Let me start by saying that any legal information given on Google
Answers is not professional legal advice.
Responsibility of the Search Engine
In general, a search engine could claim that they are not responsible
for material found through their index. Google, for example, has a
standard reponse to anyone who's complaining, like you, that a search
for their name reveals embarrassing information: "The webmaster is
However, this is not entirely correct. It is possible - under ceratain
consditions and in some extreme cases, to get the search engine to
remove the "incriminating" pages. In some limited cases, several
groups have managed to issue a cease and desist order against a search
engine. The reasons have been:
* In cases of the Church of Scientology, they thought that they found
the perfect way to deal away with they sharpest critics - they
complained to Google that those sites were publishing illegal
information (that is, protected by copyright). Google had to remove
the results; and temporarily also removed the whole site xenu.net
This is relevant to you if you would like to claim that the material
you've published on those forums was your own copyright-protected
material. It is a problematic cause, because usually a forum-member
signs a standard release form that the material posted is not his or
hers. In any case, this could be an avenue.
However, let me get back to Scientology and why I think that their
strategy is stupid (JW have also used the same strategy).
* In other cases, Google blocked access to sites or information that
was illegal in a certain jurisdiction - neo-Nazi propaganda is illegal
in Germany and France (and therefore blocked from the google.de and
google.fr sites); most notoriously, Google removes much information
from the Chinese site, which is monitored by the Chinese government.
Naturally, if the information regarding you is "only" inconvinient,
but not something that is illegal (libel/defamation, etc.) it would be
very difficult for you to use this second way - yo don't have the
resources or the power of those governments.
In addition, in my analysis I mentioned only the largest search
engine, Google. However, although Yahoo! received the same cease and
desist notices (or was also involved in such legal battles, of groups
demanding to remove adversary information from the Internet), you will
not be able to visit all search engines.
Dealing with the Websites
Therefore, the more probable way is to deal with the websites
directly. I realise that you've already contacted these websites.
However, you might not have contacted the right person, or haven't
done it with the right "tone".
Regarding contacting the right person: information about the people
responsible to websites could be obtained from something called a
"Whois" report. For example, this website provides such an
(you put in the name of the site, for example, for "google.com", you
put "google" in the search box and choose ".com" as your suffix, and
get the results. In some cases, it tells you that the information is
on another site - that you should get it from - for example
http://whois.site.com - you go there and do the same).
This should give the information of the person responsible for the site.
Your next step should be to write the letter ("snail" mail, not an
email or at least, not only an email). Let me quote from an article
about ReputationDefender mentioned below:
"Most people will take materials down just to avoid the hassle of
dealing with possible litigation," says Susan Crawford, an associate
professor at Cardozo Law School who specializes in cyberlaw and
telecommunications law. "If the letter is sufficiently threatening,
[...] the threaten-ee could bring his or her own lawsuit seeking a
declaration that what they posted wasn't unlawful. But, again, most
people will just buckle rather than fight back." (SOURCE: Scott
Gilbertson, "Delete Your Bad Web Rep", Wired, 7 November 2006).
In other words, this should be a letter in Legalese, that sounds
threatening enough. This is because besically the site owner's right
to decide to keep the information published, unless a court orders
I imagine that this is exactly what reputation defender does - using
lawyers, they write such letters to the webmasters, that these decide
not to deal with those big letterheaded letters written in Legalese.
Chilling Effects (which is in fact a site fighting for freedom of
speech online) has a form to send a cease and desist notices to site
Chilling Effects - Sending a Cease and Desist Notice
As mentioned before, some sites have forms that enable you to request
removal or change of the informtion by you that is published on them.
For example, Google Groups has an option to remove posts that you have
How do I remove my own posts?
on IMDB, you can start by amending your data:
In general, what other services, such as ComplaintRemover
(<http://www.repsavior.com/>), will do for you, is to float the
Internet with positive information about you, so that the old
information would be swept to the bottom of the search results.
You can start doing that yourself by adding an article about yourself
at Wikipedia, that would include all positive information (if you're
important enough to appear there, that is, given the fact that you're
on IMDB and other such respectable vanues.
You can add yourself by looking up Wikipedia for you name (for
example, when I used your GA usename:
and then clicking on the "red link", the link that carries your name,
and begin to edit it according to Wikipedia's guidelines (if you're
not sure, read first how to create an article:
This is also the reason why I argued that Scientology's strategy to
deal with adversaries is less than perfect. Other groups have
encountered the same problem. They have chosen to deal with that
through "floating" the Internet with positive information, through
blogs, links to Wikipedia, etc. - instead of going to Google to whine.
I hope this answers your question. Please contact me if you need any
clarification on this answer before you rate it.