Feds Say Jewelry Company CEO Scrubbed Google Results With Fake Court Orders And Forged Judge's Signatures

from the sign-here-to-self-destruct dept

Juicing your SEO? Don't like what turns up during vanity Googling? There are a few right ways to solve this problem and apparently about a million wrong ones.

Doing the wrong thing could easily make things worse. Bogus DMCA notices tend to result in Streisandings, which leads to even more negative comments and contents clogging up your search results. Bogus legal threats issued by stupid lawyers or using stupid, compliant lawyers' letterhead tend to have the same result.

You could get more imaginative and start filing bogus defamation lawsuits to fraudulently obtain court orders for delisting. Again, once you've been rousted, the best case scenario is some more Streisanding and negative ROI. At worst, you're looking at paying legal fees and/or possibly facing sanctions for defrauding the court.

If you want the worst results and the worst punishment, you could do what this jewelry company CEO did:

In 2011, sapphire jewelry company CEO Michael Arnstein was desperate to salvage the Google results for his company. According to a lawsuit for defamation he filed in 2011, a former contractor for the Natural Sapphire Company who was fired for selling them buggy software launched a personal crusade to destroy the Natural Sapphire Company's Google search results. The defendant never showed up in court, so in 2012, a federal judge in New York granted Arnstein a default judgment along with an injunction to de-index 54 Google results.

But more fake reviews kept popping up. So Arnstein did something extremely ill-advised. According to the feds, Arnstein rounded up the bad Google results and forged new court orders to send to Google.

Some sympathy for Arnstein is warranted. Negative reviews -- even the fake ones -- are hard to remove from the web. This isn't necessarily the fault of sites hosting them, but the actions of a few hundred aggrieved companies and individuals who have tried nearly everything (legal or illegal) to have negative content and comments removed, even if they're guilty of what's being alleged in them.

But nuking yourself from orbit is never the answer. It wasn't enough for Arnstein to have successfully (if fraudulently) cleaned up his search results. Nope. He just had to tell others. The feds collected multiple instances of Arnstein informing others how to fix their SEO problems USING THIS ONE ILLEGAL TRICK. From the complaint [PDF]:

No bullshit: if I could do it all over again I would have found another court order injunction for removal of links (probably something that can be found online pretty easily) made changes in photoshop to show the links that I wanted removed and then sent to ‘removals@google.com’ as a pdf — showing the court order docket number, the judges [sic] signature — but with the new links put in,” Arnstein wrote in a July 2014 email, according to his criminal complaint. “Google isn’t checking this stuff; that’s the bottom line b/c I spent $30,000 fuckin thousand dollars and nearly 2 fuckin years to do what legit could have been done for about 6 hours of searching and photoshop by a guy for $200., all in ONE DAY.

Here's another ill-advised Arnstein statement from Courthouse News, which first reported the indictment. It opens with an unforgettable disclaimer… and ends with a statement that might make it tough for Arnstein to find representation:

“I think you should take legal advice with a grain of salt,” he allegedly wrote on Sept. 4, 2014. “I spent 100k on lawyers to get a court order injunction to have things removed from Google and Youtube, only to photoshop the documents for future use when new things ‘popped up’ and google legal never double checked my docs for validity… I could have saved 100k and 2 years of waiting/damage if I just used photoshop and a few hours of creative editing… Lawyers are often worse than the criminals.”

Arnstein wanted to clean up bogus complaints and comments from a pissed off contractor. I guess that goal has been achieved. But those results will be replaced with his criminal indictment, fraudulent behavior, and his failure to get away with it.

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