Chris Silver Smith’s Techdirt Profile


About Chris Silver Smith

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  • Jan 12th, 2017 @ 12:34pm

    Re: The author's self-interest: no big secret

    Hi, Paul - I'm not sure why you thought my self interest might be nonobvious or necessarily salient, but there's no big conspiracy going on - did you miss my bio blurb at the end of the article? Just one click away reveals that I work in online reputation matters and on legal cases -- or, the list of my articles further shows my work and opinions and professional interest, for that matter. It seems odd for you to focus upon, because it seems no more hidden than how you apparently work in nonprofit advocacy and/or litigation on free speech issues that may be related to these topics, which can be inferred by clicking through on some of your Washington Post pieces to your bio info.

    You seem to be implying that my work is somehow suspect or less objective than your own, although I wasn't pretending to be objective (if there was any question from what I wrote). I'd respectfully point out that your articles on this were also not necessarily objective - there wasn't a survey of all defamation removals, for instance, to provide a more rounded picture of how many valid cases there may have been with properly-executed court proceedings, versus the questionable cases.

    I'm unhappy about the abuses and frauds that may have been perpetrated through the legal process, too, because it seems to have poisoned the waters for everyone, good and bad alike.

    As for self-interest, yes, just as I stated openly in the article, I do work in online reputation matters professionally, although more often on the search engine optimization side. However, I've also worked a number of times pro bono on behalf of victims of online reputation attacks including porn revenge and even human trafficking fueled by extortion based on threat of online postings. So, I'm very much influenced by the collateral damage I have seen in these cases, and it's not propelled by just a matter of personal gain. From a purely self-interest standpoint, Google's change would be advantageous to me, since reputation management firms like mine stand to profit more if legal recourse shrinks or is eliminated -- so, perhaps I should've just kept quiet about the whole thing!

    I hope your public advocacy extends beyond only the concerns for the freedom of speech rights of the megacorporation search engines, and beyond the public interest in having access to valuable information. Victims of unfair, untrue defamatory attacks are likewise worthy of representation.

    I can appreciate that you may be skeptical or less trustful of those who do not work for a nonprofit as you apparently do, but your comment here in regards to me seems to flirt just a bit with the ad hominem.

    All the same, no big secret, and my background and interest in these matters is at least as transparent as your own.

    I look forward to reading more of your upcoming articles on these issues.

  • Jan 10th, 2017 @ 8:05am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Sure, it's certainly possible for the removal activities to result in yet more content getting spawned. I've certainly worked on cases where this happened, and where we took further action on the newly-emerged stuff.

    Yes, I agree it's great when you can identify the individual and stop them, or eliminate at the source. As I described, there's many situations where this can't be done.

    You're very fortunate if a classic public affairs approach of issuing rebuttal statements will solve your problems or mitigate them sufficiently. But, ask yourself if you'd still feel qualms about going out with a guy that someone has accused of being a rapist? Or, if you'd simply elect to do business with a company with no black marks showing up, as opposed to one that has a dozen comments claiming they're a scam? The equation in those cases can be very different -- merely posting a counter statement may not solve the loss of business and impacts to personal relationships. Also, on some of these sites, adding yet another comment to a page, such as in the case of a false and defamatory Ripoff Report page, will result in giving the page itself yet more ranking ability as Google will see it as having yet more interest and fresher content -- aspects of the ranking algorithms are such that interacting further with the page will give it yet more power. For those of us working in online reputations, the calculation of how to address something can include an assessment of whether rebutting may feed attention to a bully or harasser -- resulting in yet more activity from them.

    So, in some cases your approach may work sufficiently. But in a great many extreme cases it simply would not work.

  • Jan 5th, 2017 @ 7:58pm


    "GOOGLE is doing the correct thing, ignoring every an all of those requests"

    What do you mean by "correct"?

    Yes, they may be not legally required to act on the removal requests.

    But, it raises the very interesting question of why did they do so in the first place, for so many years now?

  • Jan 5th, 2017 @ 7:51pm


    The cases being denied now are not all instances where the defamer has not been identified.

    Also, there are instances where one will not be able to identify the perpetrator for various reasons -- such as when something is published from a foreign jurisdiction.

  • Jan 5th, 2017 @ 7:45pm

    Re: I Notified Search Engine Land early on but they Ignored Story

    No, I was unaware of any story tips submitted previously to Search Engine Land. I am not a staff writer for them - I am independent, self-employed.

    To be clear, I am not a professional journalist - else I would not have included various opinions I have in the article. I do endeavor to always provide factual and accurate information, and I attempted to speculate on Google's reasoning, even though they did not provide me an official comment. Believe it or not, I had not read the Volokh/Levy stories prior to writing the article - however, they seem to further point out various instances of abuses of the legal process involving alleged or potential fake defendants, so I don't think they necessarily would have changed the substance of what I wrote -- I was already operating under the belief that there were abuses beyond the few I mentioned. (I read articles involving the Pissed Consumer claims in prepping for the article, and when conducting searches I had also seen at least one link to the Volokh/Levy articles, and I'd incorrectly assumed they did not contain more than the same facts/cases reported elsewhere about Pissed Consumer. I think they are very interesting, and provide more context for Google's apparent policy change.)

    As for any snubbing of you on the part of Search Engine Land, I don't think there was any intention whatsoever of that. While I do not speak for them, I know that they receive numerous tips and suggestions all the time, and they cannot use them all. They would be focused primarily upon newsworthiness and interest of their audience -- I'm not sure the Washington Post articles necessarily were overt in the search engine tie-ins, nor the scale of what is happening now at the Google end of the equation. Without the information that I added, there likely was not a lot of indication that Google had changed anything, and they are not a legal news oriented site. Regardless of why they opted not to report on the takedown cases earlier, I know that it has nothing to do with snubbing you, nor trying to protect any defendant involved with the dubious cases outlined. I've had a relationship with the site and its personnel since before it was first launched, and they sometimes pass on story suggestions and news tips I send them, too! So, I don't believe you should take that personally.

    You also should not find it peculiar that I did not list the names of any of my sources in this article. While not a pro, I do exercise discretion in protecting my sources, and there was consideration that involvement with such an article could be irritating to personnel within Google. For the moment, I felt it would be best not to disclose the individuals, since it's always possible that this could negatively impact the work they do on behalf of their clients. Some of the attorneys I interviewed would have been willing to be named. I made an effort to poll a number of attorneys involved in defamation takedown requests from across the country, and I went forward with the story once I determined there was a significantly consistent pattern.