Here are a few definitions of libel and defamation of character pertaining to US law courtesy of a legal site:
To defame, or expose to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule, by a writing, picture, sign, to lampoon.
To publish in print writing or pictures, broadcast through radio, television or film something that is false about someone else which would cause harm to that person or his/her reputation by bringing the target into ridicule, hatred, scorn, or contempt of others.
Published material meeting three conditions: The material is defamatory either on its face or indirectly; the defamatory statement is about someone who is identifiable to one or more persons; and, the material must be distributed to someone other than the offended party; i.e. published.
I would like to give a personal account of my experience trying to remove and defend myself against libelous statements published about me on the internet and the seemingly losing battle to get that information dropped from the top of the Google search engine results which specifically highlights libelous information through their “quality deserves diversity” algorithm. It is my intent to spread awareness of websites that host, and in many ways, encourage libelous posts and are essentially given promotion by Google’s algorithm.
I am referring specifically to a website that allows supposed ex-girlfriends/boyfriends to give accounts of their particular experiences with a former lover/spouse/significant other. I will not give the actual name of the offending website for obvious reasons, but suffice to say, anyone with an e-mail address can create an account and anonymously write anything their heart desires about the “offending” ex-boyfriend/girlfriend. Names, places of residence, colleges attended, mental health diagnosis’s and any other sort of personal information can be posted (other than social security/credit card numbers which would get the website removed from Google). There is no limit whatsoever as to what can be written, and no accountability by either the website, the website hosting company or the person writing the libelous statements.
What is possibly most disturbing about this website that exists solely to host the libelous rants of anyone who wishes to take the very easy steps of giving an e-mail address – one that is not verified through the site – and proceeding to write any single thing they want is the fact that this website made $250,000 in 2009 from Google “adsense” revenue. Google makes a tremendous amount of money through these sites, – the sites do pretty well themselves – and through their algorithm they are ensuring that these sites will make even more money for Google and the website as the algorithm ensures the libelous information is highlighted atop Google search results.
Unfortunately, if you live in the United States, you essentially have no recourse to get the offending post removed. This is particularly egregious if this information is prominent in Google searches where it is estimated that almost eighty percent of employers do a Google search on potential employees. There is no way to know what sort of damage finding such a posting could do to someone seeking employment as no employer would ever admit that a potential candidate was disqualified simply because they came across one of these libelous posts and took it as fact, or at least as enough evidence of having a lack of character that would result in negative information being posted.
As far as the law is concerned, you do have a right to file a civil suit for libel or defamation of character, but that can cost thousands of dollars in legal fees and may or may not get the libelous information removed, even then, it may reappear at some point in the future on another website that cached the original posting. In some states, libel is a criminal offense, but I would highly doubt a state would go through the trouble to prosecute unless the libelous statements led to a more serious crime.
In essence, there is little that can be done to actually remove the offending post, it is forever a part of your name, and something you have to live and deal with. In my particular case: I came across one of these libelous posts when I “Googled” my name. It appeared on the very first page. I opened the link and read a very lengthy and detailed account of all of the atrocities I committed against my anonymous accuser. There is no timeline given, so it essentially reads as a current account.
My first reaction upon reading this was a feeling of guilt and self-hatred. Some of the statements about my character and behavior were accurate to a slight degree. However, this relationship occurred nearly five years ago, and only lasted a few months. I have had no contact with the person I believe to be the anonymous poster in well over four years, and from what I can ascertain, this post was made just a few months ago. This was, in every sense of the meaning: libel; an attempt to publicly humiliate me by revealing intimate details of my past as well as making false statements and accusations presented as fact.
Many of the statements and/or accusations had elements of truth scattered within the misinformation and lies. I am not proud of much of my past as it is a past that involves years of on and off again drug abuse obviously resulting in me lying, stealing and manipulating those around me in order to feed my selfish pursuit of self-destruction. It is a horrible feeling to see some of the terrible transgressions of one’s past publicly displayed for anyone to see. Of course I am ultimately responsible for the poor choices I have made, but I have been accountable for those choices and have moved on.
Let me point out some of the many statements that constitute libel — although the entire post is libelous since its only intent is to publicly humiliate me. For one, it states that I “might” have warrants out for my arrest in two different cities in Illinois. This is completely false, and was a knowingly false statement considering that warrants for one’s arrest are publicly accessible (especially in my case where the crimes I am supposedly wanted for are check fraud and auto theft — serious felonies).
The post goes on to state that I am potentially violent and dangerous and will seek revenge against anyone that will not give in to my will. Again, there is no evidence to support this whatsoever and is stated simply to paint me as dangerous and potentially capable of violence. I have never been violent toward anyone at any time. The poster even contradicts their statement in that regard when they claim that they unsuccessfully attempted to obtain an order of protection against me. If that were indeed true, no such order was granted because I had done nothing to that person that would give just cause for issuing such an order.
The post states as fact that I was receiving social security payments for a mental disorder, despite having “well paying side jobs,” implying that I do not actually have a mental illness at all, but was rather scamming social security for the lucrative $300 a month I received at that time. These “well paying” side jobs were giving tennis lessons for the parks and recreation department making about four-hundred dollars per month, every cent of which, the social security administration has documentation of. I could post pages upon pages of medical documentation regarding the struggles I have had with mental illness, which was a substantial factor in my issues with substance abuse, but that would do no good and only expose me to further ridicule and libel.
Even though almost every egregious behavior of mine would be considered a textbook case of behaviors relating to drug abuse/addiction, the poster claims that they saw no evidence of my drug use. Quite unique that I am in a situation where I have to prove that I used drugs, usually it’s the other way around. In that respect, I suppose the times that I disappeared for days at a time with flimsy excuses and explanations plus the paraphernalia that was constantly found is simply a mere coincidence.
In no way will I attempt to defame my anonymous accuser, but I do deserve a chance to repudiate public libel. I could honestly write a book on the character and psychiatric issues of my accuser, but I will take the high road. I have admitted and taken responsibility for my actions. I have never and will never try to anonymously humiliate another private person in a public forum. This post gives details of every place I have lived, the college I supposedly did not graduate from and essentially paints me as a monster. I have a right to defend my name and my reputation.
I looked into having it removed from Google searches altogether, but that is practically impossible to do as they have fairly strict criteria that one must meet; apparently libel isn’t a big concern of theirs. So I set out to saturate the internet with my name in order to bump this post deep into the search pages. In a sense, that is why I started my blog. Rather than just a means to bump a libelous post from my Google search, it has actually been a cathartic experience. I’ve rekindled my passion for writing and have reconnected with friends I haven’t talked to in years.
My reputation management attempts appeared to be working quite well. I had set up blogs, joined various social network sites, professional sites… you name it. The post had been bumped back a few pages in the search results in just a couple of weeks. But alas, that post was now the very first thing to come up on a Google search on my name. That is simply no accident. I initially thought it was my accuser getting wind that I was trying to re-build my reputation and retaliating by having everyone they know click the link as often as possible to bump it up in the Google search results.
After doing some more research, I came across a blog that mentions the possibility that Google has now initiated a so-called “quality deserves diversity” algorithm — or humility algorithm — which actually gives precedence to known libelous websites. The idea is that any positive information about a person or a business should be countered with some not so positive information. This might be alright if the negative information did not come from websites known to encourage libel. One would think that search results of a person, business or keyword would reflect the popularity or ranking and be presented according to that. That no longer is the case with this misguided algorithm.
This would indeed explain why the libelous post about me suddenly shot up to number one overall in Google searches results and has remained in the third or fourth spot ever since. If it is indeed true, then every single person who is or has been in a similar situation as me, can now depend on the largest and most powerful information-controlling corporation on the planet to promote the illegitimate activities of sites dedicated to spreading lies that ruin careers and relationships. As I mentioned previously, the particular sit hosting the anonymous post on me, made a quarter of a million dollars last year through Google advertising revenue. It seems to be quite the mutually beneficial relationship between the website, Google and the “quality deserves diversity” algorithm that makes sure this information is highlighted above all else.
I originally posted this article – slightly different as it is presented now – on my “blogspot” blog, a site controlled and operated by Google. Before I had learned of Google’s role in highlighting the libelous information pertaining to me, I had set up an adsense account and then put the ads on my blog. Once I found out about and further researched Google’s “Quality Deserves Diversity” algorithm, I added the information to my post, as well as let others who were in a similar situation know of what Google was doing, always giving my name and a link to my article.
Within three weeks of this update, at month’s beginning, Google informed me that they were suspending my adsense account and offered no explanation other than it might support invalid activity. No details were given as to what this invalid activity might entail. I almost immediately appealed the suspension, and in their appeal form, they ask for specific information to be used as evidence to refute the specific reason that the account was suspended.
Since I was given no specific reason as to why my account was suspended, I had no evidence to present to defend myself against such a vague and broad accusation. A little over twelve hours later, my appeal had been denied. Typically the appeal process and subsequent decision takes at least two weeks and can take over a month in some cases. Perhaps I am being paranoid and/or conspiratorial, but it seems very interesting that my account is suspended with no reason and my appeal denied in record time after I had the audacity to write something critical of Google and do my best to make sure others knew of this “libel-promoting” algorithm of theirs.
Whether it be motives of Google to highlight sites known for encouraging and spreading libel through the use of their “quality deserves diversity” algorithm, or a tenacious and delusional anonymous person trying to publicly ruin me and hinder future business and personal opportunities: the fact is, I have moved on with my life. I have taken responsibility for my past transgressions. I have taken back my name. I cannot change the past, and I cannot change the fact that there is someone out there who cannot move on with their life and who deems it necessary to defame and humiliate me. I truly do regret my behavior and the harm I caused this person years ago. But I am Todd Curl, and the positive things written about me far outweigh the negative and the libelous…despite what Google thinks.
Used with permission and edited from an article on The Todd Blog.
Photo modified from a picture found here.
"[DNC Chair Tom Perez] has gotten instructions from Bill Clinton not to let the party go to the Bernie Sanders folks." - Jonathan Allen, co-author of Shattered, revealing new material in the upcoming paperback release pic.twitter.com/dLEnwl7kIc— HootHootBerns 🌹🐦 (@HootHootBerns) May 3, 2018