The Internet has allowed us to learn more about ourselves and each other across a staggering number of mediums. Unfortunately, not all of those places are positive, and the rise of the "local gossip" or "burn" website has been one of the more troubling trends as the Internet has grown. One of the most notable sites is TheDirty.com, not least because it lets posters anonymously post photos and commentary on private citizens with no verification and little recourse. Here's what you need to know about the site and how to remove a post from TheDirty.com
What Is TheDirty.com?
Essentially, TheDirty.com is a celebrity and local gossip site run by one Hooman Abedi Karamian, better known as Nik Ritchie. The main page of TheDirty is a fairly conventional celebrity gossip site, but the real problem lies in the top banner, under "Cities."
Here's where the crux of reputation problems caused by TheDirty lies. The site was originally called DirtyScottsdale.com and was built on, essentially, posting unsubstantiated gossip. Anyone can submit pictures and words about any supposed citizen of these cities. As you might have guessed from the name of the site, it's not about what great people they are. TheDirty is supposedly dedicated to outing rude, unpleasant, and otherwise dangerous people, but it doesn't seem to verify any of its information, and that's a pretty serious problem, especially as the site's archives for various cities can date back as far as 2007. That means a lot of mistakes people have made during high school and college are lingering on the Internet, without the knowledge of those in the pictures, and it makes deleting a post from TheDirty.com crucial to Internet reputation management.
How Is What TheDirty.com Does Legal?
Although TheDirty.com may finally be facing legal trouble, it's still largely protected under the law. To understand this, it's important to have a grasp of libel, which would be what TheDirty.com would technically be engaging in. Libel is, in fact, a crime, but it's a crime with a very specific and narrow definition that makes deleting a post from TheDirty.com through legal means difficult.
Libel is a crime that can be surprisingly tough to prove in court. First of all, the court differentiates between falsified statements of fact and statements of opinion. You are allowed, under the Constitution, to state that you don't like somebody on the Internet, and courts often are very specific about the difference between opinion and something presented as a fact when it's not.
Secondly, proving libel takes three steps for a private citizen: You have to demonstrate that the statement was false, that the statement caused some form of damage to you, and was not properly researched before it was presented. This is more complicated than you might think. Take as an example, after a bad break-up, a former significant other goes online and posts a long, messy entry on his or her Facebook that tells it entirely from his or her perspective. If they leave out certain facts that would explain your actions or justify your behavior, that's not libel, because they aren't making any false statements.
Similarly, proving harm from libel can be shockingly difficult. All of this makes taking a libel case to court time-consuming and expensive, well out of the reach of your typical citizen. So while the content may indeed be libelous, few of us have the time or money to get the court to prove it. You'll have to erase a post from TheDirty.com through other means.
Why Should I Delete Posts From TheDirty.com?
First of all, leaving a post up, whether it's completely fabricated or just extremely one-sided, can cause long-term damage to your online reputation, especially if it climbs up in your search rankings. This unverified post can be seen by employers, family members, and friends, and cost you jobs or lead to awkward and uncomfortable personal conversations.
Nor is the fallout limited just to you; your friends are defined by the company they keep, after all, and you want to be a credit not just to yourself, but to them.
Does TheDirty.com Ever Voluntarily Delete Posts?
Research we've done into the topic has found that posts that go up on the site tend to stay up unless challenged in some way, shape, or form, or deleted as part of fallout from another matter, such as lost site data. In short, you really should not expect TheDirty.com to delete a post without being asked to.
How Can I Remove A Post From TheDirty.com?
Technically speaking, you can remove a post by going through TheDirty.com directly; they have a post removal request page. It offers three options: that you're pictured in a photo attached to the post, that you own the copyright to the photos in the post, or that your personal information is mentioned in the comments of the post.
In theory, this gives you a strong way to get posts off the site. If even one photo has been taken from your Facebook or other social media presence, you own the rights to that photo, and can ask for removal. Similarly, if a friend is in your photos, you can demand the post be removed. And if somebody is trying to coordinate a harassment campaign against you, you have options.
Unfortunately, if you just don't like a post, TheDirty.com is largely protected under the law, specifically Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects websites from liability from the actions of its users. But that doesn't mean you're out of options.
Erasing A Post From TheDirty.com
You don't have to go through TheDirty.com to remove content from the Internet, however. In fact, you have several options to push a TheDirty post down in the search rankings and off the Internet. The first is to ask search engines to remove links to the offending content. This is up to each individual search engine, and you may not be able to remove the links, but it's worth asking.
A foolproof method, however, is to simply bury it. Most people searching for your name won't look past the first handful of results, and the further down you push a TheDirty link, the less it'll be seen. It may not be erasing a post from TheDirty, but it's the next best thing.
If you don't want anonymous Internet libel to define you, ReputationDefender can help. We'll help you remove negative content from TheDirty and other sites. Don't let people who dislike you control your life: Call ReputationDefender today.
Photo credits: imagerymajestic of freedigitalphotos.net, David Castillo Dominici of freedigitalphotos.net, Michal Marcol of freedigitalphotos.net