behemoth recently announced changes to its policy.
That said, the change is not stopping their firm from assisting people who are suffering through unfair censure.
PROTECTING WEBSITES FROM LIABILITY
Considered one of the most impactful U.S. Internet laws, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act confers immunity to ISPs for third-party defamation. In other words, it’s the statute that absolves Facebook (for example) from taking the fall for defamatory statements posted by users. Parties can successfully sue persons who post defamatory statements on the platform, but not the social media site. Moreover, Section 230 doesn’t force Internet service providers to remove defamatory statements — even when presented with a court order.
WORKING WITH SECTION 230 IN THE PAST
So, if websites aren’t required to remove libelous content, how can defamation victims fight back against unjust online rants? For years, Google “de-indexed” (i.e., removed pages containing defamatory material from search engine results) web pages, if presented with a court order or judgment indicating a given statement was defamatory.
GOOGLE CHANGED ITS DE-INDEXING POLICY
Unfortunately for defamation victims, Google recently announced that it would no longer honor every court order or judgment in libel cases; the operative word being “every.” Apparently, the company formed a committee that now decides on whether or not a given court ruling is worthy of the voluntary de-indexing policy. The elements considered by Google’s de-indexing committee are unknown, but we’d like to think they consider all valid court orders for de-indexing.
So people are wondering: What criteria does Google’s review committee follow — if any at all?
A TROUBLING DE-INDEXING DECISION BY GOOGLE
When discussing the issue with attorneys Dan Warner and Aaron Kelly, they indicated that Google’s recent decision to honor individual judgments appears to be completely arbitrary. For example, Google declined to act on a hard-fought ruling– even after two years of litigation. Strangely and troublingly, without explanation, Google informed Kelly / Warner that it decided not to take action.
KELLY / WARNER ADDS CHECKS TO COMBAT FRAUDULENT DE-INDEXING EFFORTS
Pioneers in Internet defamation law, Dan Warner and Aaron Kelly always do their utmost to ensure their firm handles cases within legal confines. For example in 2016, although not required by law, Kelly / Warner instituted a policy requiring defendants in certain cases to sign notarized verifications — attesting under penalty of perjury — that all statements made to Kelly / Warner about the alleged defamation were accurate. They rightly believed that such a requirement would prevent fraudulent conduct by desperate third parties and victims. Unfortunately, suspicions have now been raised about the extent to which third-parties and victims went to obtain de-indexing orders, including engaging in suspicious notarizations to side step Kelly / Warner’s safeguards. This demonstrates just how desperate victims of Internet defamation can get, and what that desperation can lead to.
In an attempt to further combat and prevent individuals from using Kelly / Warner to engage in suspicious activity, and possibly obtaining fraudulent court orders, Aaron Kelly and Dan Warner have implemented additional measures as they deemed appropriate, under the circumstances, to confirm the identities of individuals involved in a potential case to assure against fraud.
Under no circumstances will Dan Warner and Aaron Kelly be deterred from trying to help legitimate victims of Internet defamation obtain relief. However, those who seek to use the services of Kelly/ Warner, to defraud or harm anyone, including third parties and especially courts, should seek legal representation elsewhere.