Google Bomb: The Untold Story of the $11.3M Verdict That Cha

Gathered together in one place, for easy access, an agglomeration of writings and images relevant to the Rapeutation phenomenon.

Re: Google Bomb: The Untold Story of the $11.3M Verdict That

Postby admin » Thu Jun 04, 2015 7:44 pm

BIZARRO LAND

While so much of the trial and especially its immediate aftermath is both crystal clear and spotty -- a little like those zoom-in, zoom-out shots in the movies -- one of the most prized memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life is how the jury came together as one and asked Judge Luzzo for permission to speak with me in the hallway after the trial.

These six people who I had never met until their selection the day before were so kind and yet so forceful in what they had to say to me that it brings tears to my eyes even now. A couple of the jurors told me that they had privately prayed about their own decision -- a decision that their fellow jurors came to as well. Two other jurors told me how moved they had been by my story and encouraged me to continue my work with the families of troubled teens. Collectively they told me they had taken their duties very seriously and wanted to send a very loud message that ruining lives with online attacks was wrong and would not be tolerated.

And then, they all said they couldn't wait to get home and do a Google search on me since during the trial Judge Luzzo had instructed them that they were not allowed to look me or this case up on the Internet.

Do you have any idea, any idea, what this meant to me after so many years of being terrified that someone I just met would look me up and view me as a monster because they were not privy to the real facts? If these six people had done a search on me a few short days before, they would have been perfectly entitled to draw the obvious conclusions about my bad-news character. But now, these same six people could do the same search and know that almost all of what they were reading was either an outright lie or a twisted half-truth, which would now elicit anger or disgust toward my accusers, instead of that anger and disgust being directed at me, the accused.

For the first time in a very long time, I didn't feel the impulse to cringe, to run and hide, or protect myself with a knee-jerk reaction to keep the people surrounding me at arm's length. In that amazing moment I was graced. I was able to hold my head high and look each of these six people straight in their eyes without fear of condemnation.

Each juror took their turn to hug me good-bye. Each one shook David's hand. I think he was a little in awe. He said he'd never seen a trial end with such a reaction from a jury before. And, of course, once we walked out of the Broward County Courthouse and into that sweet Florida afternoon breeze, he couldn't resist a victory fist-pump into the air and an incredulous, "You just won over ten million dollars! Can you believe this?!"

Once alone in my car I had to take some time to compose myself. But then I had some incredible news that I was bursting to share with ... someone. I didn't have a husband or a significant other to call. My parents and my siblings didn't even know about the case. And, I'd kept this whole ordeal as far away from my children as possible. So, who you gonna call?

"Are you sitting down?" I asked the closest friend who had stood beside me throughout it all, and then I told her the news. At first she didn't believe me -- after all, just yesterday we had seriously discussed what kind of judgment I might get, if any, and decided it could be from $10,000 to $100,000 if I was really, really lucky. Even at the upper end, it wouldn't cover my legal fees, but this had been about justice and vindication, a need so imperative that I had mortgaged my home for a chance to clear my name and restore my reputation.

Once I read the verdict to her, several times, to convince her as much as I was still trying to convince myself, she screamed. Screamed at the top of her lungs while my own were burning to do the same. Being in the courthouse parking lot, however, and not wanting someone to call 911, I reveled in those shouts of joy from a friend.

From there I went home in a euphoric daze, and just like that, the trial was over and done. Or so I thought.

Little did I realize the circus was coming to town, and it arrived with the aplomb of a two-ton elephant in a pink tutu doing pirouettes in my living room. Without warning, our quiet little landmark case hit the news and the outcome spread with viral speed.

I'm not completely sure who was the first to break the story, but before I knew it my name and the jury verdict were plastered in newspapers and magazines, on the Internet and beyond. Not just nationally but internationally. Virtually overnight I went from being a reclusive self-employed service provider getting trashed by the mobosphere to some kind of media darling/poster child for a cause celebre that was suddenly a hot topic.

David's law office was deluged with phone calls. The phone at PURE that had stopped ringing was, in a finger snap, ringing off the hook. As for my unlisted home number, and the cell number I was stingy in giving out, well ...

Let's just say that my father was not entirely pleased to have learned about my not-so-latest via a major spread in USA Today. How could I not have told him about this? How could I have kept this all to myself when he should have been there For me?

Boy, did I get an earful. And yet, how could I begin to explain to my father, who didn't even have an e-mail account, how treacherous and shaming an Internet attack could be? For someone who grew up in a generation when print publishers were held accountable, when the "F" word was reserved for your army buddies, and when personal matters that were meant to stay private went no further than your immediate friends and family .... No matter how I tried to explain this grotesque phenomenon of the Internet age, how could he possibly understand?

I had no ready answers for my father then. I still don't.

The first two months after the trial flew by faster than Dorothy could click her ruby slippers, and with my reputation restored on the public stage, the spotlight that came with it forced me out of hiding. I dealt with it the best that I could. I actually dealt with it better than I ever would have thought possible prior to the jury verdict. Although this was unfamiliar ground for me, although I was nervous and often unsure of myself, I found a sort of inner healing with each interview by an objective journalist in search of the truth. I also found solace and encouragement from the countless e-mails that said I had brought some much needed hope to those whose own stories of Internet abuse too closely mirrored my own.

Image

Life had gone from really bad to better than good so quickly that I was caught off guard when the spotlight I saw as vindication swerved around a blind corner and took me to a place that I can only describe as Dante's Inferno on LSD.

Shortly after the judgment, Clark recruited yet another ally. A former teen program attendee, this angry young person joined forces with Clark to launch an attack that would make the one I had spent years battling look like a Romper Room joke on Captain Kangaroo.

Let's call him/her ... Alex. "Alex" is no doubt reading this book and is very disappointed that I have not granted him/her a center stage to gloat upon with an actual name and gender specification. You see, if I did, the natural inclination would be to look this person up online and, out of curiosity, explore Alex's dedicated website to me, plus the multiple links that will get you there without realizing that's where you're going. The website appears innocent enough on a search engine but once you're in, Alex's mission in life is made crystal clear: to destroy me. And, of course, each hit, unintended or not, feeds Google's hungries like the Cookie Monster getting a dump truck of Keebler goodies straight down the hatch. This delights Alex to no end.

I've never met Alex personally. All I know is that this is a very computer- savvy, sad, and sadistic young adult who apparently had something go terribly wrong in the tender years. This no doubt made Alex easy pickings for Clark to recruit to get the ultimate revenge on me for taking her to court and winning the trial she was too "traumatized" to attend once her freebie lawyers took a hike.

You know, as I'm reading that last sentence it sounds a little mean to me. To be fair, Clark surely perceives things much differently than I do, and she surely has friends and family members who would staunchly stand by her excellence of character, which I haven't had the good fortune of encountering myself.

As for Alex, I continue to search for compassion in my heart toward a disturbed individual who went so far as to ... there are so many perversities I don't even know where to start, and it might actually be easier to give you an idea of what was coming down the pike my way by sharing an "inquiry" I received at PURE.

From: ISFORYOU@tokillyourself.com

[mailto: ISFORYOU@tokillyourself.com]

Sent: Thursday, April 10 10:29 AM

last_name: my

first_name: last dying

full_name: wish

e-mail: ISFORYOU@tokillyourself.com

re-enter_e-mail: ISFORYOU@tokillyourself.com

city: and go

state: to hell

questions_comments: your behavior in regards to Alex makes me sick. you are despicable. you should be sent to a program yourself.


Do I know for a certainty that Alex sent me this? I do not. It could have come from one of Alex's closest cohorts who found a picture online of my daughter and me hugging, then did a House of Horrors Photoshop job that's too sick and macabre to describe in print. Just use your imagination and multiply it by ten.

Alex's friend, Bernie, found another website where s/he secured ten full pages that come complete with tabloid-like headlines, copious profanity, and an assortment of news alerts that go like this:

FACT ALERT: Sue is unable to leave her house due to anonymous death threats; send her some curtains and a dog after you read this leaked email! BTW, the email was full of lies, she was never going to appear on 20/20 ... LOL!


Actually, I did appear on 20/20, which really got the hornets' nests stirred up.

Just a few more tidbits from Bernie's little chunk of the World Wide Web:

"Sue Scheff is a Concerned Mother and so-called advocate for them and teenagers, but in reality is a greedy Jew ... She needs this money, of course, given that she has a crappy nose job (You can't fix a Jew nose) and obviously fake breasts, and still has payments left on her Mercedes-Benz and pool boy."


Actually, I was raised Catholic and drive an Infiniti. As for the fake breasts and the pool boy, well, ya gotta give Bernie credit for having some imaginative flair, especially since I don't have a pool and am too genetically predisposed to what I was born with to try outdoing Dolly Parton. Wait, it gets even better:

Drama, Red Panties, A Swinger, Cruella De Ville (sic),

A Mormon Pedophile, and Sue-Sue F*CKS Up

Sue, being a net savvy Jew, had been lurking the boards for some time, trying to find out what people really knew about her and protecting her image. Not knowing how to handle her mistakes, she did the only thing she knew how to do: Lie, blame the victims, and generally be a f*cktard.

But the drama doesn't stop there! After Googling for porn one night she used Google to look up her enemies and more hilarity ensued when she began posting anonymously on a certain website ... then another anon poster began making statements about Sue's red panties.

Montel Williams Fiasco

FACT ALERT: It takes a Nigra to get anything done these days

Montel could not be reached for comment, but was seen polishing a big shiny afro-pick and growing out a spectacular 'fro.


I was not on The Montel Williams Show but he did do a show on teen programs and their abuses, which must have qualified him to keep company with Sue-Sue.

Clark, Sue, and a Dark-Match Pollack

Having had a lot of problems with free speech, Sue needed some way to raise morale (or her sagging tits) and try to repair her image. One of her more vocal critics, M. Clark, knew full and well that Sue was full of shit, so she did the right thing and stopped the bitch in her tracks, and posted all over the f*cking internet what the bitch was up to. The image problem created by this naturally killed Sue's business. Doing the only thing she knew how to do, she hired her loser lawyer to sue M. Clark.

Being in a FEMA trailer after Katrina, Clark wasn't even able to make it to court. Being the first success Sue's lawyer ever had, he brags about it on his shitty webpage before chasing more ambulances and sucking [redacted] c*ck.


Okay. One more time: Clark sold her house three weeks before Katrina. She then moved in with the man she would eventually elope to Vegas with. While she was present for Katrina and her gentleman friend's house did suffer some damage, which caused her to temporarily move to the Houston area the next month where her parents resided, please recall that Clark independently lived in a gated community with many fine amenities. When she moved back to Louisiana to get married, she openly testified that the house she returned to -- belonging to her new husband -- had been repaired and was in good living order. All of this information came from Clark herself while under oath, and not once was a FEMA trailer mentioned. Got that, Bernie?

Bernie goes on to dedicate an entire page that posts an e-mail I had privately sent to a web host provider's abuse department (more on that later), listing the police report I filed in response to threats I had received, along with David's full name and phone number. On the following page, Bernie signs off with this:

"Not satisfied to simply send kids to be tortured for money and desperately try to fix her f*cking nose, she had to f*cking lie in the above email. Let's see if she likes what's to come? Oh and she threatened to sue me years ago, bet you wish you did now, BITCH!"


And at the bottom of the page I am quoted as saying, "Just because you don't like someone or what they do, it does not give you carte blanche to post false statements about a person on the Internet."

I did say that and stand by those words.

Speaking of words, I also received a very creepy and threatening anonymous phone call that was the same voice as the one from a YouTube video that included pretty much everything we've already covered with the added compliment of referring to me as "a piece of human excrement," and proclaiming plans to "kick Sue's ass."

How much of a role did Alex play in all this? That's hard to say, but I'd be rather surprised if Alex's contribution wasn't significant. Even if not, as unlikely as that is, there is plenty of material that Alex is happy to take sole credit for. For example, Alex had a lengthy posting on a certain website (care to guess which one?) that lists Alex as being an administrator of it (talk about rising up in the ranks!). And on this "All about Me" sort of page, there is the same picture of my daughter and me, only un doctored, thank you. Above the picture Alex says: "Go f*ck yourself, Sue ... I truly hope you die in a very painful manner. Cancer preferably."

And then there's another picture just beneath the first, with this heading: "Sue Scheff if Alex gets his/her wish." The picture is of a young girl in a hospital bed petting a puppy, all her hair gone and yet smiling despite the obvious ravages of cancer. Scrolling a bit further, the type reads:

"A rumor I heard is that Alex is on many strong psychiatric medications, still lives with his/her parents and is unemployable due to his/her psychiatric issues. How does his/her mother feel about his/her wishing death on other people?

Will this misguided psychopath Alex finally act on one of his/her many threats?"


And the grand finale appears in the form of yet another picture. A hand gripping a large knife and poised to strike, a la the famous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho.

There is one other item of interest that Alex mentions in this rather unusual resume on the website owned by Smith (and of which Alex is a co-administrator). Under the heading of "Experience/' Alex lists IOwnerlBlogger" and gives the name of the website that, at first glance, appears to be owned by me, but in reality takes you to Alex's site that is devoted to doing what Clark wasn't able to completely accomplish: Ruin me with the same sort of trash talk I took her to court for. Only now it appears that Alex is the one doing all the talking and trashing, which wasn't always the case. You see, when this website was first established, it was owned in both Clark's and Alex's names. It was only after David sent a letter of warning to the attorney Clark hired after the trial that her name was suddenly removed, leaving only Alex's remaining.

This did not stop Clark from branching out and establishing a brand spanking new website of her own, geared toward the same purpose. It's kind of like that Certs commercial: It's Two! Two! Two mints in One! Or maybe the old Doublemint gum jingle: Double your pleasure! Double your fun . .. !

It's interesting to me that while all this was going on, the media in the form of Fox News, 20/20, ABC News, the BBC, NPR, and many others continued to seek me out to shed light on Internet defamation and tell my story to the public at large. And the more exposure my story got, the more vicious the threats became. Also interesting is that when Clark lost her appeal to have her judgment set aside and was ordered to pay up, those attacks got, urn, doubly bad. A last little coup de grace from Smith's website:

From Anti-Sue Scheff Guest: "Sue Scheff is evil. She is a devil and YOU SUE ... YES YOU SUE SCHEFF -- will get what is coming to you little by little. YOU WILL DIE A SLOW DEATH AND BE INFLICTED WITH MANY DISEASES. You are an evil devil, Sue Scheff ....
"

Clearly this all escalated to a point that made my pretrial ordeal pale in comparison. As malicious and untrue as the early postings were to destroy my reputation, they didn't involve anyone wishing me dead in graphic detail. Nor did it involve someone having my BellSouth phone lines disconnected by pretending to be me, giving them my Social Security number to prove it, and saying "1" was moving out of state. And trust me, when you're getting threats and your phone lines are cut, that's a pretty scary place to be.

I sought David's counsel. I filed a police report. I scrambled to find what avenues of protection were available to citizens like me who were given every reason to fear for their lives.

Ultimately, I called the FBI. They got involved. However, they needed more direct threats, if you can believe that, to immediately go after these sick people in order to protect one of the taxpayers who cut their paychecks. And why? Because under the current, existing laws with the Internet, nothing entirely illegal was going on. As John has made clear from a legal perspective, our present laws are not only grossly inadequate, they are geared more toward protecting the guilty than the innocent when it comes to online stalking and abuse.

With my options running out, and my Fear Factor mounting, I went in search of help. Where? Where else:

The Internet.

Circling Sharks

Sucks Sites


Sue is feeling the brunt of an attack site aimed squarely at herself personally and her business. This is not uncommon. It's becoming a very popular pastime among the disenfranchised. Now, don't get me wrong. No one would seriously dispute the right to voice honest discontent with a company or individual. This right to free speech is planted firmly in our history and protected in the First Amendment to our Constitution. It's as American as apple pie.

But if someone decides to buy your business name with a derogatory term attached, like "sucks" or "stinks;' and offers up to the search engines a less than flattering page title, the site will likely be presented in a Google search result with the title as the headline. And when that prospective customer, employee, or vendor sees this shocking headline and clicks on the link to this web page, they'll be reading about all of your skeletons in the closet. If the content is truthful or mere opinion it is often quite legal, although I'll explain shortly how existing privacy laws may even make true statements illegal.

In the early days of the Internet, the information on these sites was most often an expression of displeasure with the business for some objectively factual reason. Or pure statements of opinion. So, if you think that our president sucks, you could say so. If you think that your local dentist sucks, you can say so. If you think your brother's employer sucks, you could say so. I don't recommend you do so for a number of reasons, both legal and practical. You could get sued by someone who is offended and misguided. Or you could be attacked by those who disagree with your view. Although your speech is likely protected free speech, always remember that the free-speech expansionists are ready to attack your speech, and your right to speak, at a moment's notice if they disagree with you. It is the irony of ironies, no doubt. But that philosophy lives a vibrant life online. I call sites used for legitimate purposes such as these "gripe sites:' They are the instruments by which we, as a free people, voice our opinions. And the courts have developed a long history of protecting these sites and their owners.

Public-interest groups have played an important role in protecting our civil rights over the years. And protecting the public's right to criticize became a main objective at the turn of this century. Preserving our free speech rights, maintaining open access to information distribution systems like the Internet, promoting government and business accountability and transparency, and preserving a healthy "marketplace of ideas" are worthy causes. These public- interest organizations served the role of legal counsel to many of the original "gripe" sites, and when invited into court by a targeted business, regularly won cases. They were seen by netizens as darlings of the Internet and protectors of the masses. These groups used the attention and publicity to raise money in order to keep fighting the good fight and turned "gripe site" protection into a cash cow. A money-making machine. Not widely known at the time was the developing practice of payoffs being made by targeted businesses to stop the negative comments. Perhaps the comments were true. Perhaps they were not. But they were hurting the business targeted.

Businesses began buying the domain name and website for a handsome sum or hiring the website owner as a consultant to get rid of the negative comments. The entire process had evolved into straight out blackmail and extortion. Legitimate complaints were morphing into half-truths and innuendo, and those eventually evolved into outright lies. And when the even more nefarious netizens from all around the world saw how profitable this attack-site business could be, they began watching very closely. The sharks of online society took notice, and they wanted in on the action. Because they saw how easy it was to buy a domain name, launch a "gripe" site, get free lawyers, and get paid off. These virtual sharks soon realized that the bigger the damage to a business or professional, the bigger the payout. So they started launching sites that were full of lies, sites that would siphon off business customers directly to a competitor, sites that were fronts for commercial websites, sites that were themselves carrying cash-generating advertisements, and sites that were so highly and expertly programmed that they would be one of the first results when someone searched Google for the target. I call these "sucks sites." And suck they do.

While they may appear to most visitors to house legitimate complaints, they are all too often money machines and cash cows. They are often driven by greed, not principle. The owners of "sucks sites" are not the least bit concerned about legitimate customer complaints or factual and fair business reviews. All they care about is our First Amendment and how it can be used to hide their illegal ways.

As these sharks circle a target, the public-interest groups hop a tourist boat and go out for the show. The first frenzied attack begins, and as the boat motors into the fray, many of these free-speech tourists sit back in their chairs, sip their drinks, soak in the rays, and watch intently as their buddies toss buckets of chum over the side. They've got to make sure there are plenty of sharks in the water. After all, there is protection in numbers. And the public-interest and free-speech and consumer-rights groups are there to offer protection as long as the contributions keep coming in. This bait is expensive stuff, you know.

Today the consumer-rights groups are extremely active in protecting all sorts of sharks, from the hammerhead to the great white, and continue to offer guidance, support, cover, and free lawyers. Having overlooked, quite by accident I'm sure, the fact that their shark clients of today are threatening the very rights to legitimate free speech that they had fought so hard to protect and preserve. It's all about greed. And it's sad.

Just as surely as the courts initially embraced the honorable intent and public benefits of the original "gripe sites;' the tables are turning. Because of these abuses, no legitimate gripe site will be afforded the benefit of the doubt. Motivations will be questioned, suspicions will run rampant, innocent explanations will be discounted, heartfelt guidance will be viewed with jaundiced eyes, and the truth will eventually out. When that happens, our right to free speech will be diminished in one sense but ultimately strengthened in another, more constructive way.

In the meantime, these sites will become increasingly dangerous attack vehicles aimed at crippling a business or ruining a reputation. For a price, the problem can often be solved. If your business is under attack, you should consider this as a possible solution. Many businesses we represent make this very difficult decision to pay the extortionist and have the matter over with. A second possible solution is to use "search engine optimization" techniques to get the site moved out of harm's way on the Google search results. A third option is "self help" ... go to the webhost, the domain registrar, Google, or the likes, and plead your case. Another option is to file a lawsuit or pursue other legal action. All of these are risky, time-consuming, or costly. Possibly all three. That's why the sharks are there. If there was an inexpensive or easy exit strategy, the sharks and their lawyers would be out phishing for something of a different sort.

Pajamas and a Toothbrush

Cyberstalking


"I'm being cyberbullied." That is what I often hear from a prospective client. I'm sure Sue was feeling that way throughout her ordeal, particularly as things escalated into death threats after the jury verdict. Technically it's a misnomer, though, since cyberbullying usually refers to bullying involving juveniles. Sue is experiencing "cyberstalking." And Sue's story has plenty of cyberstalking-type conduct to get the attention of the authorities. So why aren't some of these people being prosecuted criminally?

Let's avoid getting into some kind of a deep legal analysis of what communications are necessary to bring about stalking charges. The fact is that most states do have criminal stalking laws. Most of those laws have civil aspects to them, which means a judge can issue civil remedies like TROs (temporary restraining orders) and injunctions prohibiting the stalker from further contact. But there is no federal law with any meat on the bone. That means that it is up to the state prosecutors to chase these characters, and when the perpetrators are out of state, most prosecutors won't fool with the matter. There might be some federal laws that could be used when real threats of physical harm, coupled with an immediate ability to carry out those threats, exist. But when it comes to online cyberstalking, the FBI can't commit its resources to chasing some computer geek so far away that the chance of the stalker doing any real physical harm is very low. Local police often insist that the stalking law requires an imminent threat of physical bodily harm, but in many instances that law has changed, and I suspect the ignoring of such is sometimes used as an excuse not to get involved. Frankly, one can understand the need to prioritize if you are running a police department and chasing murderers, rapists, and robbers all night long and worrying about national security during the day. But priorities do need to change.

So what can you do? You may have an invasion of privacy claim, or you may not, given the chaotic state of those laws which I will shortly address. California, notably, not only has a criminal law, but has created a "tort of stalking:' That means a victim can sue for an injunction and compensatory and punitive damages in California. Unfortunately, the tort requires that the stalker engage in a pattern of conduct the intent of which was to harass the plaintiff, and the plaintiff must reasonably fear for her safety. Compare that to the exclusively criminal state laws that simply require a person to intentionally cause a reasonable person to be seriously alarmed, annoyed, or harassed. It looks to me like the strongest laws are criminal, and no one wants to waste the time and money to prosecute. And the civil laws that allow victims to sue on their own are few and pretty weak. That needs to change.

Congress should pass a national tort of stalking law that will allow you to file a lawsuit in federal court. States should pass laws that do not require a real and present threat to physical safety and allow civil lawsuits to be filed. The damages recoverable should be compensatory damages, punitive damages, triple damages, and attorneys fees, and simplified processes for obtaining broad injunctive relief should be established.

I've seen the stalking effect up close and personal and appreciate the irrationality involved. It is hard to understand how someone can become so obsessed and throw caution to the wind. When I first started practicing law twenty-eight years ago I represented a young man who was following his ex-girlfriend around and threatening her. The judge deferred deciding the case, continued it for six months, and ordered that he stay away from her. After the hearing I finished up my cases, returned to the office, and picked up my messages. One was from the court clerk. On his way out of the courthouse, my client decided to visit with the victim. He was in jail, the clerk advised, and the judge was pissed.

As I approached the bench the following morning, the judge did not look up from his papers, except to ask me if my client had brought his pajamas and toothbrush. "Why?" I asked. "Because he's going to jail" was the reply. And several months later, after my client served his time, I found myself before the same judge again with the same client. He followed my suggestion and brought his pajamas and toothbrush. This time as we walked up the center aisle of the courtroom the judge looked up, saw my client carrying his gear, and smiled and nodded in approval. If only it was that easy with cyberstalkers.

Do you realize there are serious state and federal civil business laws dealing with copyright, trademark, trade secrets, and business conspiracies that carry enhanced damages and simplified injunctive procedures? Yet next to nothing for stalking. These laws need to be passed. The local police department and prosecutor are not going to make stalking cases a priority for criminal prosecution. The FBI is not going to spend its time investigating a bunch of "personal problems." We need laws that make it easy to sue harassers and shut them down. And while the legislators are at it, they can make sure the new laws cover stalking-by-proxy, which is an element of a mobosphere attack and involves getting others to do the dirty work for the stalker. From the look of things, Sue is a victim of this. It's a kind of conspiracy. Having read Sue's story, you have a very good idea how this stalking conspiracy works.

Are Citizen Journalists Either?

Online Legal Advice


Sue is experiencing an attack from those who are considered "citizen journalists:' Real journalists hate them. Real citizens hate them. But they love themselves! Citizen journalism is news and commentary from the public at large. The sources include bloggers, social network participants, website owners, and everyone voicing their opinion on a topic online. Everyone's a citizen journalist. But most people online reject this concept and likely appreciate that this label is a self-anointment of prestige or importance by those who believe everyone should be equal in importance and authority. That's the democratization theme coming through again. The motive, though, is to steal from real journalists the shield laws and other legal benefits real journalists enjoy, and ride on the backs of the traditional press who have fought so hard to preserve the right to legitimate free speech. And a good number embrace the newly minted label because it's easier to convince sports teams they should get press credentials.

When will we have "citizen lawyers;'''citizen doctors;' and "citizen nuclear engineers"? It seems a natural next step. And a stark and clear way of putting in perspective the harm that can come from this theft of the hard-fought rights earned over centuries by legitimate journalists. Armed with this new persona, this new badge of honor and courage, these citizen journalists convince themselves that every word they type is protected by free speech and they have an obligation to pursue the truth in all things that catch their fancy. The fundamental problem is that they often have not the slightest concept of free speech or truth. But they do have a voice and their words are, if nothing else, getting attention. So that justifies everything a citizen journalist publishes. The more outrageous the claim, the more traffic flows to the site. That's a fact of life in the online citizen-journalist world and often is the primary motivation. Do Sue's attackers truly believe in some weird way that they are doing the public a service by warning everyone about Sue? It is likely a very common thought for those who decide the ends justify the means, but true motivation is hard to decipher in online attacks. Perhaps the end to them means total destruction of their target. These types are sometimes serial attackers and will then simply move on to another target. And some attack on many fronts at the same time.

Ronald J. Riley, the owner of the "sucks site" aimed at our law firm, has his hands in sucks sites all over the place, and once got sued for his online attack of his daughter's public school teacher and Girl Scout leader. He is the ultimate serial "citizen journalist," and, not surprisingly, has a close relationship with consumer-rights lawyers going back almost eight years. There are also a remarkably large number of these people who believe that if property is on the web, it is free for the taking. Information yearns to be free, they believe. And there is some truth to this mantra voiced all over the world. But all information is not meant to be free.

Movies, songs, poems, books, and other creative works aren't meant to be free. And for that reason, in order to promote creativity, we afford certain legal protections to the owners. The legal doctrine is copyright. Consumers can enjoy these things because our copyright infringement laws benefit creators of the works. Otherwise, few innovative and creative endeavors would be pursued.

A business name like Exxon or Coke or Microsoft isn't meant to be free for the taking either. So the legal doctrine of trademark protects not only business names, but service and product names. Otherwise, consumers would be unable to distinguish between high quality products and inferior or even dangerous alternatives.

Free speech isn't entirely free. Disclosing certain types of private information, even if already public, could be against privacy laws. And the passing of false information is addressed by our defamation laws. If consumers are misled by lies, they are precluded from making smart, informed decisions.

If you really think about it, all of these legal protections benefit the citizen consumer. Because if everyone could have free access to movies, if everyone could use any business name for a product label, and if everyone could say whatever they wanted about anyone else, our society would lose the ability to enjoy creative works and make informed decisions. We would become a cauldron of deceit; a cesspool of dishonesty. Our freedoms would ultimately be at risk.

And today in the online world it is fair to say, I think, that society's freedom is being stolen by crooks.

Part of the problem, a big part of the problem, is ignorance. The conduct of the web is governed by laws. Now, you won't find a code of ethics out there, at least not one that is taken seriously or followed. But a quick search on any legal subject will lead you to the legal guidance from "citizen journalists" whose advice is a product of no legal training and a hidden agenda. Some of the advice is comical and would be funny if not offered up on a highly popular website with many rabid followers. Here are some examples of online legal "advice":

• Just preface all of your attacks against a company or person with "In my opinion" and you can't be sued.
• If you buy your competitor's domain name and "park" it, you are legal.
• "Fair use" allows me to use someone's video or photograph or business name commercially.

These tips come from otherwise credible "citizen journalists" with not the slightest legal training. People actually believe this stuff, and then it gets repeated so often by them and others that it seems to become the law of the web among nonlawyer netizens.

Citizens of the web just don't know better because they are being taught by self-styled "citizen journalists;' many of whom are consumer-rights extremists, free-speech expansionists, and antibusiness propagandists. Here's a short piece of advice for "citizen journalists." Gain a balanced perspective on the legal code of conduct for your online activities.

The Streisand Effect and the Virtual Hydra

Conspiracy and Hacking


Sue hasn't covered all of the spin-off attacks spawned by the jury verdict. But people everywhere were getting involved. The desire to take a look is nothing new. Who among us has not slowed down to see if we can get a peek of that car accident? But the Internet supercharges things ... and, in Sue's case, these gawkers are all offering their rather graphic derogatory thoughts about the judgment and Sue.

The Streisand Effect is the process and impact of a mobosphere attack. But how does a single online post or blog lead to a seemingly coordinated, and certainly overwhelming and often devastating, assault? Through sheer momentum, in part, but more so through the common interest of online scofflaws in making sure that everyone knows who is boss when it comes to controlling the web. It's as if there is lingering in the depths of the web an online version of the Hydra of Greek mythology. Online mobs often operate as one, using various websites to discuss, plan, implement, and then brag about the use of the many weapons we have discussed. They often operate like the mythical snake with many heads, spewing deadly poisonous breath.

So while the Hydra breathes poison and attacks using its many heads, so, too, do the scofflaws populating the mobosphere. From all directions come stalkers, hackers, spammers, liars, extortionists, and copyright and trademark thieves, all offering up their own devastating poison and dropping far more than Google Bombs. Fire-breathing dragons would never have a chance against this crowd of one with many heads. And while most defamatory attacks target their victims through words only, I've gone to war with my share of Hydras. While most consider the Streisand Effect to be the process and result of a war of words and battle of intellect, the truth is that the real Streisand Effect implicates attacks against victims far beyond mere speech.

One of the most memorable Hydra attacks (for obvious reasons) was against our law firm.

It had been a long day in San Jose, California, as I returned to my hotel room. I ordered room service, went to my laptop, booted it up, signed into our remote server, and stared at e-mail after e-mail laced with profanity. As I opened the Google alerts that had been flowing in all day, I was seeing comments all over the web about our law firm's supposed claims of owning HTML -- the very computer code used to program most web pages. As I started deleting all of the anonymous e-mails, I decided to check my voicemail back at the office. It was full of messages from interesting characters demanding a return call to discuss our claim that we own the Internet. While I'd like to think that our voice has contributed to the maturation of our online society, I didn't invent the Internet. And I didn't own any rights to HTML source code. As I went to bed that night in Silicon Valley, I wondered what my office on the East Coast would be facing first thing the next morning.

I set my alarm for 4:30 AM. I was still on East Coast time, thank goodness. Our receptionist reported an onslaught of calls to other attorneys in the office from really strange people. An e-mail popped up from our webhost inquiring about the dramatic increase in traffic, and I was soon to learn about getting "slashdotted." The volume of visits to our site was growing by the thousands before our eyes as our technical people allocated more capacity. We were seeing visits from around the world. Even with the increase in the size of our connection, our website became overwhelmed.

Later, as I have mentioned previously, we would find out that hackers posted a Britney Spears video. At about the same time, a hacker posted images of child pornography in the administrative area of our website, bragging about his hack. Fortunately, none of our internal law firm systems were compromised because those are heavily protected and not connected to our public website. But what had begun as a Google Bomb, a bunch of bloggers criticizing our law firm and linking to each other's sites with our law firm name to make Google present negative results when we were searched, had evolved into a Streisand Effect-fueled visit from the Virtual Hydra.

The Google Bomb technique had worked masterfully. Now all of the criticisms were coming up on the first and second page of results when someone searched for our law firm on Google. Bloggers started keeping score, ranking the derogatory search results each week like a college football poll, relishing the devastation to our reputation and Google Bombing us over and over again.

We've discussed Google Bombs, the Streisand Effect, and the Virtual Hydra. Notice that each requires many same-minded participants. No one today seems to understand, appreciate, or acknowledge the illegal implications of these conspiracies that are often coupled with defamation, hacking, child porn, trademark infringement, copyright infringement, extortion, and RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) violations. For those instigators, organizers, and counselors participating in the mob but so ready to claim innocent ignorance, you may get away with it. But if an attacker is found out, the consequences could very well be life-altering. Like an $11 million judgment and notoriety so widespread that the hope of gainful employment will be a pipedream if not a nightmare. One day the attackers will be cornered, left cowering and begging for forgiveness and conciliation. But the web remembers. For generations.

Nice legacy.

And that is exactly why Sue is fighting so hard against the new wave of attacks. More fronts will soon open against her. Some expected. Some totally unexpected. All very, very damaging. But the question remains: where is she to go when the only true protection comes from the Internet itself?
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Re: Google Bomb: The Untold Story of the $11.3M Verdict That

Postby admin » Thu Jun 04, 2015 7:45 pm

HOW THE WEB IS WON

Since the legal authorities were no help, and I couldn't, and of course, wouldn't, exactly turn to Tony Soprano for some protection against the online threats being made against me, a friend to whom I will be forever grateful advised me of a new company that offered protective services to individuals and businesses who were victims of Internet attacks.

In the past few years, more such service companies have emerged, and while I'm sure that many of them are excellent, and John can probably tell you about some of them, my sole experience is with ReputationDefender, founded by Michael Fertik. I want to tell you about ReputationDefender and Michael because they rescued me when I was frightened and desperate and had no where else to turn. No doubt I am biased in my opinion toward Michael and his group -- and who wouldn't be after the above-and-beyond lengths they have gone to on my behalf.

First, a little about Michael. After graduating from Harvard and then Harvard Law School, rather than try court cases, he decided to try his hand as an Internet entrepreneur -- with the idea that he would return to law after he explored an area of Internet inequity he felt very passionately about. The inequity centered around his observation that an individual's right to privacy had been corrupted by the unrestricted flow of biased or false information presented as truth on the Internet, often with devastating consequences to innocent individuals.

In response, he established ReputationDefender in the spring of 2006 with a small team of other young brainiacs like himself. A few short years later he has over fifty employees and travels the world to meet with clients. I think Michael's plans to turn his professional attention back to law may be indefinitely delayed.

Anyway, in December of 2006, I initially contacted ReputationDefender with an e-mail. I was hopeful, but didn't dare get my hopes too high.

Within twenty-four hours I received a personal phone call from the CEO himself. Michael had me at "Hello." He calmed me down with equal measures of techie logic and human compassion. His empathy was something I desperately needed, and I have no doubt as to just how deep that empathy truly goes. There are a lot of Clarks and Smiths and Alexes and Bernies in the cyberworld, and by protecting the reputation of others like myself, he risks retaliation from a thwarted online thug. Michael has donned one of the biggest XXXL orange sweaters with a target on the back.

As promised, after our initial phone call Michael researched my case and once convinced of its authenticity, he and his team at ReputationDefender immediately, and aggressively, began pursuing the sites and blogs that were spewing hate talk and vile things about me. These sites were quite successful in their intent to destroy me since they commanded the first few pages of Google results for both Sue Scheff and PURE. But once Michael came on the scene, within a few months those same pages turned up unblemished results. It was like rewinding the clock to more innocent days, when I was minding my own business and everybody else was minding theirs. Only now there was evidence that we can never turn back the hands of time: The prolific number of news articles attached to my name was proof positive that Dorothy might have gone back to Kansas but Oz was indeed real, and she would never be the same.

While there's no changing the past, Michael's expertise made some drastic changes to both my inner and Internet images that were good for the soul ... and a good night's sleep. He managed to push the malicious commentary down so far and the real me up so high on Google, that I could almost forget there were people out there who would love nothing better than to see me dead. In fact, my confidence had moved up so much as a result, I got brave I When I was approached to publicly discuss my case, I wanted to give credit where credit was due. While David Pollack had been my champion in the courtroom, Michael came to my rescue after the case was over, and I appreciated the opportunity to say so when reporters called. And call they did, from distant lands and respected periodicals that a year before I never would have imagined being quoted in:

Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, even the Peninsula, which is "Qatar's Leading English Daily." Actually, I wasn't sure where Qatar was on the map, so I did a Google search and found out it's a peninsula in the Persian Gulf that's bounded in the south by the United Arab Emirates. Yes, it's still amazing to me how much can be learned with a few words typed into a search engine.

One of my favorite articles was from the San Francisco Chronicle. It appeared on Sunday, May 6, 2007. The reason I like this so much is because it illustrates how out of control this cybersmearing has gotten, how I am so not alone. A good part of the article is dedicated to discussing some young Yale female law students who were "singled out by anonymous contributors to a popular law school message board." How ironic that as I was writing this, John sent me a just-published Conde Nast Portfolio article (March, 09) titled "Slimed Online" that tells how two of these girls were Google Bombed in the most horrible of ways and have now publicly filed a lawsuit against these "anonymous" trolls. The story also reveals how Michael offered his assistance and went after the website that was generating the vitriolic attacks.

I love Michael's headline quote: "The Internet is a big tattooing machine that makes you relive momentary mistakes and lapses in judgment that we all make."

Unfortunately, I would soon learn how terribly true and prescient his statement was. After those articles went to print and appeared online, my enemies started escalating their combined energies to counteract ReputationDefender and slime me. They also started attacking a good friend for no reason, and I felt extremely guilty about that. I had a sinking sensation of going under again and felt I needed to do something, so in my newfound confidence I personally went after my online nemeses and sent a letter to the "spam and abuse department" at a webhost provider who hosted the site where Smith's website was parked.

I provided the evidence (which wasn't hard to produce, that's for sure) that Smith was breaking their "terms of service" and "code of conduct" and asked them to remove Smith's site. The spam and abuse department, in turn, confronted Smith with the letter I had sent requesting their removal. And in that letter I made a major mistake by mentioning that I was soon scheduled to appear on 20/20 with regard to this very type of Internet abuse.

Well, as soon as Smith and her cronies got a gander at that, don't you know that ABC was swamped with negative e-mails and calls about my upcoming appearance? And, since I had gone public about how Michael and ReputationDefender had rescued me, Alex realized how I had managed to outsmart them and committed him/herself with a fanatical fervor to finding a way to restore their hate talk to the higher rankings on Google.

From there, it was like dominoes falling, and fast.

The 20/20 program was scheduled to air on August 14, 2007. On August 7, exactly one week prior, Alex and Clark established the website I mentioned earlier -- the one that appears to be owned by me but takes you straight to my online version of hell (Alex is probably throwing the confetti and whooping in glee right now). And, by the morning of the 14th, not only had Smith's website gone berserk with their threats and death wishes and sliming, Alex had found a way to bounce his/her and Clark's website up to the first page of Google's results. Frantic, I sent an e-mail to Michael filled with my devastation over what seemed to be a deja vu plunge into the beginning of the whole nightmarish ordeal all over again. His response, as always, was finger-snap quick:

From: Michael Fertik

Sent: Tuesday, August 14, 20079:53 a.m.

To: Sue

Cc: [redacted]

You're a very brave lady, Sue! By speaking up, you are giving confidence to thousands of people who have been victimized the way you have. We'll keep working on this till the cows come home for you. The main thing for us to do is to keep plugging away. We've beaten back two of their waves already (remember how bad it was in December?), and we'll beat them again for you. There will be more fallout, as expected, after tonight, and it will take time to improve it all again, but we'll get it done for you. [redacted], we're doing a couple press releases today, right?

Michael

***

--Original Message--

From: [redacted]

To: Sue

Subject: Good Morning!

Good Morning, Sue!

Looking at things this morning, it seems that we are in decent shape. A few things have been pushed down, and I will be publishing two excellent press releases this morning about you through numerous PR sources!

Thank you for pitching in so much over the past days; having YOUR voice will be great when even those who see the negative articles also see that you have chosen the high road in this fight.


As you can see, Michael tried to calm me down and build me up while making sure his team members were beating back the negativity with positive PR. And as you can also see, his eager associate, sweet as she could be, was earnestly trying her best to get those "two excellent press releases" published far and wide. And she did a superior job at it. However, given my state of mind with appearing on a major TV show for the first time and the possibility of so many viewers deciding to do a Google search on me, I made "a momentary mistake" and a lapse in judgment that truly, anyone could have made, which I am reliving to this day.

I did not review the press releases before they went out. One of the press releases contained a misquote stating that my organization didn't make a profit and our services were free. Yes, our services are free to the families who seek out PURE, however schools and programs do cost money and some of them do pay us, definitely not all of them, or I would be driving around in a Bentley and most likely would have that pool guy. So yes, we do have some income, but not in the way Smith and Alex and Clark and their minions so insistently and loudly proclaim it to be.

The thing about having cyberstalkers is that they follow your every move, every keystroke, and are there to "catch ya" for even the tiniest mistake made. I made a mistake by not reading that press release. I should have taken a magnifying glass to it before ever letting it go out. But I didn't, and as soon as I saw the error a couple of days later, I contacted the associate who had written and sent the releases out. Even though I took accountability for the glitch, she was profusely apologetic and immediately yanked the press release from distribution- but not before Alex screen-captured the misquoting. Even to this day s/he uses it as a screen signature sign-off ... with a little editorial commentary, Alex-style: "As a free, non-profit service, we provide a haven for truth and reality -- So Scheff (fu-kin surreal)"

For the life of me, I have no idea what any person could gain from an obsession like this. Whatever the motivation, Michael has dealt with some pretty sick stuff far beyond my own circumstances. Perhaps you've heard of the Nikki Catsouras case? She's the young girl, eighteen years old, who snuck the keys to her father's sports car, put the pedal to the metal, went across a median and into a toll booth. She was decapitated. Her family was instructed not to view any of the police photos from the resulting carnage. Their beautiful daughter was mutilated, unrecognizable. And although Nikki's parents and siblings abided by that directive, someone got hold of the police photos and posted them online. They went viral. Pictures of Nikki's decapitated body eventually appeared on 1,600 websites in fifty different countries.

20/20 did a special on Nikki's family and the macabre aftermath they experienced after the unthinkable happened. Nikki's mother explained how she had approached one of the websites and begged them to take down the gruesome pictures of their daughter. The website refused, citing constitutional protections and their free-speech rights. It's as if there are no longer any invasion-of-privacy rights, just like John has previously discussed. But we have rights, too, this mother told the reporter. Nikki's father, a real estate agent, opened an e-mail addressed to him that appeared to be a legitimate business inquiry just a few weeks after Nikki's death. And there to greet the grieving father were these words: "Dead Girl Walking. Ooooh, Daddy, I'm alive."

When the Catsouras family couldn't take it anymore, they hired Michael Fertik to get Nikki's pictures off the web. Michael admits in the interview how extremely hard this case has been to completely succeed with due to the proliferation of the images. He likens them to a malignant cancer; he no sooner gets them off one website than the images spread to others. This is the Streisand Effect in action, as John would point out, a mob without a conscience descending upon a selected target and going forth to multiply their ugly agenda en masse.

From my own personal experience I can say with conviction that I believe if anyone can help the Catsouras family protect themselves, it is Michael Fertik. Such heroics can come at quite a cost. Does Michael have "sucks sites" and negative blogs against him? Sure he does. But the way he looks at it is, "Sometimes you find yourself in the firing line, on the unhappy end of an attack, but you know what? It's the cost of doing business in my field and those are scars that I'm proud to bear. I can suck it up and take a few body blows for clients who I feel don't deserve that kind of abuse."

While no one beats Michael as the best, at least in my eyes, I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that there are other web host providers, press release service providers, and websites that stood up to be counted amongst the "good guys" of the web for insisting that their "terms of service" and "code of conduct" policies be honored by those who seek their services. They removed Smith's and Alex's websites and postings due to their slanderous and threatening content. But these reputable entities did nothing more for me than they would do for anyone else who can prove one of their clients is behaving with malice and a complete disregard for the code of conduct they agreed to upon signing up, and are expected to abide by in exchange for the services provided.

It's called respecting the rules of their virtual turf. Of course there will always be people who would rather break rules or bend them beyond a reasonable extension, and I'm far too well acquainted with some of those individuals. Recently I discovered that Clark created a Google AdWords campaign so that she set up sponsored advertisements on Google with my name -- a name I have now trademarked -- and whenever anyone clicks on the ad, straight they go to her website, not mine! Another good guy to the rescue, who will remain unnamed, made sure Clark's ploy was shot down and the Google advertisements disabled.

Alex continues to be a thorn in my side, but I am aggressively pursuing the dismantlement of his/her very mean trick of the Internet trade. My sincere hope is that by the time you read these words, this will be a nonissue. If not, stay tuned. I'm determined to see justice done with that one.

Fortunately, I have some very fine people of high moral, ethical, and professional ilk who have my back, orange sweater with a target on it and all. Hats off to the men and women of the Internet who bring some desperately needed standards of integrity to the Wild, Wild Web.

First and Lasting Impressions

Google AdWords Advertising


Sue is now seeing the misuse of paid advertising as an attack tool. Fortunately, the problem was taken care of quickly. That is not always the case, though. When you are faced with this problem, go to Google first and see if they will pull down the offending advertisement before considering other options. Let's spend a moment on Google AdWords.

How would you like it if I told you that the first thing someone sees when they search for you or your business is under your total control? After all we have discussed about the battle for the first page of Google results in reputation management, I expect you might be surprised. But it is true. You can have the first result and guarantee someone searching for you will have a positive first impression. But before I go into this in detail, let's understand a little more about why Google is the leading reputation engine and why the small monetary investment may be worth considering.

As we've seen, Google is the reputation engine at the center of attention. If you have been over to Yahoo you'll notice dramatically different search results. Yahoo seems to give preference to the tried-and-true websites and more traditional web properties. It appears to emphasize established information and traditional authority structures, some of the strongest indicators of the "rational" left hemisphere of the brain. Google's results, on the other hand, are more intuitive, seem to rely on hunches and seek out patterns, are fluid and spontaneous, and prefer a more collegial authority structure. That's the right side of the brain speaking.

Since online attacks are much more likely to target Google criteria for authoritativeness and relevance (which places a premium on spontaneity, hunches, uncertainty, and authority by popularity rather than merit), they show up much more prominently on Google. The attackers know this. And since Google is the most popular search engine with monster market share, it rules. The effect of a bias toward the democratization of expertise and authority is never more evident than when the two search engine results are compared. So, you need to be concerned with Google. And Google has an advertising program that is available for everyone to use. It can cause you huge problems. And it can be used to your advantage.

Google survives and thrives by converting search traffic into money. The process is known as "monetizing traffic?' The predominant method by which this is done is AdWords, which is the online advertising vehicle that presents all those "sponsored ads" on the right side, and sometimes just above, the "natural" or "organic" results that evidence the attacks. AdWords advertisements play an important role in reputation management and also online attacks.

As I mentioned, Sue has told the story of her attacker buying AdWords advertisements and having them presented whenever Sue Scheff or PURE is searched. The ad is misleading and causes people to click on the ad thinking they will find Sue, but instead are directed to her attacker's site. Suffice it to say that if this is happening to you, Google won't necessarily pull down the advertisement. This is a complex arena implicating trademark law, contract law, fair use, and free speech.

AdWords advertising is another powerful weapon in the arsenal for attackers and, fortunately, for victims as well. Google attack ads are particularly impactful. If enough money is bid for the ad position, it will likely be presented not on the right side of results, but at the very first position of all search results. Despite a small disclaimer that the ads are "sponsored results," many people don't really know that these are placed advertisements. And even if they do, with a catchy headline it is going to be seen and read.

A title such as "Is XYZ company a scam?" or "The truth about XYZ company" gets attention and is likely going to affect reputation or brand even if the ad is not clicked on, and will often divert a searcher to an attack website. Another common approach for an attacker is to buy an AdWords advertisement with the title "XYZ Company," offer a neutral description in the ad, and then deceptively lure those searching for the attacker's target to an attack website. The most sophisticated ads appear as if they are "XYZ Company" ads, but the site impersonates the company in a disparaging way. I've seen sites with horrible grammar or clearly absurd claims that purport to be the official site of the target, which itself raises a new arena for the courts in interpreting whether this would be defamation.

You can imagine the effect on someone doing due diligence. Confusion, at a minimum, is certain. And confusion on the web means that it is easier to just move on to another applicant under consideration or go to the next business selling a similar product. Confusion on the web is deadly to an online business.

I mentioned that AdWords can be used by a victim. Taking an ad out for yourself when you or your business is searched is essential. You can get the first word in and make the first impression. These ads can be crafted for branding purposes in which you do not need anyone to click on the ad in order to get your position first in line. "XYZ Voted Best Site," or "XYZ Customer Satisfaction Highest," or "XYZ Wins Public Service Award" all send the message of credibility and acceptance and puts all the negative commentary that's to come in the natural or organic results into question. Some businesses have even gone to attacking the attacker in these ads.

Knowing that the first page of Google results carries a particularly effective and false attack on your business, you may want to run an AdWords advertisement that is defensive in nature. "The Truth about xxxx (your attacker)," which leads to a page explaining the attack on your terms. When well done, it can take the sting out of an otherwise deadly derogatory result. And there have been some even more creative uses lately. A particular business under attack bought AdWords advertising that made its ads look like attack ads. "Find the Truth about XYZ" and "Is XYZ a Scam?" could be examples of the type of ad titles it ran. When inquiring minds clicked on the ads, they led to a high quality legitimization of the company, leading everyone to conclude that they had found "the truth," and XYZ was not "a scam." Links then led the visitor directly to "XYZ" company's main e-commerce site.

Note that not only does this type of ad divert the searchers, but it moves them away from returning to the organic results since it conveniently offers links directly to their intended destination. I expect the next generation of this technique will be to offer discounts to those who purchase by going directly from this page to XYZ's e-commerce website. Also note the strategy ... to get the eyeballs away from Google search results and keep them from returning. This is an ingenious strategy, but one fraught with legal issues that could implicate Federal Trade Commission enforced false advertising laws. Be very careful with this type of a tactic because you could be liable for false advertising.

I would be remiss if the age-old problem of "click fraud" was not discussed. Yes, those attacking you or your business can, and will, click on your pay-per-click ("PPC") ads and basically steal money from you. If you are using PPC advertising, you understand that you pay every time your advertisement is clicked on. So, what happens if someone who does not like you decides to click on your ad over and over again? You have to pay for the ads. And this happens all the time. I have seen discussions on forums encouraging everyone to click on advertisements of a business as part of a mobosphere attack. The good news is that the advertisers, like Google, have very advanced programs to detect these click attacks, but there are many ways to execute such an attack in a stealth manner and not be detected. There are also businesses that can monitor your PPC ads, identify fraudulent clicks, and go to Google and get your money back. This illegal "click fraud" tactic is probably larceny or theft by trick, and, depending upon the amount of fraud involved, could get the clicker charged with a felony. Don't even think about doing this as a defensive move to attack Google ads coming from an attacker. The illegal tricks can be used against you, but you can't use them against your attackers. And attackers may be outside the jurisdiction of United States laws and have nothing to lose.

Isn't it interesting that we allow our laws to be used, and abused, by scofflaws located allover the world? Consider the anonymity issue. Who says that some Russian hacker or Iranian spammer should have the benefit of our free speech, our First Amendment, and the traditions of anonymity practiced by our forefathers? So when you discover who is anonymously running an attack advertisement, expect the issue of anonymous free speech to be invoked to protect everyone in the world.

Section 230's Impact

How can all these sites and webhosts refuse to change offensive and often illegal content? Life would have been easier for Sue if she could just go to the website or webhost, point out the defamatory statements, and have the sites remove the posts. But, as we have seen, there is a federal law that gives them immunity as long as the site doesn't start substantively editing. Think about the implications of such a law and you can quickly see the problem.

What happens if we give legal immunity to the owner of your local newspaper whenever false information is reported? You end up with tabloid journalism at best. Outright lies become a common occurrence. As you get up every morning and start reading the paper a sense of relief washes over as you realize you are not the target of the week. Then you read all about the latest gossip, of course presented as fact. And that would be very damaging or hurtful to someone who didn't deserve it in the least.

You would think we, as a society, wouldn't stand for that. But we do. We accept this practice as a way of life on the Internet. And there is nothing we can do about it until the law changes or the courts continue eroding its impact. Even the local police have no control. A sheriff in a small town called me during the election cycle and had quite a story to tell.

Imagine it's been your dream to start a website with a small "forum" for you and your friends to discuss the annual garden tour and other local civic news in your hometown. For a while, it is a wonderful online community you are building. Advice flows freely about how to get rid of that poison ivy, what fertilizer works best on tomatoes, and how to keep those rodents or deer out of the garden. As spring turns to summer, discussion about the best conditioned golf course takes off among the local guys. But as Labor Day passes by, the local sheriff's reelection campaign kicks off. And since your little website and community forum is so well followed, apparent political opponents of the sheriff start posting claims that he protects the local drug trade, is an active participant in a local gambling racket, and promotes promiscuity. The real truth is that he circles the local pharmacy on his rounds each night, got in on the NCAA tournament basketball pool, and was a judge at the local country club for the annual belly flopper contest on Independence Day. And he runs a tight, tight ship over at the jail.

All you wanted was a civil online community. Now you have created a battleground that is getting you funny stares at the grocery store and snide comments outside of church. Other anonymous posters claim you are supporting the sheriff and start attacking you, and then your forum explodes with comments flying back and forth with all kinds of outrageous claims centering on the character of the political candidates.

The sheriff wanted to know what to do. Why can't the owner of this website be required to pull down all these lies? Well, Sheriff, I replied, because the law requires she not remove any of the posts or she may become a content provider and lose her immunity. She's only following the law, a concept I was sure he would immediately appreciate. I went on to explain that if she edits the posts, she loses immunity and can be sued as if she is a newspaper publisher. Every lie told would then create virtually unlimited financial consequence to her.

I've already discussed how Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act gave the owners of web sites on which other people post comments complete immunity as long as they don't substantively edit the content within certain parameters. And if they do edit, they lose the immunity. The people at the controls -- with the ability to help regulate the Internet through self-policing by exercising good judgment and promoting civil conduct -- have their hands tied. Recall that this law ended up promoting more defamatory and outrageous content. The law of unintended consequences rears its ugly head again. And that is why Sue was so helpless in generating online assistance from service providers throughout her ordeal.

We had another client, a lawyer in a major law firm, who in 1994, at the very infancy of the web, went online and posted some rather choice comments after a night at his fraternity house. Now these comments were showing up out of nowhere after a dozen years. Comments on the web are destined to remain, in one form or another, for posterity. Posterity is a long time. And those comments usually visit at the most inopportune times. Like when you are a lawyer applying for admission to the Supreme Court of the United States. Ouch. Fortunately, the lawyer on the other side understood our argument that his client had not acquired license rights in the content when the prior company that ran the forums had been bought, and he had a peg to hang his hat on. The problem disappeared.

But Mr. Sheriff is not so lucky. He'll likely have these comments show up when his legacy is researched by his great grandkids at the turn of the 22nd century. But I did suggest that, if he wanted to avoid any future problems at election time, he may want to take Internet access away from the inmates over at his tightly run jail.

We'll be discussing this law in more detail when I explain what Congress and the courts can do to really make the web safer for everyone overnight. For now, website owners are handcuffed tighter than a cat burglar caught in an exhaust duct. At least that's the way the sheriff so artfully paraphrased the dilemma Congress gratefully bestowed upon all of us.
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NO MAN IS AN ISLAND

The Stranded Are Legion


If Congress would only lend an ear, this is what they need to hear: As isolated and alone as anyone who is a victim of Internet defamation or cyberstalking might feel, one thing I have learned is that this is an awfully crowded island. The one-man canoes, kayaks, and floundering swimmers washing up on shore could fill every luxury cruise ship afloat and more room would still be needed for those lining up by the month, the day, the hour.

I have received countless e-mails from around the world with their senders screaming, "Help me, please! I have nowhere else to turn!" I don't have a website devoted to other victims of Internet defamation, but these desperate souls are doing online searches as they seek out any means possible to deal with a totally unexpected and dire situation that has spun out of their control. My name keeps coming up on such searches due to all the written attention my trial, and its outcome, have received. But there are many people whose distrust of the Internet is so complete, they are afraid to send an e-mail. They call me on my business line instead. Within seconds I know this is not a frantic parent in search of help for their troubled teen, but an adult whose own trauma runs deep. They are so hungry to connect with another human being who might understand what they're going through, they take the chance of calling my office in the hope that someone will respond after one too many doors have slammed in their disbelieving faces.

These phone calls, these e-mails, are driven by desperation. I am a last resort, and for anyone to get pushed so far into a corner they've got nowhere else to turn beyond me is almost beyond comprehension -- and so, so wrong. That's why I read these e-mails; why I take these phone calls. Because I understand that what other victims of Internet abuse want more than anything is to be reassured that as isolated and repellant as they feel, they are not alone.

I think you have to walk a mile in those shoes to completely grasp the intensity of desertion and despair that those of us who have lived it feel. Feel it we do, from the time we wake up till we call it a night. And even in that small respite from reality, nightmares are inclined to intrude. It's almost as if we're members of an elite club that we were all forced to join despite the fact none of us wants to snag a badge or learn a secret handshake to recognize a sorority sister or fraternity bro. And yet once you've gone through the hazing that entitles you to join the ranks of your mutually damaged peers, come what may, through thick and thin, you're all in it together.

I can't tell the stories that have been shared with me nearly as well as those who have lived them. It's hard to choose, there are so many, but here is a sampling (with personally identifying details removed) of the e-mails I continue to receive, seemingly without end:

Dear Sue:

"I've been the victim of Internet defamation for the last two and a half years and have not been able to stop this person from continually writing untrue and very damaging things about me. My husband has also been the target and the things this person has said about him are unfounded and untrue. Of course this comes from an angry and bitter former spouse, who has been asked to stop but still continues to post lies about us and our lives. I have a business and my husband is well known in our community and my fear is that at some point these lies will do harm to both of us.

I've yet to find an attorney in our area willing to take on such a task or one who even has a limited understanding of what to do in such a case. Our state seems very archaic in the knowledge of Internet harassment and defamation matters. Until I married my husband I'd never been a victim of the Internet. We are both very private people and we've tried to quietly end the disputes between his former spouse and us, but nothing has worked. He has children with this person, and it has now come to a point where they are being damaged mentally by the constant interrogation their mother places upon them after they have visited us. This has taken such a hard toll on my health that I now clench my jaw so tight I've cracked teeth and suffer from chronic headaches. I'm at my wit's end so to speak because nothing we've done works. If you, or anyone, could help with a direction to go or a specific attorney to contact, we would really be grateful. Thank you so much for just reading this message .... "

***

Greetings from Canada!

"I see that you are an advocate for those being defamed and slandered online. There is a website that is damaging our business. The content is after the fact and the poster knows or ought to know that the posted information was previously shown to be unsubstantiated, unwarranted, with no grounds whatsoever. Just lies.

The website does not offer any contact information or show any identification as to the poster's identity. I tried to find their IP address but they have somehow blocked this information. I realize our company is in Canada but perhaps your lawyers have an associate they could suggest? I would greatly appreciate your help in this matter.

Best Regards .... "

***

Dear Ms. Scheff,

"I am in desperate need of help. I am a TV star from [redacted], and I and my child are being slandered, harassed, and stalked on the Internet. This woman has posted the most embarrassing rumors and vulgar profanities about both my daughter and I. She has an account on YouTube that has been closed three times for her profanities about me, and now she is posting comments on [redacted]. She says I've been arrested for drugs, I'm a whore, and the FBI busted me for running a sweatshop. I have lost so many nights sleep over this awful nightmare that won't stop. Please help me!!! ... "

***

Hi Sue,

"I've been doing some research on this subject, and found your website. Long story short, my husband and I live in a small town and he is the high school principal. Need I say more? We have endured years of abuse from several local websites; is there anything we can possibly do about it? My husband is a great man, neither of us perfect, but we are hard-working individuals. There are also political ties that help fuel these websites' energy. My goal is to do anything I can to hold website owners responsible. My husband believes that ignoring the attacks is all we can do. I hope you can say that we can do more. I am sick and tired of being dragged through the mud. It's hurtful, for not only me, but my family as well. I hope to hear from you. Best wishes in all you do .... "

***

Dear Ms. Scheff,

"My son alerted me that he was one of dozens of his peers who received a defamatory e-mail about me stating that I am a sexual molester, which I am not. Neither do I have an arrest or criminal record for anything. My son defended my honor verbally since he knows his dad is not a criminal.

Many of the boys' parents were alerted by the recipients about the false statements and the rumor mill went out of control. This e-mail led to my dismissal as a teacher, a long-term career ended.

My family attorney stated that this was defamation per se since she knows I am not guilty. She is not a defamation attorney however. I am preparing to sell my home to help pay living expenses. This has been very difficult on us.

I know that you do not provide legal advice. But, I know you have been successful in fighting vicious harmful language on the Net. Can you provide any guidance for my sons and me? Thank you for reading my note .... "

***

Dear Sue,

"I am being accused of some things that I have not done. Some cyber bullies have made up all kinds of lies about me and the website owner won't take them off so the mean and false accusations about me just keep getting worse.

This is all affecting me greatly. I am now in a full blown depression, I can't sleep at night, I am losing time at work because of falling asleep, and I am a nervous wreck. How on earth do I clear my good name? I have tried to ignore it all, and that didn't work. I tried to post one blog, stating that I have not done any of these things, and that made them angrier! I can't win it seems, no matter what I do ....

Can you please help? I honestly don't know how much more of this I can take. Thank you SO much .... "

***

Dear Sue Scheff,

"My name is [redacted]. Google me. You'll see why I'm writing. The first link that you see is the work of someone who has been aggressively harassing my husband and I for several months now, since our decision to remove her from our lives. She didn't take it well. The police can't help, because she is not contacting us directly. I just wonder if there will ever be an end, and how can we ever repair our names?

My husband teaches [redacted] on the side to supplement our income and I made his business cards today with no name on them, scared that someone would Google him. We are both so afraid to tell people our names even as we're trying to grow a new business to keep our heads above water. The website with the inflammatory postings will not remove them. What can we do? I am at a loss .... "

***

Dear Sue,

"My husband is the General Manager of a [redacted]. He has been there about 25 yrs. There is a group of people that are trying to get him fired. They write outrageous lies about my husband on their website, but don't sign their real names. This is very complicated, but it is destroying our family. My husband is so stressed that I worry about him having a heart attack or stroke (myself also). Our grandchild lives with us and it has also upset him. He is a cancer survivor and has been through so much, and now this!

These problems are causing us unbelievable stress and depression. My husband is the hardest working, most honest and dedicated person you could ever meet. He doesn't deserve this. I saw you on The Rachael Ray Show and wonder if you have any suggestions. We have talked to attorneys and they just say if you are a public figure, people can say anything they want about you. Thank you for any advice you can provide."


And just who are all of these people? They are you and me. A teacher. A principal. A general manager. A nurse. A small business owner. A stepmom. A secretary. A TV personality with a child under attack.

And then, there's another individual who generously agreed to share his story when I asked him to write a little about it. He perfectly captures the insanity and injustice that provides the framework which supports anyone's ability to launch an attack and ruin a life ... just because they can:

"I am a landscape architect and was consulting on a project. I am not a contractor and do not hire people, but the electrician that I suggested for this customer to interview for the outdoor lighting did a less than acceptable job. The customer would not let him repair his work and in the end blamed me somehow. She loved everything I professionally suggested but decided to go after me personally instead for someone else's work. No one can even speculate any logical reason for her overall abnormal behavior but she became a living nightmare for me.

She somehow found a website that would allow her to cause great harm for someone else's life. She started unloading on me for everything that seemed unhappy and wrong in her own life. She started writing terrible and slanderous and defamatory remarks about my health, my relationships, my wife, and my motives as a person in business. She freely admitted that she wanted to desperately hurt me personally and physically.

After suffering defamation and slander through a simple click on a computer, my life was stolen from me. I have suffered loss in my profession, my health, my right to freely earn a living, my self-esteem, my privacy, personal relationships, community standing, and my overall freedom. This woman (and the enemies she recruited against me) have caused great calculated fears and abuse. With the use of the Internet they became judge, jury, and executioner ... with no apparent way to appeal.

It feels like someone just gave them a loaded gun. No one can comprehend the devastation this has caused. You are left hopeless with nowhere to turn. How do you explain this public humiliation to your grandchildren, friends, and family? You become a prisoner in your own skin not knowing who has seen this slander and who has not. How do you stand in your local grocery line, post office, or even Starbucks? The fear of all of the above just never stops and they just keep writing ... and no one stops them! Where is justice?"


Where is justice? A very good question.

I could fill a book, probably two, with more letters like this. Do I get some "out there" correspondence that suggests the sender is either unstable or is likely fabricating a story? Sure I do -- but not often. The vast majority of e-mail and phone calls I receive on my business line are filled with honest pleas and raw emotion. These are flesh-and-blood people whose pain, despair, and sense of isolation are very real to me. I have felt what they feel. I still do. These aren't just distressed voices on the other end of a phone line calling a stranger they found on the Internet, or meaningless words transmitted from one e-mail address to the other because the writer has nothing better to do.

These are my brothers and sisters, from small towns to epicenters that are bound together in a net of injustice, so desperate for some contact outside of their isolation that they have reached out to me because they have nowhere else to go. They are trapped without warning in a very frightening place where they don't belong: A leper colony: Population One.

Monkeys don't fly. As much as I would love to believe it, tell that to the Scarecrow fighting with straw arms and getting plucked apart by an army of swooping, screeching animals with half-human characteristics, at the command of a morally impaired and maniacally brilliant source.

Tell that to Megan Meier -- only you can't because she's dead. Maybe you remember her from all the news coverage her suicide received once it came out that this emotionally fragile young teenager hung herself after the mother of a friend she had a falling out with decided to set up a MySpace account and pose as 'Josh Evans" -- a fictional sixteen-year-old who wooed Megan then dumped her in the most malicious of ways.

Fortunately, very fortunately, not all teens cruelly baited on the Internet end up as tragically as Megan. I met one such survivor of teenage cyberbullying on The Rachael Ray Show, and if I could pick a single character from Oz who best embodies this impressive young woman, it would easily be Dorothy. She's the youngest of all the characters but wise beyond her years. Life's disappointments, hardships, and wonders have molded her into the strong, unforgettable character that she is. So, too, with Krysten Moore, 2007 Miss Teen New Jersey International and a national spokesperson for teen bullying and cyberbullying prevention with Love Our Children USA (www.loveourchildrenusa.org).

Krysten is an honor student, now in college, who has accumulated over 7,000 hours of community service, including hospital volunteer work, the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon, a children's camp for cancer, Habitat for Humanity, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and is the founder of Students Helping Instill New Esteem (SHINE). Beautiful inside and out, Krysten took second place in the national Glamour Shots Model Search contest, and was a special presenter at the Third Annual New York State Cyber Security Awareness Conference. Despite her hectic schedule, when I contacted Krysten and asked if she might like to contribute some of her thoughts to this book, she graciously sent me the following e-mail in response:

From: Krysten Moore

Sent: March 04

To: Sue Scheff

Dear Sue:

Below is a short version of my story. Cyberbullying has become such a widespread terror and needs to be stopped before it gets worse. As you know the youth of today is especially vulnerable due to the marvels of modern technology. I wish you all the best in your quest to educate others about this societal problem that is no respecter of age, color, gender, or religious creed. Best of luck and take care.

-- Krysten Moore

***

My story began seven years ago when I was in 6th grade. I stood approximately 5'2" and weighed in at 140 lbs, making me a prime subject for my classmates' entertainment. Through my middle school experience I was bullied via the Internet as well as traditional bullying. The cafeteria became a battlefield as horrific remarks like "Krysten wants MOORE food" and "Move it whale" were shot my way; and lockers soon became landing pads as I was shoved in the hall.

But in case school bullying wasn't enough to terrify me, my middle school bullies took it to the next level and became inescapable when they moved beyond the school grounds to the privacy of my own home. The attacks that once had subsided with the ringing of the final bell at 3:00 PM suddenly turned into people posing online as a boy who liked me, only to make fun of our conversation the next day in school. Websites were created posting false and crude remarks about me, slowly diminishing my confidence. I felt as if everyone was against me and that I had nowhere to turn. There was never a night where tears didn't fall from my eyes or that I wouldn't sit in my mother's lap feeling helpless. I knew I had done nothing to deserve the way I was being treated and that something needed to be done.

After many long talks with my parents, I came to realize that the bullies did not define who I was, they defined who they were. I decided that I was going to overcome this ordeal and not let a bully weaken me. I knew it would not be a simple task and that it would take a while. I started my "quest for self worth" by the very same device that had degraded me: The Internet. I researched and read articles from many different sources, most of them saying very similar things. "Don't get upset in front of them," "Stand up to a bully," "It's not my fault," "No one deserves to be bullied," etc.

I can't say that there was an "Ah-Ha Moment" that changed my life, but over the following two years, my confidence grew and my body shrank. Perhaps it was maturity, perhaps it was coincidence, but definitely it was knowledge. Arming myself with the information and suggestions I found on how to handle a bully, robbed them of the power they mistakenly thought they had and placed it in my hands.

Also through the Internet I found Love Our Children USA, the national nonprofit leader in breaking the cycle of violence against children. Teaming with them as a National Spokesperson, I began my crusade about childhood bullying. I have spoken to thousands of elementary and middle school children in the tri-state area, encouraging them to place the same importance on being respectful as they do on being great athletes.

Bullying has been around for a really long time, but that doesn't mean it has to exist forever. Whether it's happening to me or you, WE have the power to stop it ... one positive word at a time.


Krysten speaks eloquently on behalf of the growing epidemic of tortured teens that get bashed because they don't talk right, don't look right, don't hang out with the popular crowd, or don't wear the right name-brand clothes. Anyone of these differences makes a good kid easy pickings for those who aren't so good themselves.

When I was Krysten's age, bullying usually took place in clear sight on a playground, or in the form of being publicly ostracized. Say you wanted to eat with someone at lunch, and if you dared to take the one seat available with the "in crowd," then they either ignored you, told you to move it, or made the biggest statement of all by getting up in unison and leaving you there, alone, isolated, a loner who didn't even have enough loser friends to sit with instead.

Clearly, the mean kids are still out there, and some of them are old enough to be grandparents, if not older. As for the cafeteria, easy targets get pelted with whatever can be hurled from a virtual food tray, with no authority figure in sight to demand order and send the deliberately cruel and guilty to detention.

What's sad to me is that some adults who were no doubt mistreated in their youth have the ability to show such a lack of compassion to their fellow travelers in life as they fling poisonous arrows with the stroke of a key, taking cover behind a computer screen as they make a mockery of our precious free-speech rights and wear the camouflage of anonymity.

Come out, come out, wherever you are! But no, that's not how the Internet works. At least not with the laws that are presently in place. That is why something must be done to significantly change our virtual-reality playground rules, so the bullies are no longer allowed to call the shots and justice for their victims finally prevails.

It's the End of the World as We Know It

Teach the Children


I hear these stories every day, day in and day out. They are heart wrenching. I often wonder where we, as a society, have gone wrong. While many attacks don't involve our youth, many do.

I was watching a public television program on polar bears. In the spring of each year, as the days become longer, as the streams rage from melting snow packs, and as the first sprigs that by mid-summer will turn desolate ground into meadows teaming with wildlife shoot up, mama bear and her cubs leave the den to venture out into the wilderness. This is a time for teaching and learning. As mother goes about her routine of hunting seals and ground squirrels, her two youngsters watch intently at first, and then begin copying her. No, they aren't going to become hunters and gatherers overnight, but the lessons they learn will soon enough serve them well, allow them to find nourishment, grow up, and contribute to nature's evolution.

Mother bear knows how to avoid the cliffs and maintain a vigilant eye for the threat of wolves. Her sense of smell leads her to sustenance. Her instincts protect her cubs from predatory brothers and sisters who don't mind feasting on their blood relatives and neighborly bear friends.

It likely sounds very familiar to parents of today. Whether by mom or dad or both, we were taught from our infancy by example. And over time we acquired the knowledge to navigate a slippery slope, the instinct to maintain a safe distance from predators, and the motivation and purpose to fend for ourselves. We learned from our parents and followed their examples, albeit begrudgingly. Our parents had learned from their parents. It was all quite habit-forming, actually. Second nature.

But can we, as parents, do the same? Can we really teach our children? The forces at work today shaping their cognitive functions are foreign to us. If they aren't in the living room playing a war game with someone from a country legitimately at war, they are getting married at age fourteen in a virtual world. In between posting their latest photo on Facebook and MySpace, they are uploading their latest cell phone video to YouTube, after which they are tweeting away and playing some video game while responding to text messages. Needless to say, the days of playing capture the flag in the yard, adding extra candy hearts to that very special Valentine's Day card, paging through the family photo album, and chatting away on the only phone in the house are long gone. While the lessons we yearn to teach our children remain the same, the communications platform and information distribution system is passing us by. Our children, and the children of our children, will be the moral compass of the online world. And that is a big part of the problem.

Here's a simple proposal. Parents, if you cannot use and understand the technology your kids are using, then don't allow them to use it. Period.

Top Ten Steps You Can Take Today to Protect Yourself Online

Top SEO Tactics


Ready to protect yourself! Okay, let's get started.

You've seen the late-night infomercials promising real estate riches. I'm going to tell you how to gerrymander your way to real estate dominance ... but with the virtual gerrymandering of online real estate positions. Google is the leading search engine. But what makes it so? Popularity is the main reason, coupled with trust by the users in Google's judgment. Given Google's prominent mindshare and dominant market share, this won't be changing anytime soon. Before exploring how you can use Google to protect yourself against online attacks, it is worthwhile to understand what Google really does.

Basically, the search engine ranks websites on its opinion of the "authority" of web pages by determining the popularity of a site and the relevance to a particular search. Google identifies relevance by the location and repetition of a term in relation to a web page. When someone searches for "Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon," the site that has the term as its domain name, page title, meta description, HTML headers (use your favorite search engine to learn all about these), and just the right number of strategically placed repetitive uses of the phrase on its page, may be seen as most relevant. The popularity of a site is defined in part by the number of visitors and page visits and time on the site per visitor, but the primary factor is the number of links from other "authoritative" websites to it. Links to a site are seen as a vote for the site by the online public. Mix popularity in with relevance and you end up with the Google "authority?' It's much more complex than this and is based upon mathematical equations and algorithms that are constantly being massaged, but you get the idea.

The problem is that "authority" in the eyes of Google is not what most people think. Authority has nothing to do with expertise. It is the product of popularity and relevance. If enough people decide that 1 + 1 = 3, in Google's eyes it does. Links to a page are a measure not of the popularity of a site as an expert resource, but of the popularity for linking to it. Think of it this way ... if 1,000 websites were ridiculing a website or online business and linking to it, it is easy to conclude that the site is a popular site to link to, but not a popular site for its authoritative and expert content. In fact, just the opposite is true. The site's content is being ridiculed, not praised. Google doesn't know the difference. So when you search, you are not getting a result determined to really be the most authoritative expert opinion on a matter. The veteran movie critic's review of the Oscar winner has virtually no advantage in Google's "authority" approach over the thoughts of an imaginative sixteen-year-old who offers a seemingly credible review because he was told by his friend that his dad went to the movie and didn't like it.

It doesn't take long to appreciate that Google's challengers for dominance in the online search world will be those who can actually return results based upon true expertise. Of course, this is going to be an interesting battle because the Internet is driven, in great part today, by those pushing the "democratization" of society. In their minds, citizen journalists deserve as much expert recognition as real journalists, law school students as much expertise as judges and prominent jurists, and physical therapists as much recognition and respect as brain surgeons. And Google's approach fits in perfectly with this belief since "authority" is derived, not from a measure of true expertise, but by mathematical analyses perverted by the ability to manipulate website characteristics and buttressed by perceived democracy in action: a popularity vote of netizens through mathematical link calculations. The founders of Google were mathematicians, not social scientists. I expect someone will come along soon and figure out how to reliably and objectively evaluate the seemingly subjective factor of expertise, and then the online world will be in for a change, despite the "democratization movement."

Now on to the show! Note the emphasis I have placed on the mathematical calculations and the ability of some to manipulate results? That is what is happening when a Google Bomb goes off, the Streisand Effect is triggered, or someone takes aim at you. The entire focus is on getting negative and derogatory and often defamatory information presented as expert guidance when you are searched on the web. In other words, the Google system can be gamed. And gamed it is. Not only by the miscreants and scofflaws of the world, but by everyone from the Fortune 500 to the stay-at-home mom using search engine optimization and reputation -management strategies, tactics, and procedures. You, too, can manipulate Google results in building up your defenses and responding to online attacks aimed at your reputation and good name.

Over the years Dozier Internet Law has represented search engine optimizers, reputation-management providers, and web developers practicing SEO. We've analyzed all kinds of situations dealing with illegal SEO activities from trademark infringement to copyright infringement, from defamation to privacy violations, and from hacking to outright theft. We constantly review, analyze, evaluate, and recommend courses of action involving SEO issues from both sides of a problem. We even have an in-house "SEO and reputation- management" section of our law firm. But I don't have the room to write, and you understandably don't have the patience to read, an SEO version of War and Peace.

So I have gone through and identified some of the most important, easiest, and cost -effective reputation-management steps available. Some of my advice is precautionary in nature, but most of what follows are actions you can take today to start controlling your online reputation. Learn the latest and greatest information about each of these tactics by using Google to search. Remember that you will be presented with the most popular and gerrymandered results, not necessarily thoughts from the top experts.

1. Buy Domain Names:

The overriding concept in acquiring domain names is to consider what can be used against you. We've already identified that domain names containing your name will tell Google that the website is relevant to a search. As a mom or dad interested in protecting your family, buy the .com of all the family names you think others will use in their searches. Hyphens in between the words are seen as spaces to Google, so include the hyphenated versions of the names. Your business will want to acquire its common business name, trademark names, product or service names, and the names of key personnel and executives.

Identify key terms that others would use when searching for you, your family, your business, your products, and your executives. Don't just limit the list to your names. Consider what people would type into Google to find you. For our law firm, our keywords would be our law firm name, website domain name, individual lawyers' names, and terms such as Internet lawyer, defamation lawyer, copyright lawyer, and trademark lawyer. A cool tool to use for this process is Ferret at http://ferret.centralnic.com. It not only gives you bulk information about the availability of different domain names with various extensions, such as .com, .net, and .org, but it tells you who else owns domain names you are searching. Check the owners out, if available, and make sure you don't already have a problem waiting to happen. How many you purchase is driven by your risk, but I suggest buying the .com, .net, and .org if you are located in the United States.

I also recommend you buy up common derogatory terms at the end of your primary .com domain names. Terms like "sucks" and "scam" are common terms used by those launching attack web sites against you. Given the many techniques available to use this type of a name in a variety of ways, I wouldn't spend much time on this unless you have a lot to lose. The names usually cost under ten dollars per year. Once you have identified the names you want to purchase, use a search engine to locate a domain name registrar, set up an account, and buy away. I strongly suggest you conduct your own online reputation review and due diligence and select carefully. Understand that some believe the domain name is the number one most powerful reference used by Google in presenting results. That's, of course, debatable, but keep in mind that the one you miss will all too often be the chink in your armor.

2. Build Websites

Some registrars offer free or very low cost websites. They are often easy to set up in a matter of minutes. There are many, many webhosts available that will charge less than ten dollars per month for a pretty nice site. Google gives websites away. Just make every effort to select a vendor who will give you every opportunity to use SEO on your own site. Make sure a Google sitemap is offered for your site or Google may not know you exist. You want to repeat the keyword (the name) you are protecting in the page title, meta tags, headers (particularly header one), and your content (at least three times on your page). Make sure you have the option to do this. Within an hour, you have a website that is optimized, albeit in a very basic sense, for the keyword you are protecting. You can do this again and again and really build up a lot of different websites, all being presented to those searching for you. And it won't be long before they pop up on Google and you start building an online presence that might just thwart some types of attacks and send the scofflaws off to pick on someone else who didn't read this book!

3. Start Blogging

Blogs will be indexed by Google and take up another valuable place on that front page of results. You can start blogging in minutes, for free, at WordPress. com or Blogger.com. Make sure you use the keyword you are protecting as the name of the blog, and while you cannot optimize a blog on one of these sites like you can a website, at least not without some pretty fancy coding, make sure you use the keyword in the blog title and in the title of every post you make. And you cannot only repeat the keyword in the body of your post, but insert anchored text links pointing back and forth between all of your properties as you build your online defenses. Remember what anchored text links do: they add authority to the page they are pointed to, as well as help your blog relevance, both of which are good for Google results. You now are using the very tactic from which this book takes its name. You are using anchored text links to build up authority so when you are searched on Google your website and blog and other properties will populate prominent positions. You are building a castle. Now let's add a moat.

4. Add a Website Within Your Website

Two sites equal two results on Google. But they both have to work their way up in Google's eyes independently. What if you could add a second website and have it feed off of the strength and authority of your first site? That's free leverage for you. And that's a subdomain. You see them all the time but you probably don't realize what you are looking at. Use your keyword in the name of the subdomain. It will look like http://dozierinternetlawpc.cybertriallawyer. com/. The italicized words (the subdomain) have been added to our law firm domain name (Cybertriallawyer.com) so that the search engines will identify the content in the subdomain as a separate website and return the section as a separate result when our law firm is searched. This subdomain is presently on our law firm's first page of Google results. Of course, make sure you put real content on these subdomains and avoid using duplicate content at all costs since that sets you up for potential penalties from Google. I recommend you do this, if you don't already have a website, using Sites.google.com, the free website portal from Google. The last I checked, they offered free and easy subdomain setup.

5. Go Social Networking

Register on MySpace.com and Facebook.com, but before doing so conduct a Google search about the sites for the term "SMO" (we are now dealing with "social media optimization"), and you will find a wealth of information telling you the latest and most successful techniques for optimizing profiles on these sites. Make sure you research the optimization techniques before signing up since there are some important SEO tactics you should use at registration that cannot be changed in retrospect. Complete the profile and see how it does. This does not require a great commitment of time or a willingness to engage in the social networks on an ongoing basis. But the more you participate the right way, the more SEO benefits will likely accrue. There are also side benefits to doing so ... you'll be better able to monitor your kids and once they find out you have accounts they'll stay in line. If they are willing to befriend you.

6. Post Pics to Flickr

Consider opening an account on Flickr.com and posting images. You'll find plenty of SMO and SEO guidance online for this site, but the great benefit is that each image is treated like a separate web page that can be optimized. This was reportedly set up like this so that individual images are searchable on Google, which makes sense. What a bonanza. But if you are a business understand that there have been rumblings about Flickr clamping down on business use that is clearly for SEO (okay ... SMO) purposes with little community interaction. My advice for businesses is to open an account, optimize the images, and then if they perform well in Google results, commit a couple minutes a week for interaction with the community.

7. Sign Up for Everything

Imagine my surprise a couple of years ago when I received an e-mail from our law firm at a Yahoo address. Or my dismay at learning that someone had already claimed our law firm name on a popular blog site. Don't allow this to happen to you. You lose the ability to SEO the exact name you want to protect, and you allow someone to launch a site attacking you or impersonating you. There is a great, free tool available that you should use at www.usernamecheck. com to see if anyone has claimed your name. It covers over sixty websites, including everything from social networks to all the major online email services. All of the sites listed have free memberships. Go register your keywords as accounts on all of them. Some accounts will expire due to inactivity, while others never will. Monitor this on a regular basis and you will have cut off a very popular attack vehicle. Remember the story about the Dalai Lama opening a Twitter.com account? Exactly.

8. Use Personal Branding Sites

Open accounts on LinkedIn.com, Naymz.com, LookupPage.com and Ziggs.com. And most importantly, register a Google profile, which is the recently launched Google personal branding site. You can bet that Google's site will index high in its own results. These sites generate excellent search-engine rankings and are substantive expressions of the real you, often coupled together with your friends' and associates' laudatory praises.

9. Avoid These At All Costs

Never post videos on Youtube.com if you are focused exclusively on personal reputation management. If you are using YouTube as a marketing tool or as a legitimate social networking platform, that's another story. But putting personal videos out there for SEO purposes is dangerous since it might encourage retribution in kind or incite the passion of your attackers once they see your face. And if you hear that Wikipedia is great for SEO purposes because the pages get indexed very high in Google search results, you would be right. But do you mind having a top three Wikipedia search result that has been edited by a bunch of wackos attacking you? I strongly recommend you never, ever consider pitching to open a Wikipedia page. The mantra you should always follow in working on reputation management is to control your content.

10. Investigate the Option of Hiring a Reputation-Management Company

Are you a busy professional short on time? Maybe a little computer challenged? Or feel it's a bit too much work? This option might be something to consider-and if you think the tips in this top ten list are great, you'll be surprised how much more can be done by high quality reputation managers.

There you have it. The blow-by-blow tale of how to turn a little work into riches! More details about outsourcing options are next.

Honey, It's the FBI

Selecting the Right Professional Help


The suggestions I offer on both reputation monitoring (the early warning system) and reputation management (online defenses) are pretty introductory in nature, almost free of cost to you, and not relatively time-consuming. They are also the highest initial paybacks on the investment of your resources. The industry known as reputation management offers extremely sophisticated assistance in a broad arena. These businesses will help you build incoming links to your web properties, which is one of the most important aspects of long-term and sustainable positive Google results. I haven't mentioned the role directories play in SEO or how to build up a stronger presence Google will recognize in social networking environments. I haven't told you about social bookmarking sites or the principles behind blogging for SEO. I could go on and on. That's beyond the scope of this book. But well within the expertise of many reputation-management companies. So, if you are considering getting even more serious about building and maintaining a bullet-proof online reputation (if there is such a thing), here is my guidance.

Sue used ReputationDefender with great success. As she noted, there are many, many excellent reputation-management firms. And if legal action is a consideration, there are some very savvy lawyers to pick from.

Reputation managers (I'll call them the pros) have a strong background in SEO. We already know how important it is to optimize your properties for the Google search engine, and many businesses do just that for sales and marketing. Many of the same principles apply. When you are considering hiring the pros, do your due diligence. Yes, check out their reputation. See if they have been able to get their website rated high for common search terms like "search engine optimization" and "reputation management:' If they can't do that, then maybe you should go on to someone else. But don't jump to conclusions. These are highly competitive terms, and this means that any position on the first page of search results is pretty good. First page is usually reserved for the best of the best in the search engine optimization field for obvious reasons.

One rule of thumb is that the higher the result for these search terms, the more expensive the pro. On the other hand, if there is little sign of the pro in the first five pages of results, you should be very careful. There are many, many pros really new to this arena, some who get great results in the short term using "black hat" (unethical) practices that could really hurt you in the long term and others who are high volume, reasonably priced, and will assign you to a lower quality resource within their business. In other words, find out who will be working your account, and understand the makeup of the team. If the pro is not willing to explain in detail what he will do for you, there is a chance it will be "black hat:' You can search "black hat SEO" and find out all about these practices that can land you in hot water and destroy your online presence. In other words, do really good due diligence.

About a year ago I received a notice that part of an article on our website had been copied. Imagine my surprise when the impressive website carrying the article was a "reputation-management company" owned by the guy I had just finished suing for fraud and extortion. He was a convicted child predator and real scoundrel running what amounted to a defamation extortion scam against a high-profile client. I called him, and he explained that my article on reputation management was so good he decided to use it in his new business! He took it down when I explained copyright law to him. I think our lawsuit included everything under the sun except copyright infringement, so I am sure he appreciated the free legal guidance. When it showed up again on his site two months later I just shook my head. Yes, it might look like I am endorsing the guy. I realize that. But you have to pick your fights. It's probably still up there today.

Don't have unrealistic expectations. There are several nefarious strategies to get rid of a harmful or negative site. If you are dogged by a forum in which you are falsely labeled a crook or a scam, and it is the second result when you are searched, it will take some real work and time to influence that off of the first page. It can be done by using what I call reverse "black hat" practices. This involves tactics such as replicating the content, getting the new replicated content in place and having the problem penalized ("sandboxed") by Google. Then you have control of the second position and you can start making some changes to your site, and program the changes in such a way that Google does not notice the difference. You could add all kinds of compliments and praise about yourself and bury the negative comments way down the page. This is pure "black hat" and should never be used. Other "black hat" tactics might include purchasing links to your site, or trading links, or hiding text on your pages, or using "doorway pages" that trick Google into thinking the site is one thing when it is another. Just stay away from these. And since these are tactics that are sometimes relied upon by the less than ethical pros, make sure you understand what you are buying. Don't just pay each month for the "magic wand" of the pro. Now I'm not suggesting you ask what Jesus would do, but ask yourself what the public would think. Want to really start an online attack? Play dirty.

There are still CEOs in business who will tell the marketing people to "get rid of this bad search result." That is often not possible. Ethical pros need time to work, and usually six months will be your minimum contractual commitment in retaining a high-quality reputation manager. There is simply no legal way to get rid of a result unless the owner of the site takes it down or a nice webhost decides the site is violating its contract. This will be a very rare occurrence for a number of reasons. Sure, you can hire a virtual hit man to try and hack into the site and stick an ice pick in its forehead or take a baseball bat to its knees. If you don't mind opening your door one day to the FBI. That's neither a pleasant nor inexpensive experience.

Keep it clean. Be careful about who you associate with in this field. And by all means, think long term. There are techniques that will seemingly solve your problems overnight. They are "black hat." There are techniques that can give you quick and impressive results in a short period of time, but they only last a short time. And there are those who offer nothing but false hope. The best thing in the world can be a highly effective reputation manager. And the worst thing in the world can be a highly effective reputation manager. Think process. Not results.

There is some debate as to which comes first, the lawyer or the reputation- management firm. It really depends. But if the time comes for you to consult with a lawyer, here is one piece of invaluable guidance. Check the lawyer out on Google. Keep in mind that a litigation or trial lawyer is constantly in an adversarial role ... and the lawyer's adversary in a case will often attack the lawyer as a first line of defense. Expect that any experienced trial lawyer handling online defamation cases will, as Sue mentioned about ReputationDefender, undergo online attacks. If there are not any, then you need to ask how aggressive, effective, or experienced the attorney really is. But the main thing you are looking for when you Google the law firm or attorney is its online defenses.

Have they undertaken the basic strategies and tactics I have described above? If not, then the law firm is susceptible to an attack that could, and unfortunately often does, influence the advice and guidance you are receiving. I have seen this happen too many times to count. Your local lawyer writing a "cease and desist" letter is an invitation for disaster. An intellectual property legal expert without defensive positions established on Google is an easy target also. Be careful. And be patient and deliberative in your decisions.

Finally, no matter what options you are considering, gain a full perspective on your options. Don't be afraid even after you have engaged a professional to get a second opinion. If there is any hesitancy to this suggestion by your consultant or lawyer, then a red flag is waving. I am reminded of Dr. Vinny Boombotz, who told Rodney Dangerfield he was going to die. Rodney said he wanted a second opinion. The doctor replied ... No problem, you're ugly too. That is not the kind of second opinion I am talking about. Sue not only sought expert advice, but decided to carry her efforts a step farther. All the way to the U.S. Congress.
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Re: Google Bomb: The Untold Story of the $11.3M Verdict That

Postby admin » Thu Jun 04, 2015 7:50 pm

MAPQUESTING THE FUTURE

The Good. The Bad. The Ugly. We've covered them all but I saved a special spot for a beautiful, supportive, and compassionate soul with the kind of clout that can get things done. Thanks to attorney Gloria Pomerantz, doors were opened to give me access to a prominent Florida senator. On October 22, 2007, I had my first meeting with Senator Skip Campbell.

I was surprised to discover that Senator Campbell had a real interest in my story. He was familiar with the lack of legislation concerning the Internet and had been approached by various constituents and personal friends who had experienced Internet vendettas with devastating effects to their businesses and personal reputations.

The fact that he was truly interested and sincerely wanted to help was my first ray of hope that I could somehow contribute to this new era of cyberspace law, and thus intervene, even in some small way, on behalf of countless victims who have been smeared, intimidated, and ultimately terrorized into submission.

A few weeks later, I was contacted again by Senator Campbell. He invited me back for a second meeting. Honestly, when I got that call I felt as if I was levitating ten feet off the ground. Within thirty minutes of our meeting Senator Campbell catapulted my hopes straight to the sky. He thought this campaign needed to be taken to Washington, D.C. He picked up the phone right then, right there, and caIled the office of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz -- and by the end of the day, her office was calling me!

On March 3, 2008, a group meeting took place between Senator Campbell, Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, my attorney David PoIlack, Gloria Pomerantz, and me. We spent an hour discussing the issues of cyberbullying and Internet defamation and at the end of the meeting ... well, my soaring hopes hit the hard ground of reality.

While the good congresswoman was sympathetic, she likened the situation to President John F. Kennedy's goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the t 960s, something he expressed in a speech before a joint session of Congress in May of 1961. The Apollo 11 mission made JFK's dream a reality in July of 1969. It took eight years to reach this lofty goal that seemed unimaginable at the time of its inception.

Was Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz implying that the wheels of progress can move slowly, no matter how worthy the quest for advancement and change? Or that a seemingly impossible dream can indeed be accomplished at the speed of light? Whatever her intended meaning, she laid it out straight about the situation as it presently stands: until the Communications Decency Act is updated, there is very little that can be done.

She then invited me to submit some resolutions for potential legislative consideration. Unfortunately, I don't have the legal expertise or political intelligence to accept the invitation, the challenge.

But you know what? I'll just bet that John W. Dozier Jr., Esq., does.

Revolutionary Change

A Call to Action


My goal in this book has been to try and take very complex business, technical, societal, and legal issues and make them understandable. I've learned from the experience, and I hope each of you has too. We've gone through a lot in a short time. I've discussed some solutions to at least part of the problem. And more are upcoming in my final thoughts. I have never been one to dwell on the past or allow the present to define the future, and I hope that you will feel the same way.

Change rarely comes overnight. Changes to big problems don't arise in a vacuum. Great change often evolves slowly over time, a bit here and a bit there, so imperceptible that it becomes unrecognizable in nature. But change it is.

For each of you, I offer this advice: Change at an evolutionary pace will not suffice. Change at a revolutionary pace is the only option. And that revolution starts with each of you. When you teach your kids, please teach them well. I ask you to oppose at every opportunity the decline of civility in society. Have the courage to stand up for what feels right in your heart. But do not ever, ever suffer online scofflaws lightly.

Business Solutions

It's my view that new or amended laws are not the best way of achieving the change that our society needs. But it may be the only way. New legal views and interpretations from judges should be the final frontier to explore. But it may be the only option available. In the rapidly evolving world of the Internet, laws are written that have unintended and unforeseeable consequences. Decisions are made by judges who graduated from law school a decade before the personal computer was invented and commercialized. Our justice system and legislative process are a lot like making sausages. If you knew what ugliness went into the process, you'd shun them forever. But they both are still the best the world has to offer.

So, I offer first my view of how new ideas and concepts and businesses can change the web. And how each of you, viewed together as a society, can make a difference. I'm a veteran of e-commerce businesses. Back in February of 1994 I saw the future and marveled at the possibilities. But no matter how great the technologies might be, the popularity of the web is decided by vote of its citizenry. MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter owe their success to the viral effect of a group hug.

Democratization and Google

What underlying philosophies ruling the web must change? The first is the idea that democratization of everything is good. It is the ultimate equalizer. And in the arena of reputations, it strips the power which society has awarded to leaders and shifts it to the Marxian proletariat. This underlying philosophy is found in the algorithms of Google's search engine. Let the community decide, the mantra insists. Reputations are what the community says they are, the democratization movement believes. But this replaces pure truth with a form of artificiality that suggests there is no truth at all. Truth is a popularity contest. Truth is seen as defined by a homecoming queen contest or a Survivor episode. Truth, and through it reputation, is no longer defined by merit.

I trust you are now familiar with Google Bombs. They are the ultimate indicator, in my view, of the damaging impact of a bias toward an egalitarian society. Google defines authority, and therefore presents results under the guise of "authoritative and relevant" resources, based upon popularity. The thirteen-year- old's view could, if the democratization movement elected to do so, be in front of Albert Einstein in Google results as the most authoritative and relevant resource for learning about the principles of relativity. As Google has become the dominant search engine, it has become the reputation engine. But what Google considers worthy of respect and adoration and credibility is far from what most of society thinks. Or what most of society would really turn to in determining someone's reputation. Reputation has become a popular vote of a contrived population, controlled by the misinformed who have the technical prowess to manipulate Google's results and thereby manipulate public opinion. Google reputations are often artificial, fraudulent, contrived, manipulated, and misleading. And the impact continues to grow as netizens no longer seek out a definitive, objective, fair source of expertise and credibility. They just use Google.

But expertise will one day take control of the web and displace the existing Google search philosophies. I don't know if Google will be the one to come up with this change. It seems difficult to reconcile the legitimatization of a bias toward true and honest expertise with the "democratization" movement. But I am equally sure that Google today, as I type this, has a team working on this issue: individuals hand -selected for their "non -democratization" beliefs. We see small businesses coming along that are attempting to create "online merit badges" and "expert passports." The challenge is to establish objective criteria and deemphasize pure popularity as the definition of expertise. The deference and respect shown true experts will then equate into high search results. It will be interesting to see if Google, when this shift occurs, will be leading the pack or just another technology company unable to make the change to a new world order. I can see the day when Google will be the National Enquirer of the online world. And ironically, it will be by a vote of each of you. The online society will have voted to leave for greener pastures, tired of the trash Google presents as authoritative.

Self-Policing

Webhosts and payment processors are moving toward "self-policing," the enforcement of performance expectations and rules of conduct laid out in their contracts. This is a very positive development for dealing with online attacks. These businesses are the heroes of the web. They are driving the web toward decency, pulling out miscreants and scofflaws, and throwing them by the wayside. Self-policing must be protected and expanded. General standards and codes of conduct within industries should be encouraged to evolve, although this type of self-policing lags behind the efforts of independent businesses.

These businesses are themselves under attack for trying to self-police and self-regulate by the same groups protecting the scofflaws and thieves of the web. Free-speech fanatics attack the webhosts online whenever a "sucks site" is pulled off the web as a violation of contract. Efforts are underway, for instance, to create a "blacklist" of web hosts that are seen as unfriendly to free speech. On another attack front, a prominent free-speech expansionist and law professor has offered webhosts and other sites preferred language to place into their contracts with customers, which would surreptitiously gut their ability to self-police and self-regulate. The business interests practicing self-regulation are motivated in part by their belief that if they don't clean up their own house a legislative mandate to regulate their industry might do it for them, which would be extremely burdensome. Can the web be trusted to self-police and solve this problem without judicial and legislative intervention? No. And that leaves us with solving this problem through laws.

The E-Bill of Rights

We are facing a unique challenge. Not only are our liberties at stake, but the integrity of the very system we turn to for justice is at serious risk. So the need to deal with online attacks on the good names and reputations of our society's members is pressing. Judges and legislators need to start thinking in terms of "pre-Google" and "post-Google," not "pre-Internet" and "post-Internet." The rise of Google was the defining catalyst for the explosion of reputation attacks. If the Internet is a blasting cap, Google is a nuclear bomb.

With that in mind, let's layout my proposed "Online E-Bill of Rights?'

1. No one shall be required to travel great distance at great expense to seek justice.

In order to bring a lawsuit today against an attacker, you most often have to go to the backyard of the attacker. So if someone is launching one defamatory attack after another from Alaska or Hawaii, and your business is targeted and getting hurt in rural Georgia, the laws, as they exist, require that you travel to the perpetrator's home to file suit and have a jury of the attacker's peers judge your case. This is known as the "minimum contacts" rule. Legislatures need to expand state "long-arm statutes" and courts need to recognize we are now in a "post-Google" era and change the law. You should be able to sue someone in your home state, no matter their home state, if they have targeted you and at the time knew, or should have known, of your geographic location.

2. All shall have the right to seek civil redress from cyberstalkers.

You'll recall my comments about cyberstalking. Congress needs to pass a federal cyberstalking law establishing a civil cause of action as well as criminal liability. States need to change their cyberstalking laws to include a civil version that will create serious economic consequences to those using the web as an assassin's tool. These laws need to have teeth, with statutory damages (like the cybersquatting and copyright laws) and easy thresholds for injunctive relief. And the required element of an imminent fear of bodily harm must be removed.

3. The right to participate without fear in the system of justice shall be preserved.

When a lawsuit is filed against a scofflaw, the mobs often attack the plaintiff. But that is not enough. So they turn their attacks to the lawyers of the plaintiff. But that is not enough. So the mobs begin attacking the judge, as we have seen. But that is not enough. We have redacted the name of the chairperson of Sue's jury, because next they will come after the jurors. That is why our entire system of justice is so at risk. The rule of law is under attack. Those attacks are against those who dare participate in our administration of justice. And when the mobs decide that jurors ... and their jobs ... and their spouses ... and their children ... are fair game, are sitting ducks worthy of attention, we are in big trouble. New laws need to be passed to protect the participants in our justice system. Courts need to be more accommodating to allowing plaintiffs to remain anonymous, for court files to be sealed, and for information to be protected from public dissemination. Jury lists and juror names must be protected, and jury-tampering laws must be expanded in definition and scope.

4. The fundamental right to privacy shall be assured.

I have discussed the erosion of the concepts of privacy rights over the past fifty years. State legislators, Congress, and the courts must change the course by recognizing that the invasion of privacy has taken on a new dimension in the "post-Google" era.

5. Anonymity of speakers shall not preclude meaningful access to the courts to seek redress.

Anonymous speech is one of the single biggest problems causing mobospheric attacks. And yet recent court decisions make it more expensive and arduous to sue those who resort to cowardly anonymity to hide their misdeeds. The courts must begin to view anonymous speech as a privilege, not a right.

6. No individual or company shall have its name misappropriated for any financial gain.

There are two problems here. Trademark infringement, the act by which someone uses a business or product or service name to make money in competition with the real owner of the name, usually requires that consumers be confused. If a consumer is not confused, or likely to be confused, there is no trademark infringement. In addition, it is very difficult to get trademark protection for your own name. Scofflaws regularly attack both businesses and individuals and use the attacks to draw traffic to a site, which increases the value of the domain name for resale in the marketplace. They will often add paid links and use other revenue-generating mechanisms. State legislators and Congress need to pass laws protecting names far beyond the existing body of trademark law. Congress and the courts should also begin to recognize an expanded notion of trademark infringement based upon the mere use of a name.

7. Equal legal liability shall attach to every party participating in a mobosphere attack.

It's amazing how we have laws establishing that everyone involved in a criminal enterprise is on the hook for everything done. There are accessories-before- the-fact laws, and accessories-after-the-fact laws, and conspiracy laws. These concepts need to be embraced fully by the civil courts and those participating in mob attacks must be responsible for the damage caused. Otherwise, the mob is motivated to attack even more aggressively because of the difficulty of proving which damages are attributable to a particular element of the attack.

8. The time in which an attack victim must seek redress shall not be limited.

The statute of limitations for defamation is often one year. Yet in the online world, defamation attacks may lay dormant for many years, either through happenstance or by design. Statutes of limitation for online defamation must be repealed by state legislatures. Attackers, once a year has passed from publication, can use SEO tactics to make the defamatory statements visible or can simply remove the "robots. text" code we discussed earlier from the site to make it visible for the first time to search engines. These steps raise the attack to prominence with virtual impunity and immunity.

9. No law shall discourage attack victims from exercising their right of access to the courts.

Several states have passed "Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation" (SLAPP) laws, which are one of the biggest threats to the protection of your name. Simply stated, the victim of an attack (when he or she is the plaintiff -- i.e., the person who initiates the suit) could be ordered to pay the defendant's legal fees. These laws create an unbearable burden and risk on many victims of online defamation and attacks, and these laws create serious and strong protections for the attacker while the victim is left unavoidably exposed online. If your state has a SLAPP statute, start a movement today to get it repealed by your state legislature.

10. Publisher liability for distributing false and defamatory attacks shall not be abridged.

Of course, the abridgement is already happening. A bit of wishful thinking, perhaps. And I agree that some service providers should not be liable for third-party comments. Given the state of things, my suggestions for amending the Communications Decency Act (a misnomer of monumental proportions) follow:

a. Require those availing themselves of immunity to be bound by an arbitration process much like is done in domain name disputes today.

b. Require retention of complete log files.

c. Establish a "takedown process" whereby a sworn affidavit could be sent to a website disputing the accuracy of information, the poster would be given an opportunity to respond, and rules would govern how to proceed, much like is done today in copyright infringement disputes.

d. Strip immunity from websites publishing anonymous or pseudonymous comments.

e. Establish two classes of service provider immunity; one that applies to ISPs and pure service providers with no ability to alter or edit content, and another class for those who can control content.


These steps will go a long way toward solving the problem.
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Re: Google Bomb: The Untold Story of the $11.3M Verdict That

Postby admin » Thu Jun 04, 2015 7:50 pm

FINAL THOUGHTS

For myself, I move on from here. I'm an advocate so I move on to every judge who will lend his ear as to why we need to look at a problem in a different way. I move on to the jurors who will one day send messages en masse that will be heard all across our country and around the world. I move on to knocking on the doors of state legislators and asking for better laws. I move on to Congress's chambers and lobbies to push for real laws with real teeth. My message will be clear and strong: We need revolutionary change now. I invite you to join hands to make change happen.

This won't be easy, but since when is anything worth fighting for easy? We'll need your help. Organize locally in your homes and churches and town halls. I have offered my hand of support and guidance. Take my hand. Take my lead. Go to your elected representatives as a group and demand action. Demand laws be passed in your state that will expand "long-arm" personal jurisdiction, create a civil action for cyberstalking, and slap down SLAPP laws. Heck, hand your elected representatives this book and just tell them what you want! Demand that your congressperson not come back home from Washington without a new version of the Communications Decency Act that will assure online decency.

You may have felt helpless as you read our words. How can I protect my children? How can I protect myself, my business, my loved ones? How will I be seen in 100 years in the eyes of my grandchildren? What will my legacy be? What will they say about me and my loved ones when we can no longer defend ourselves? The answer rests in the outstretched fingers of a baby, in the open arms of a toddler, in the hugging embrace of your spouse, in the handshake of your graduate, in the high-five of your buddies, and the interlocking fingers of hands lovingly held. It all starts with an open hand. Some will be extended in support and others surely in need. But our hands will come together as one. Yes, change is coming. With your help.

From: Sue@GoogleBombBook.com

To: You

Date: Today

Subject: Do You Know What Google Is Saying About You?

Victims of Internet defamation reside in a lonely place in our society. My sincere hope is that this book will help you take cover from any threat of a Google Bomb launched your way. I encourage you to protect your online image and don't wait until you are offered a spot in my "elite club." Despite the fact that we don't have happy hour here, no tropical mai tais with cute little paper umbrellas in a tall frosty glass, new recruits keep lining up for passage to our island getaway.

Our established membership roster makes it Caribbean clear that Internet defamation is an equal opportunity offender. It does not discriminate on the basis of your profession, sex, color, religion, or anything else that we think might set us apart from every other person in life. From lawyers to landscapers, truck drivers to doctors, teens to grandparents, career women to stay-at-home moms: NO ONE is immune.

The malicious stroke of a key has become the equivalent of a cyberbullet. Only it's not just getting fired off into cyberspace, it's hitting intended targets in very real, physical places. The Internet can be a legal, lethal weapon; it can also be a wonderful teaching tool. It's an entity that has taken on a life of its own and must be respected for the enormous power it generates in good and bad, positive and negative, beautiful and gruesome ways. This is the unleashed animal racing through the wild, a sight of awe and wonder -- until it turns and sees you, unsuspecting and unarmed against a hungry predator suddenly considering how best to devour its prey. Should it pounce quickly and go immediately for the jugular? Or enjoy a more leisurely meal? As you watch it lick its chops and a pack of its pals circle around you, the anticipation of what's to come next is beyond agony. After all, you know who's being served up for dinner.

This is how it feels to be defenseless against an online attack, singled out and surrounded by a carnivorous foe. I truly believe, I must believe, that justice will eventually prevail so that good, decent people can no longer be held hostage by a vindictive ex-spouse, a mentally unbalanced customer, or some acquaintance in class that goes by the name of "anonymous." When justice prevails the afflicted can finally stop looking over their shoulders and no longer be afraid to tell someone their last name or fear for the safety of their job, the continuity of their business, or the salvaging of their house because they just happened to piss the wrong person off.

Unfortunately you can't always know just who it is that wants to maul you to pieces. All you know is that you're frantically dodging a horde of flying monkeys and those cackling witches most wicked. But let us not forget what happened once the mean-spirited hag got doused with some cold water in the face and Dorothy claimed the broomstick that had once been used to terrorize the innocent of the land. Click, click! You know the rest.

Take care and surf safely! Sue

***

From: John Dozier Jr.

To: You

Date: Today

Subject: Why This Book Needed to Be Written

Creationists believe God built our earth in a matter of days. The Bible's smallest measurement of time is hours. I don't know where the minute gained popularity ... maybe New York. But when Olympian Michael Phelps took his gold medal by one-hundredth of a second, it was symbolic of the evolution of the importance of ever-decreasing measurements of time. And the speed of change is at the center of the issues we address today.

In the online world, reputations are ruined in nanoseconds. People are branded with a scarlet letter for eternity by someone they don't even know typing away impulsively at a keyboard. The values of business brands, carefully built and shaped over years, decades, and even centuries, are teetering on a precipice of disaster. We are in a world evolving at an ever faster rate. Yet, the families of America, the businesses of America, the legislative bodies of America, and the courts of America lag behind this curve of change. And reputations are being permanently ruined overnight because of it.

Think of it this way. If you grew up in a small town in the South, and the car in front of you didn't take off when the light changed, you learned to patiently wait and even let the light cycle through another time. I love New York City, but if you don't jump on the gas on a green light, the cabby behind you leans on his horn and might give your car a little love tap in the rear as he rolls down his window and flashes his one-fingered peace sign. The online world is the cabby. Society is waiting for the next green light. That's gotta change.

I love America. I love being able to believe what I want to believe. Go wherever I want to go. I cherish the opportunities my children will have as they grow up. And I believe strongly in standing up for what I believe is right and decent. I am sure this is a product of my upbringing. Dad was a Presbyterian minister after earlier careers as a navy pilot and FBI agent. Mom was an intensive- care nurse. Helping people is something that, for me, has been passed down through generations. I'm no measure of my parents, but thanks to them I have a solid foundation. My early years were filled with wonderful memories of character-building events. I remember the time my father went to the front desk of a Holiday Inn and the initial stunned silence of the clerks when he asked if he could pay for a towel to wrap his bathing suit in. "I've never been asked that before," was the response as they thanked him. You know the towels I'm talking about. In fact, you probably had some at home!

I remember the Ku Klux Klan attacks at our house after my father insisted that blacks be allowed to attend an Easter sunrise service on the beach in 1963. I learned all about turning sheets into a rope to escape a fire. I remember the fire in our front yard. I remember Dad's FBI buddies coming into town. And our family having to move north. So, for all of you anonymous hate-mongers, scofflaws, miscreants, and the like who will try to paint my words as some sort of right-wing, un-American, conservative-conspiracy propaganda, I can take it. But also ask yourself if you are any better than the white-hooded cowards who ruled by fire and attacked the defenseless innocent.

For all others interested in creating a more civil, accepting, fair, balanced, and honest online society centered upon good will and fair dealing, my message to you is that you must be willing to stand up and be counted. Hopefully Sue and I have inspired you to action. Moms and dads will begin to take the time to explain to their kids about responsible online behavior. Employers will rule with an iron fist on anticompetitive employee misconduct. The online world will embrace self-policing and self-regulation. The "consumer-rights" organizations will stop supporting the scofflaws of the web. Local, state, and federal legislators will craft laws that establish appropriate mores and norms for online behavior. And the courts will see the need to pull the hoods off of the online scofflaws and expose them to the concept of personal accountability and responsibility.

My message is a call to action. Because time is everything. It's at the core of the problem that we face today. And it's at the core of the solution. There is a time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace. A time to keep silent and a time to speak.

The time to speak has come.

John
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Re: Google Bomb: The Untold Story of the $11.3M Verdict That

Postby admin » Thu Jun 04, 2015 7:53 pm

INDEX

AdSense program, 69
AdWords advertising, 180-183
aggregation technique, 44
alert services, 61-65
Alex
posts, 150-151, 155-156
retaliation, 175, 177, 180
algorithms, search results, 32-33,
99, 103, 204, 220
alien blog persona, 16
anchored text links, 101-108, 208
anonymity online, 38, 43, 62
anonymizer services, 62
"Anonymous" posts, 48-51, 90-91,
95-96
anonymous speech, 42-44, 224, 227
attack management, 37-42
attack-site business, 159-160 see also
"sucks sites"

Backtype, 65
bankrupt blog persona, 17
baseball analogy, 114
Bernie, 151-153
Better Business Bureau (BBB), 56, 67
"black hat SEO," 213-214
blackmail, 159
blog posts. see online posts
"blog swarm," 104-1 05
bloggers, 13-18, 164-167, 204-205
blogosphere, 13-18, 64-65, 116
blogs. see also online posts
blog personas, 13-18
''blog swarm," 104-105
bloggers, 13-18, 164-167,
204-205
blogosphere, 13-18, 64-65, 116
evolution, 73-74
micro-blogging, 114
reputation management, 207-209
Broward County PTA, 51-53, 89
bullying, 161, 197-201
"bumping a post," 40
Bush, George W., 103
Buzzillions, 68

Campbell, Skip, 217-218
CAN-SPAM Act, 110, 111
Cassell, Paul, 82
Catsouras, Nikki, 178-179
cease and desist letters, 82, 114,
116, 215
children
cyber dangers, education about,
201-203, 219
cyberbullying, 161, 197-201
Churchill, Winston, 60
citizen journalists, 164-167,
204-205
Clark, M. see also Alex; Smith, L.
AdWords campaign, 180
contact, initial, 8-13
cyberattacks by, 25-31, 46-49,
54-56, 125-126
deposition (own), 119-120
deposition (Scheff's), 79-81,
128-129
documentary deal, 125-126
information for money, 77-78
Mary's story, 53-56
misrepresentation, 153-154
as self-described Katrina victim,
121
"click fraud," 184
Communications Decency Act
(CDA), Section 230
amendment proposal, 44,
217-219, 226-227
Index
website liability immunity, 40,
44, 70-75, 185-186
Congress
CDA and, 40, 44, 70-75,
217-219
information protection, 85
ISPs, protection of, 72-73
record retention mandates, 44
stalking law tort, 163
consumer protection websites,
68-69
consumer-rights groups, 97-98,
160, 167, 234
copyright
infringement, 116, 165-166,
213, 227
protection, 15, 61, 165-166
Copyscape, 63
Copysentry, 63
counterculture revolution, 86-87
court judgments, 138-141
criminal blog persona, 17-18
cyberbullying, 161, 197-201
cyberdefamation. see defamation
cybersquatting, 223
cyberstalking, 161-164, 223

Dalai Lama, 114-115, 117, 119
Davis, Judy, 126-129
defamation
AdWords as defense, 183
counterattacks, 97-100
examples, 106-108, 189-201
impersonation attacks, 114-117
lawsuits, 97-98
log files, 44, 65, 226
media coverage, 156, 178-179
obscenity, 90-91
online identity assumption, 85,
94-96, 111, 115-116
plaintiff attacks, 223-226
predator tactics, 3-4, 1 3-15,
23-24, 40, 45-47
statute of limitations, 225-226
Streisand Effect, 40-41, 98, 167-
170
website liability immunity, 40,
44, 70-75, 185-186
deletion technique, 44
"denial of service" attack, 110
depositions, 79-85, 119-120,
128-129
domains
keywords, 206-210
name purchase, 206-209
subdomains, 208-209
Donne, John, 5
Dozier, John W.
Dozier Internet Law, 63, 205
Hydra attack, 169-170
Dozier Internet Law, 63, 205
druggie blog persona, 15-16

early warning systems, 59-66, 116
e-commerce, 63, 73, 183, 220
e-lynching, 104
e-mail
abuse, 108-114, 151, 168-169,
193
alerts, 62
mobosphere attacks, 112
traffic, 112
Epinions, 68
evidence spoliation, 83
extortion, 159, 161, 168

Facebook, 115, 202, 209, 220
Fair Credit Reporting Act, 67,
70, 85
fair use rights, 19, 71, 167, 182
false advertising, 183-184
Federal Bureau of Investigation
(FBI), 111, 157, 162, 164
federal law, 40, 110, 111, 185-186.
see also Communications
Decency Act (CDA), Section
230
Federalist Papers, 43
Ferret, 206
Fertik, Michael, 171-180
First Amendment. see also free
237
speech; free-speech expansionists
First Amendment (cont'd from page
237)
anonymous speech, sanctity of,
42-43
exploiting, 160
protections, 158-159, 184
Flickr, 209-210
flu analogy, 58-59
free speech. see also First
Amendment; free-speech
expansionists
anonymous speech, 41-43
citizen journalists, 164-167
counterculture revolution, 86-87
invasion-of-privacy, 178-179
misuse, 19
protections, 75-76, 158-161,
178, 184
free-speech expansionists
on the attack, 44, 98, 158-161,
201, 222
citizen journalists, 164-167
counterculture revolution, 86-87
fair use rights, 71

Google
AdSense program, 69
AdWords advertising, 180-184
alert services, 61-62
"authority" of, 181, 204-205,
208, 220
being "sandboxed" by, 21 3
credibility, 221
Index
legal system, effect on, 219-227
"monetizing traffic, " 181-182
"non-democratization" team, 221
omnipresence, 20-21
page rankings, 21, 40, 101
personal branding sites, 210
range peak, 21
as reputation engine, 57, 61, 64,
181-184, 220-223
search philosophies, 220-221
"sponsored ads, " 33
web democratization, 181-182,
204-205, 220-221
Google Bomb
anchored text links, 101-108
defined, 101-102
detonation, 103
most notorious, 103
results manipulation, 205
graphic posts, 90-91
"gripe sites, " 159-161

hacking, 63-64
Hamlet's soliloquy, 35-36
Hancock, John, 43
Health Insurance Portability and
Accountability Act of 1996
(HIPAA), 85
Help Your Teens, 54-56
Hydra attacks, 167-170

identity theft, 85, 94-96, 111,
115-116
immunity
legal, 185-186
website liability immunity, 40,
44, 70-75, 185-186
impersonation attacks, 114-117
individual rights, 75-76, 86, 142
Internet. see also websites
advertisement, 69, 180-184
archived information, 187
"authority, " 181, 204-205, 208,
220
commercialization, 73, 86
Dozier Internet Law, 63, 205
false advertising, 183-184
IP addresses, 43-44, 62
ISPs, 44, 72-73, 227
legal system, effect on, 219-227
log files, 44, 65, 226
netizens, 98, 103, 159-160, 167,
205
online anonymity, 38, 43, 62
robots, 65-66, 103, 226
self-policing, 221-222
Internet Protocol OP) addresses,
43-44, 62
Internet Service Provider OSP), 44,
72-73, 227
IntrepidNet listserv trekkers, 9-12,
26, 28, 48-49, 54, 125
invasion-of-privacy, 178-179
inventor's story, 98-99

Jackson, Samuel L., 142-143
Jones Day law firm, 105-109
judgment debtors, 138-141
juror protections, 224
jury system, 138-142
justice system. see legal system

Kennedy, John E, 218
keywords, 206-210

L. Smith, see Smith, L.
lawsuits
counterattacks, 97-101
risks, 97-101
scope of, 83-84
lawyers, 215, 217, 223-224
legal advice online, 166-167
legal immunity, 40, 44, 70-71, 75,
185-186
legal system
anonymous speech, 42-44, 224,
227
court judgment, 138-141
immunity, 40, 44, 70-71, 75,
185-186
juries, 138-142, 224
log files, 44, 65, 226
"minimum contacts" rule,
222-223
pre/post Google, 219-227
legal system (cont'd from page 239)
privacy rights, 83-87, 172,
178-179, 224
publisher liability, 73-74
spoliation of evidence, 83
Supreme Court, 42-43
Levy, Paul Alan, 105-109
Lewis, John, 130-134
liability
legal, 223-225
publisher, 73-74
website immunity, 40, 44, 70-75,
185-186
lies, nature of, 48-52, 60
LinkedIn, 210
local sheriff's story, 185-187
log files, 44, 65, 226
LookupPage, 210
Love Our Children USA, 198, 200
Luzzo, John, 1-2, 135, 145-146

M. Clark. see Clark, M.
Mary's story, 53-56
"mass link prank, " 103
media coverage, 156, 178-179. see
also blogs; citizen journalists
Meier, Megan, 197
"minimum contacts" rule, 222-223
mis-leader blog persona, 18
mobosphere
anonymous speech in, 224
attacks, 31, 97-98, 104-109,
112, 116-117
juror protections, 224
legal liability, 223-225
monsters of the web, 14-18
plaintiff attacks, 223-226
Streisand Effect, 40-41, 98,
167-170
monetary judgment, 138-141
"monetizing traffic, " 181-182
monsters of the web, 14-18
Moore, Krysten, 198-201
Mpire, 68
MySpace, 115, 116, 209, 220

Naymz, 210
nerd blog persona, 16
Index
netizens, 98, 103, 159-160, 167,
205
"no edit" practice, 40, 70-71, 186,
227

Obama, Barack, 103
obfuscation technique, 44
"off-page" SEO, 33, 41
"on page" SEO, 33
online anonymity, 38, 43, 62
online attack management, 37-39
online identity assumption, 85,
94-96, Ill, 115-116
online impersonators, 114-115
online legal advice, 166-167
online posts
anonymous, 38, 43
by "Anonymous, " 48-51, 90-91,
95-96
"bumping a post," 40
graphic, 90-91
"no edit" practice, 40, 70-71,
186, 227
"piling on," 58
post removals, 74-75
removal, 186
online reputation, 33-34, 75-76,
1 15-1 16. see also privacy rights;
reputation management
"open rates, " 111
organic/natural search positions, 99

page rankings, 21, 40, 101
Palin, Sarah, 62
Parents' Universal Resource Experts
(PURE), 2-8, 25, 51-53. see
also Scheff, Sue
pay-per-click ("PPC") ads, 184
personal branding sites, 210
pickpocket blog persona, 15
plaintiff attacks, 223-226
polar bear analogy, 201-202
Pollack, David, 1-2, 89,
119-137, 218
Pomerantz, Gloria, 217-218
posts. see online posts
privacy rights, 83-87, 172, 178-
179, 224
Prodigy, 74
"product review" websites, 68-72
"protective orders, " information
access, 84
Public Citizen Litigation Group,
105
public information access, 84
public shaming, 47-48
public-interest groups, 44, 71,
159-160
publisher liability, 73-74
Pulp Fiction (film), 142-143

Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
Organizations (RICO),
169-170
record retention, 44
reputation management
blogs, 208-209
content control, 21 1
domain name purchase, 206-209
industry, 34, 59-66, 171-180,
211-212
keywords, 206-210
reputation monitoring, 21 1
subdomains, 208-209
traditional reputation sources, 70
ReputationDefender, 171 - 180, 212
reverse "black hat" practices,
213-214
review websites, 58, 68-72
right to privacy, 83-87, 172, 178-
179, 224
Rip Off Report, 70
robots, 65-66, 103, 226
rookie blog persona, 16-17
rule of law, 224

sadist blog persona, 17
"sandboxed, " 213
scam reporting websites, 68-72
Scheff, Sue. see also Alex; Clark, M.;
Smith, L.
"Anonymous" posts, 48-51,
90-91, 95-96
backlash, 146-147, 150-153, 174
Broward County PTA, 51-53, 89
citizen journalists and, 165
as cyberstalking victim, 161, 164
as defamation victim, 1-4, 150-
153, 170
as defamation victim supporter,
189-201, 230-232
defense strategies, 171-180, 212
deposition threat, 79-81, 128-
129
emotional trauma, 91-97, 125,
190
lawsuit, 119-137
legal team, 1-2, 89, 119-137,
218
"mobosphere attack," 1 04-1 09
Index
public shaming, 47-48
Steve (consultant), 9, 26-27, 48,
77
taint-by-association, 44, 47-55,
130-134
trials/verdicts, 1-2, 119-137,
146-147
20/20 (television program), 152,
175, 178
scofflaws
in the mobosphere, 138-139,
167-168, 222-224, 233-234
monsters of the web, 13-18
scofflaw personas, 15-18
search engine optimization (SEO)
"black hat SEO," 213-214
dangers, 211
defined, 31-35
illegal activities, 205
"off-page" SEO, 33, 41
"on page" SEO, 33
for personal websites, 207-208
"social media optimization," 209-
210
techniques, 161
search engines. see also Google;
search engine optimization
(SEI)
alert services, 61-62
algorithms, 32-33, 99, 103, 204,
220
dependence on, 11-12
page rankings, 21, 40, 101
robots, 65-66, 103, 226
search philosophy, 220-221
spiders, 32, 65-66, 101
web "authority, " 181, 204-205,
208, 220
"sender policy framework" (SPF)
record, 111
serial citizen journalists, 165
"slashdotting," 39, 169
"Slimed Online" (Conde Nast
Portfolio), 174
Smith, L. see also Clark, M.
mobosphere attacks, 30-31
retaliation, 174-175
website, 78, 80, 90-97, 155-156
"social media optimization," 209-210
social networking
Facebook, 115, 202, 209, 220
Flickr, 209-210
MySpace, 115, 116, 209, 220
Twitter, 62, 114-115, 117, 220
user-generated content, 73
YouTube, 202, 211
solitude laws, 86
spammers, 64, 110-111
spiders, 32, 65-66, 101
spoliation of evidence, 83
"sponsored ads, " 33
stalking laws, 162-164
statute of limitations, 225-226
Steve (consultant), 9, 26-27, 48, 77
"Strategic Lawsuit Against Public
Participation" (SLAPP) laws,
226, 229
Streisand, Barbra, 40-41
Streisand Effect, 40-41, 98,
167-170
subdomains, 208-209
"sucks sites"
Google Bombs and, 102
Jones Day law firm, 107-108
protections, 158-161, 165
self-policing and, 222
summer dream home analogy,
36-38
Supreme Court, 42-43
surgeon's story, 99-100

20/20 (television program), 152,
175, 178
taint-by-association, 44, 47-55,
130-134
Technorati, 64
"teen help" industry, 9. see also
Parents' Universal Resource
Experts (PURE)
temporary restraining orders
(TROs), 162
theft
identity, 85, 94-96, 111,
115-116
trademark, 15, 71, 224-225
of website content, 62-63
trademark
infringement, 224-225
protection, 166, 225
theft, 15, 71, 224-225
traffic, website. see website traffic
Trekkers/IntrepidNet listserv, 9-12,
26, 28, 48-49, 54, 125
Twilert, 62
Twitter, 62, 114-115, 117, 220

"user-generated content, " 73

"virtual vote, " 103, 205

wacko blog persona, 15
Wasserman Schultz, Debbie, 218
web advertisement
AdSense program, 69
AdWords advertising, 180-184
false advertising, 183-184
pay-per-click ("PPC") ads, 184
"sponsored ads, " 33
web "authority, " 181-182, 204-205,
208, 220
web democratization
"authority, " 181-182, 204-205,
220-221
citizen journalists and, 164-167,
204-205
website traffic
in cyberattacks, 225
direction, 15, 33, 165
"monetizing," 181-182
"slashdotting, " 39
tracking, 65
Index
websites. see also defamation; web
democratization; website
traffic
advertisements, 33, 69, 180-184
content theft, 62-63
high profile attacks, 70
legal advice online, 166-167
liability immunity, 40, 44, 70-71,
75, 185-186
log files, 44, 65, 226
"no edit" practice, 40, 70-71,
186, 227
page rankings, 21, 40, 101
personal, building, 207-208
popularity determination,
203-204
scam reporting, 68-71
self-policing, 221-222
types, 58
web "authority, " 181-182,
204-205, 208
Wits End (Scheff), 5, 77

YouTube, 202, 211

Ziggs, 210

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Image

John W. Dozier Jr. began practicing law in 1981 and has the highest rating (AV) by Martindale-Hubbell (meaning he has reached the "height of professional excellence and is recognized for the highest levels of skill and integrity"). Mr. Dozier is a "Legal Elite for 2008" as an Intellectual Property Lawyer through a peer selection process of the Virginia Bar Association and Virginia Business magazine, was recognized through peer review as a "Super Lawyer" in Internet Law in Super Lawyers magazine, was named as one of the top attorneys nationwide for 2008 in Intellectual Property Litigation in the magazine's Law and Politics Corporate Counsel Edition, and is peer selected as preeminent in the 2008 "Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers." He founded his first venture fund-backed, award-winning e-commerce and Web company in 1994, when there were reportedly less than 1,000 websites in the world. Mr. Dozier is a former President of a statewide specialty Bar Association and the former National legislative Chairman and Vice President of a National Bar Association, and has testified on e-commerce issues before the United States Senate.

Image

Sue Scheff, founder of Parents' Universal Resource Experts, Inc. (P.U.R.E.), a child and parenting advocacy organization, is often called upon as an expert on Internet defamation by countless mediums after being awarded $11.3 million in a 2006 landmark lawsuit against a woman who posted viral defamatory statements about Scheff and P.U.R.E. She has appeared on The Rachel Ray Show, ABC News 20/20, CNN Headline News, Fox News, CBS Nightly News with Katie Couric, CBC Sunday Morning, and National Public Radio, among others. Scheff lives in Weston, Florida. Visit her at http://www.suescheff.com and http://www.googlebombbook.com.
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