A Website Published Embarrassing Content About Me, What Can I Do?

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The Internet has brought many benefits to modern civilization. Unfortunately, just as with any technology, it also has a dark side. So, when a website publishes embarrassing content about you, what can you do?

Social Media

With the rise of social media, users suddenly became much more adept at posting content of their own to a wide array of different services. More than just text, many sites now allow their users to post photos, videos, and other content. The vast majority of users take advantage of these platforms to share information about their lives with their friends and family. Yet, a small group has used this model to harass, bully, intimidate, and humiliate others.

Once largely unregulated, a spate of suicides caused by humiliating and bullying remarks on social media sites have led these companies to implement policies against cyber-bullying and other inappropriate content. Most sites now allow users to remove links to their own name and profile from others' posts, flag content as inappropriate, and even seek the site's assistance in banning another user for blatant or repeated violations.

For most, these measures are sufficient. But, in particularly heinous attacks, further action may be necessary. If someone continues their assault on the reputation of another via social media, perhaps by creating new accounts to re-post embarrassing or harassing content, legal action may be required. If the victim knows who is making the offensive posts, they may be able to file suit against that individual. Causes of action may vary from suits related to slander contained in the posts to violations of one's privacy or even actions for blackmail or terroristic threats. There are a number of other possible causes of action depending on the particular circumstances of the case. Contact an attorney for more information related to your particular situation.

Revenge Sites

A more recent trend has been the proliferation of so-called “revenge sites.” These sites specialize in receiving embarrassing content from people with an axe to grind or a desire to humiliate someone, then posting that content, often with private details, links to social media, names, phone numbers, addresses, and disparaging comments. These sites have become popular ways to destroy one's reputation, particularly as the practice of sharing compromising photos via electronic media has become more popular. These images and videos often appear on these revenge sites despite the fact that they were originally intended solely for the recipient who was, normally, a romantic partner.

While these sites ran largely unregulated for many years, the law has finally caught up to this rather reprehensible conduct. Several recent decisions have come down hard on the operators of these types of sites, assessing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages paid to the victims and banning the site owners from maintaining their web pages. Several states have also started passing legislation to outlaw this conduct, requiring site owners to have the express, written consent of anyone appearing on their sites, particularly if they are shown in a compromising light. The Federal Trade Commission has also stepped in with enhanced regulations and administrative decisions against revenge site owners.

Unfortunately, much of the focus of these laws has been on protecting minors (particularly teens) who has shared such content with their friends and lovers. Despite the fact that they are underage, the content has found its way onto a number of revenge sites. Because nobody at the site bothers to check for permission or the age of the person depicted, many of these young people end up humiliated and with an indelible mark splashed across the web which they will never be able to escape.

Taking Action

If you or someone you know has suffered humiliation on the web, been threatened or bullied, or otherwise been treated in an insulting and degrading manner on the Internet, you may have options. Contacting an attorney should be your first course of action. You can find attorneys in your area by using the lawyer search function on HG.org. Remember, not every attorney is familiar with the intricacies of these Internet privacy laws, so do not be afraid to shop around to find the right match.

Explore your options with your attorney. Determine if legal action would work, or if it makes more sense to use administrative tools built into various sites. Also, consider bringing regulatory pressure from the government against the site owners. An attorney will best be able to guide you in the appropriate options for your situation. Just remember that you always have options, there are ways to fight back, and regardless of how hopeless you might feel things will get better.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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