Online Reputation Management Blog

RipOff Report Scores Major Victory in Battle Against Online Review Removal

RipOff Report Scores Major Victory in Battle Against Online Review RemovalA popular target for aggressive suppression and removal efforts by online reputation management companies and public relations firms, has built a controversial reputation as a repository of online reviews intended to help customers research and comment on businesses before and after using their products or services. also serves as a magnet for lawyers trolling for plaintiffs and fact patterns that can lead to class action lawsuits and government investigations: “Your information may aid in pursing civil or criminal proceedings against companies engaged in wrongdoing.”

The safe harbor protections included in the Communications Decency Act (CDA) has been applied successfully by Xcentric and its founder Ed Magedson,’s parent company, for many years. Several lawsuits against Xcentric regarding the content published on its site have been dismissed under the CDA.

The CDA distinguishes between two vital concepts: interactive computer services (ICS) that host content (i.e. websites) and information content providers (ICP), in other words the parties that literally post or provide content to the ICS. According to the CDA, an ICS is not “treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Xcentric has been liberated from liability in many lawsuits by its ICS status – making Xcentric virtually ‘untouchable’ in cases where libellous material against a plaintiff was posted to its site by a third party.

This defense was strengthened once again by a 1st Circuit Court opinion in the following case. Richard Goren, a Massachusetts attorney, sued an individual regarding two negative comments that were published on about Goren. Goren won a non-payment judgment that granted him exclusive rights over the negative comments.

Following this victory, Goren filed a federal suit in Massachusetts, alleging that Xcentric was violating his copyright by not deleting the posts on the site. Goren sought equitable relief and damages, including a declaratory judgment that he owned the copyright to the posts in question, and injunctions that would prevent the company from “continuing to publish, and/or from republishing all or any part” of the two RipOff Reports. It was a clever approach – rather than claim the content was defamatory and seek injunctive relief against the individual(s) who posted the RipOff Report or challenge RipOff Report directly, Goren sought to claim a copyright interest (essentially ownership) over content he never wrote on a Website he had no prior relationship with.

Xcentric claimed that the CDA protected its right to publish and maintain the comments. Goren’s team responded by submitting a strong defence, which pointed out that requests its users to sign over their rights to their reports or comments. In other words, they claimed that Xcentric was indeed responsible for the comments on its website as the service provider and the content provider. Moreover, it was discovered that Xcentric promoted its content using search engine optimization (SEO) tactics on various internet search engines, which can, they argued, be viewed as an additional form of publishing.

The District Court ruled against Goren, who then appealed to the 1st Circuit.
Regarding Goren’s copyright claim, the 1st Circuit agreed with the District Court that when the individual who first posted the reports did so, he granted Xcentric a perpetual and irrevocable license to publish and distribute the posts that was still valid.

This case emphasizes the significance of online terms of use and submission terms in relation to consumer reviews, although users frequently gloss over the legalease and finer points of these (usually) boiler-plate documents, they help to define who has ownership over content shared on the Website and who may have legal responsibility for defamatory content published online.

The case was seen as a victory for free speech online, as many advocates consider any efforts to remove or deindex negative reviews or challenge the sites which publish them to be an affront to First Amendment principles in this Digital Age.

It is our considered opinion that online reviews serve a vital and important function and sites publishing online reviews are worthy of legal protection. However, sites which allow anonymous, negative reviews should be held accountable for publishing content that is false and defamatory and can cause measurable harm to an individual or business, especially if these sites earn income online through advertising (essentially profiting on the content it publishes) it cannot hide behind the First Amendment only when it is convenient and profitable.

It is also relevant to note that Free Speech is not absolute. You cannot violate the intellectual property rights of others by claiming such disclosure is permitted under the First Amendment, you cannot share the social security number or bank account details of another online without violating the law. Likewise, defamation and libel have civil and criminal consequences. It is this balance and a reconsideration of the CDA “safe harbor” that will force publishing companies such as Facebook, Yelp and RipOff Report to revisit their terms of use and allow businesses to more effectively challenge the abuse of these publishing platforms when appropriate.

Marriott and Other Corporations Tracking Customers’ Social Media to Improve Service

tracking peopleAn increasing number of companies are tracking customers’ social media posts as a better method for engaging with them while increasing brand awareness.

CNBC visited Marriott’s headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland where employees gather in what they call “M Live,” a control room in which they scan Twitter feeds, Instagram photos, and Facebook posts from customers all over the globe.

Marriott is one of several companies using a special technology called geo-fencing, which allows them to see every social media post uploaded from within their properties. If a wedding engagement photo, for instance, is captured on the grounds of a Marriott hotel and posted online, the M Live team will contact the front desk. The hotel will then reach out to those customers to offer them complimentary champagne or a room upgrade in order to demonstrate that Marriott values their patronage.

“It’s really about creating a personal relationship with our customers,” said Karin Timpone, Marriott’s chief global marketing officer.

Marriott also uses social media to provide superior customer service. If a guest writes a status on Facebook or Twitter about an issue during their stay, the hotel will reach out to the customer directly. That’s a pretty smart move, considering 77% of Twitter users feel more positive about a brand if their Tweet is replied to or acknowledged directly.

The company is also taking full advantage of social media in order to watch out for trends and join the conversation while a topic is hot. Recently, a man announced on Twitter that he was the first Pokemon Go player to catch all of the Pokemon. Marriot quickly contacted him, offering him free lodging around the world.

“We’re putting our brands in real conversation,” said Timpone. “It’s not to say other forms of advertising don’t work. This is that very intimate conversation that our brand is having with an individual poster.”

By having that conversation, Marriott is getting their name out there and showing the world how much its values its customers.

While many Internet users may feel uncomfortable with the idea that big corporations are monitoring their conversations, geo-fence technology creators assure the public that the program is only being used for their own benefit.

CEO of the geo-fence platform HYP3R, Carlos Garcia, said, “We are only engaging and interacting with people who are publicly sharing. We are only using delightful engagement. We’re not trying to sell them something, but we’re trying to enhance their experience.”

New Spike in Idenity Theft Linked to Social Media Use

According to a study done by a UK-based fraud prevention organization, the number of identity fraud victims has more than doubled in the short span of just one year.

The organization, which is called Cifas, reports that the massive surge can be partially credited to security problems posed by many people’s most used sites — social media platforms.

“The likes of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other online platforms are much more than just social media sites—they are now a hunting ground for identity thieves,” said Cifas’ chief executive, Simon Dukes.

He also noted that the dramatic spike in fraud should encourage social media users to use extreme caution when posting personal information.

According to the study, 85% of the new fraud cases were committed online, as opposed to more traditional methods of identity theft, like over-the-shoulder PIN hackers and wallet snatchers.

In the U.S., identity theft has long posed a huge problem, making it a $50 billion a year industry. And according to this new data, being young doesn’t quite mean being immune from cyber-identity fraud. People between the ages of 31 and 61 experienced the biggest jump in victimization, and it was found in that only 57% of people between the ages of 18 to 24 said that they gave thought to how secure their information was online.

Studies affirming the correlation and causation of social media and identity fraud in the U.S. aren’t available for 2016, but studies conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research affirm it. According to their study, Facebook users with public profiles were victims of identity theft 7.5% of the time — almost twice that of the rest of the population.

Cifas urges users to be very careful when online. never divulge sensitive personal information about yourself online, including phone number, your address, or pictures of your home or workplace. Be wary of fake friend requests and other pages, and make sure to update your computer’s firewall and anti-spyware programs.

Victoria’s Secret is Out: Anonymous Photo Editor Comes Forward, Reveals Industry Practices

victoriassecretOnline advertising rakes in approximately $149 billion as an industry, and it’s no secret that Victoria’s Secret is one of the bigger companies advertising. However, there are some secrets that shouldn’t be kept.

A former Victoria’s Secret photo editor, who chose to remain anonymous, has come forward with trade secrets about the company’s photoshop and photo shoot practices.

“I know what I’m doing is wrong and that’s a huge part of why I’m not doing it full-time anymore,” she said. She wants consumers, especially those purchasing products and media from Victoria’s Secret and companies like it, to understand just how unreal the bodies in catalogs are.

At the same time, she urges consumers to understand their own roles in propagating these images.

“As a society,” she says, “we’re the ones who choose this.”

Photoshop existed long before the Victoria’s Secret angels were being retouched, but the anonymous photo editor explained in an interview with Refinery 29 how it spun “out of control.”

“Just for it to print out properly, you would have to retouch it so that you could see the photo clearly, and it would be bright enough, and all those things,” she explained. “That is really what retouching is essentially about, and should be about.” But at some point, someone realized, “You can manipulate the background, so why not manipulate the body? And then this thing just spiraled out of control.”

She went on to discuss the on-set process, in which models were fitted with hair extensions, swimsuit inserts to alter their curves, and even push-up bras inside of their swimsuit tops.

“I don’t think I ever was on a shoot with a model that had real hair,” she said.

Not only that, but she was consistently told to make models curvier. On curvier models, she said “they didn’t sell anything and so they stopped using those girls.”

The one biggest and brightest exception to this rule is Aerie.

In 2014, the company launched the “Aerie Real” campaign, in which they stopped all photo editing of their models. Unfortunately, the campaign was a sales strategy, but consumer support has turned it into a larger movement.

Iskra Lawrence, an Aerie model who was told by countless modeling agencies that she was “too big,” has taken the campaign to heart and used it to promote body positivity in young women around the world.

“When you’re happy and at one with yourself and have come to peace with who you are, that radiates,” she said in an interview with StyleLikeU. “To me that’s beauty. That’s what people are attracted to.”

The supermodel has become a role model for young people everywhere, spreading messages of positivity through her work with Aerie as well as through her own personal social media accounts and interviews.

Lawrence even serves as an ambassador for the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), and coordinated a successful campaign to acquire the NEDA seal of approval for Aerie.

On the “Aerie Real” campaign, Jen Foyle, Aerie’s global brand president, said “No retouching is not just a campaign for us anymore. It’s become our mindset and the message behind all we do.”

“When you see things like that pop up, you should vote your money towards it, because then they see it as a money-making thing and they’ll continue to do it,” said the former Victoria’s Secret editor. “Then, hopefully, other companies will say, ‘Aerie is doing really well. Maybe we’ll start doing that, too. Maybe people will want to buy more stuff from us.'”