If you are wondering how to remove a news article from Google search and the Internet you are not alone. As expungement lawyers, we are frequently asked this question by our clients.
Most people assume that it is impossible to remove negative newspaper articles from Google search and/or the Internet. In fact, many lawyers advise clients that this is the case since the news articles are factually true and, therefore, protected speech. Nonetheless, it is in fact possible to remove news articles from Google search and/or the Internet.
Will Expungement Remove the Article from the Internet?
One of the first questions we are asked by client is whether or not an expungement order issues by the state in which the arrest took place will require these news articles to be removed from the Internet. The short answer is no.
Perhaps your record has been expunged, or perhaps you are contemplating expunging your criminal record. Regardless, you might be wondering whether it even makes sense to expunge your record so that it no longer shows up on criminal background checks when a quick Google search of your name will easily reveal your arrest information.
Expungement laws vary widely by state. While some states allow for the expungement of criminal records (also known as sealing in some states) others do not. Moreover, even assuming your state allows for the expungement of criminal records, you should be aware that the expungement order will only direct law enforcement agencies (such as the courts, police departments, or the FBI) to refrain from disclosing your expunged records in response to a background check request.
An expungement order in no way will require the press, news organizations, or any other private company to take down articles that mention the expunged matters. In fact, to do so would violate the first amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
Thus, expungement unfortunately will not force news organizations to remove the expunged information from the news article. As discussed in further detail below, however, if we are able to provide news agencies with evidence that the record has been expunged, it will usually strengthen our case.
Can I Sue for Defamation, Libel, or Slander?
Probably not. If at the time the newspaper article was written, the information contained within that article was most likely true (i.e., John Does was arrested on January 1, 2017, and charged with DWI in Pleasantville, New Jersey), there is simply no legal basis for alleging that the news article’s content is defamatory and/or that it constitutes libel or slander as each of these legal causes of action requires that the content be false. Thus, if the information was true at the time of the arrest, a suit for defamation, libel, or slander isn’t going to get you anywhere.
Removing a News Article from Google Search and the Internet
If the news article you are attempting to remove is not false or defamatory, your options as far as removing the article go are limited. In essence, the only way to remove the article is to directly contact the news agency or the individual that published the article and to request that they remove it. This request is known in the industry as a request for “unpublishing.”
Whether or not the news agency will depend on the policies and procedures that agency has adopted in terms of unpublishing requests. While some agencies have adopted a strict “no unpublishing” policy, often times news agencies have not adopted a formal policy regarding unpublishing requests. In those cases, it is highly recommended that you retain a lawyer to advocate on your behalf and work to: (1) research whether or not it is possible to remove the content in your case; (2) find the right individual within the news agency to speak with regarding your request; and (3) convince the organization to remove the article, to amend it, or to come to some other agreement that will benefit you.
In addition to completely removing the article, other available options that news articles might agree to could include:
- Publishing edits or corrections to articles that contain inaccurate or outdated information
- Coding the webpage in a manner that will prevent the article from showing up in search results
- Making other edits or corrections to the article that will make your identity anonymous
In determining whether or not to remove or amend a particular article, news organizations will take the following factors, among others, into consideration:
- The reasons you are requesting an unpublishing
- Whether you were ultimately convicted or found guilty of the criminal offense mentioned in the article
- Whether you have had the criminal offense mentioned in the article expunged from your record
- The age of the news article
- Whether you were a minor at the time the article was written
- Whether the news article is inaccurate in any way
In short, you will usually one have one chance to “make your pitch” as to why the news agency should remove or amend the article in your case. Thus, it is vital that you retain an experienced news article removal lawyer to persuade a news organization to unpublish your article.