Is it Time for Google to Fix Unjust Reputations?

Is it Time for Google to Fix Unjust Reputations?

It could happen to any of us.

You’re accused of a heinous crime. Accused of hiring someone to kill another person.

It makes the headlines. Everywhere.

It shows up immediately in Google. It will be in Google for the rest of your life.

Except, none of it is true.

That’s what happened to Randolph Forde, a school teacher that was accused–and subsequently acquitted–of offering money to one student to kill another. Despite Forde’s denial, and a grand jury not finding enough evidence to indict him–let alone convict him–Forde’s Google reputation is a mess:

It’s possible that CNN’s follow-up on Forde’s story, might make it into the top 10 results when you Google his name, but it’s unlikely. Just as a scandal sells newspapers, it also attracts links–which often ensures the negative article outranks the newer, positive one.

I told CNN:

“It’s impossible to entirely scrub your name or misdeeds from the digital landscape. When negative content about you begins to dominate Google, the trick becomes how to balance it with enough positive content to push the bad stuff down the list,” Beal said, the founder of, which monitors clients’ online reputations.

So, what hope is there for Forde? He admits in the CNN article that he doesn’t have the financial resources to hire someone to clean-up his Google reputation. And so, he continues to struggle to find a new job. One look at his Google reputation pretty much closes the door on any opportunity.

Is that fair?

Your professional career ruined because Google favors these negative results. Is it time for Google to take some kind of action in situations like this? Maybe a review committee? Maybe the option to “opt out” of results?

I don’t know the answer–and certainly any kind of manual manipulation by Google is fraught with issues, but not unprecedented.

All I know is that this problem is growing. Google may not be able to sit on the sidelines for much longer.

What do you think Google should do?

ByAndy Beal

Andy Beal is The Original Online Reputation Expert™. A bestselling author of two critically-acclaimed reputation management books, a keynote speaker at dozens of events, and brand consultant experience with thousands of individuals and companies.

    5 Comments for “Is it Time for Google to Fix Unjust Reputations?”
    1. Noticed same results up here too, Andy…

      talk about “not right” — and yes, there should be a process for this kind of an appeal to be made…I mean if you can ask that a search result get’s terminated from the G index ’cause it’s copyright infringement, surely you can ask in these circumstances too, eh!



    2. You bring up some good points Andy. On one hand we don’t want Google taking sides and anytime they appear to there’s tons of articles and tweets accusing them of having an agenda (especially when politics are involved), On the other hand, is it fair that a man’s life is ruined for accusations (which he was later acquitted of) when Google presumably would have the power to override their algorithm and make it right on his behalf?

      I totally agree that it’s not right, but the real question is what they can actually do about it and what precedent it could potentially set. In principle I like the idea of a review committee, but that could open up a can of worms and pave the way for every one who gets a negative article to file an appeal and overload the process.

      Unfortunately no easy answers.


    3. Oh, I think we’ll see Google take some action on this, especially after they get nailed with a couple of defamation lawsuits like just happened in France…

      My problem with Google is that are completely unwilling to do anything with derogatory search listings until you hire a law firm to sue them (which won’t always work) or file a DMCA claim (which can really work wonders on spam sites surprisingly quickly).

      Google’s recommendation is always the same – there’s nothing wrong with trying to push down the content through the use of other sites, as long as you do it naturally – through good content, natural link building, etc… but in cases like the one you mention, you might as well change your name because the chance of that happening with CNN and other news sites is slim and none, unless your wallet is really, really fat. RoR falls into that same boat as well.

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