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.

iCloud Hackers Regroup After Celebrity Nude Photo Scandal


Celebrities are not the only ones upset about the recent iCloud hack that resulted in the leak of hundreds of nude celebrity photos. Hackers from the porn forum “AnonIB” that hosted many of the photos are not used to so much publicity, nor did they want it. The creators of the site quickly took the forum down after realizing that the hacker who stole the photos, known as “OrigianlGuy,” had leaked the photos on their site.

Hackers who had shared hacking tips and advertised their skills on AnonIB disbanded after the story began to circulate through the news, and have only recently regrouped. Although the website is back up and running, its layout has changed in the aftermath of the celebrity scandal. The page that contained stolen photos, nicknamed “Stol,” is no longer available. The Stol page had previously been used as a way for hackers to adversities their services and as a common place for hackers to share tips on obtaining nude photographs. The creators of the site didn’t give an explanation for deleting this section of the forum, but fear of legal action against them is a likely cause.

iCloud hackers might not be able to steal information off the web as easily now that Apple has upped its security measures, but that isn’t likely to stop them. Information stored on the cloud is vulnerable to attacks, and nearly 50% of businesses lost data in the cloud in 2013. It might be more difficult, but hackers will find a way.

The war wages on in the celebrity nude photo scandal with the most recent legal actions involving Google. Celebrity lawyer Marty Singer has written to Google, demanding that they remove any nude celebrity photos that continue to circulate on its site and asking them to cut off any sites listed on Google that host the nude photos. He has threatened to sue the company for $100 million if they don’t cooperate.

A request made on behalf of victims of the photo scandal to remove all photos was sent to Google a month before the threat, but many sites that Google owns still displayed the pictures. Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Rihanna and Ariana Grande are among the female celebrities targeted by the iCloud attack.

Online Retailers Fight Negative Reviews – What’s the Cost?

Online ReviewsCustomers today have a sense of freedom and power they didn’t have a decade ago when social media was still in its infancy.  But as social media has become a part of people’s daily lives, more people are turning to business review sites like and, as well as social sites like Facebook and Twitter, to post comments about a company or product.

Many purchasers will often read customer reviews before purchasing a trip, a toy, a smartphone or even making a reservation at a local restaurant.

There is an ongoing debate about the limits of consumers’ free speech rights and companies’ efforts to quash negative online reviews due to a recent incident over a customer review about  KlearGear threatened to fine the customer $3500 if she didn’t take down a negative posting about their company.  She had written the critique on

According to a recent article in TechDirt, “Lots of quasi-legal action has been taken over negative reviews left by customers at sites like Ripoff Report and Yelp. Usually, it takes the form of post-review threats about defamation and libel. Every so often, though, a company will make proactive moves (usually bad ones) to head off negative reviews.”

In the Kleargear imbroglio, a consumer complained that her husband had ordered a number of products from and 30 days later the products allegedly had not yet arrived.  The consumer tried to call the company to check on the status of her order but was allegedly not able to reach anyone, so she wrote about her experience on RipoffReport.   After the company saw the post, the consumer was threatened to either take the negative review down or be fined. [Read more…]

Google Algorithm Update Busts Mugshot Sites

mugshot removal websiteIt is being widely reported that a recent update to Google’s search algorithm has resulted in a major demotion of ranking for websites that republish arrest and mugshot information online.

According to a recent New York Times article, there are over 80 websites that reproduce mugshots from police and sheriff’s office websites, post them online, then charge up to several hundred dollars to remove the pictures.  There have even been news reports suggesting collusion and shared ownership between the mugshot and removal websites, so if an individual pays to have a mugshot deleted from one site, he or she may find his image appearing on multiple other websites.  And once these sites find someone willing to pay for the privilege of having their mugshot removed, they become a prime target for further exploitation. [Read more…]