Can I outsmart the cache.
August 25, 2009 9:43 AM   Subscribe

How do I make something disappear online? (I know, I know)

I wrote a controversial article on my own site. The subject is topical and my position is strongly stated so the article received a lot of traffic. My website and my (unusual) name were linked by several larger sites. My article has now been online for a couple of weeks and received a lot of flak. I didn't expect all this attention. I think writing the article in the first place was probably a bad idea. I already took the article down but it's still findable in caches. What's the best way to make it all go away?
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry- thanks to google and other sites that restore old caches, you can't make it disappear completely. Taking it down from your current site is all you can do.
posted by Eicats at 9:46 AM on August 25, 2009

Try contacting Google and other cache sites and ask it to be removed? It's fairly easy and some even have forms that will expedite your request. In the future you may want to block the robots so this doesn't happen again.

Google's page to get you started.

I wish you luck - nothing ever really disappears completely on the Internet.
posted by caveat at 9:47 AM on August 25, 2009

How did you take it down? If this is some sort of publishing system like Wordpress, did you just delete the entry? Or if it is a more manual site, did you just delete the page?

What you want to do is keep the page/article published, but change the content, i.e. erase the article text and replace it with new text (something like "this article is no longer available" is fine). This way the new content will eventually end up cached in some places.

Unfortunately, this is still a stop-gap fix at best. If it was up for weeks some people have probably copied/saved it, etc.
posted by mikepop at 9:51 AM on August 25, 2009

There is this Company called Reputation Defender but they can't do magic either.
They will send takedown notices and stuff to different sites, and probably have some other ways.
If, getting this thing removed really is worth a lot of Money to you, cou could try them.
There are also alternative Companys who do that, if you Google "Reputation Defender" you will find some of them.

But if other People wrote about your Article and maybe quoted it, which is probable if it is up for weeks, your out of luck there.
Also if it is a really controversial piece, some people will make a huge effort to mirror it, when its gone.
posted by kall at 10:05 AM on August 25, 2009

Not knowing what the article is or what you said, you should consider that the best option might not be to make it disappear, but to keep it up and do damage control in other ways.

There is a lot more respect out there to be had for someone who fesses up to a mistake than someone who tries to hide it. Trying to make it go away is only going to make the people you pissed off more tenacious about trying to get it out there.

A more considered reply, a contrite and sincere apology for whatever it was you did to piss people off, and owning up to the repercussions of that might be more painful in the short term but more fruitful in the long term.

...or it could be a really bad idea, but it's one worth at least considering, especially since you can't really ever put that cat back in the bag.
posted by toomuchpete at 11:06 AM on August 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

The more you try to remove all traces of what you wrote, the more people will endeavor to keep a copy alive somewhere.

Face it, you broadcast your opinion to millions of people, now you don't control their thoughts, actions or memories, what you wrote will live on regardless of what you try to do. The best thing would be to just forget about it and not mention it again.
posted by splice at 11:06 AM on August 25, 2009

don't disappear it! if people are writing negatively about it and you now, they're going to write something worse if you delete it and pretend it didn't happen. you made a mistake, take responsibility for your actions—that's the only way you'll gain anyone's respect.
posted by lia at 11:12 AM on August 25, 2009

Instead of trying to make all the negative attention go away by making the article disappear, why not write a retraction or another piece clarifying your viewpoint? You are more likely to salvage your reputation and goodwill if you can admit to a mistake rather than trying to pretend that mistake didn't occur. This only works, however, if that is your honest view. Saying something like "I misspoke" could backfire. "I was wrong" is much more likely to give you a positive response. People love to hear that they are right (and that they were right all along.)

On the other hand, if you do believe that what you expressed in that article was correct, and believe that a retraction would be dishonest, it might just be best to let it go. Try to make better posting decisions in the future and hope that those will make up for a past mistake. If people continue to drag it up, you can simply say something like "That was a post I made in the past. Those views aren't applicable to the current situation. Let's focus on the present."
posted by arcolz at 11:21 AM on August 25, 2009

You would be creating your own Streisand effect:
The Streisand effect is an Internet phenomenon where an attempt to censor or remove a piece of information backfires, causing the information to be widely publicized. Examples of such attempts include censoring a photograph, a number, a file, or a website (for example via a cease-and-desist letter). Instead of being suppressed, the information receives extensive publicity, often being widely mirrored across the Internet, or distributed on file-sharing networks.

Mike Masnick originally coined the term Streisand effect in reference to a 2003 incident where Barbra Streisand sued photographer Kenneth Adelman and for US$50 million in an attempt to have the aerial photo of her house removed from the publicly available collection of 12,000 California coastline photographs, citing privacy concerns... As a result of the case, public knowledge of the picture increased substantially and it became popular on the Internet, with more than 420,000 people visiting the site over the next month.
posted by Brian Puccio at 12:04 PM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just post a redaction or an update. Link to the offending material for us to read, please!
posted by phrakture at 12:22 PM on August 25, 2009

If you delete it, people will use the Wayback Machine to find it.

What will work best is to rewrite the article so it sounds much more reasonable, but is more or less the same article. Qualify your originally unqualified outrageous statements. The upload the rewritten article to the same place using the same filename.

That way people will come to your article, read it, and probably decide that you were quoted out of context, and you're much more reasonable than the quote seemed. They probably won't bother to check to see if there was ever an outrageous rough draft on the Net, because they probably won't care.

I revise my blog entries all the time. Sometimes I note that I've made an update. Sometimes I don't.
posted by musofire at 12:23 PM on August 25, 2009

They probably won't bother to check to see if there was ever an outrageous rough draft on the Net, because they probably won't care.

please disregard musofire's advice because it's pretty bad. if people cared enough to pay attention what you said the first time, someone will eventually notice you've changed your words and then when they write about it you will REALLY come across as completely untrustworthy.

think about it this way: if you were in a position to hire someone for a job, would you hire the person who can own up to their mistakes? or the person who shoves them under the rug? don't be that second person.
posted by lia at 1:17 PM on August 25, 2009

My god. Musofire's advice should be the lowest thing on your list. Trying to hide it is better. That, at least, demonstrates a certain level of remorse for the post. Being shady about what was written (especially massive rewrites to excise objectionable content) is disingenuous at best, and lacking of all integrity at worst.

With great power (to post your opinion for hundreds of millions of people to read) comes great responsibility (to own up to your mistakes like an adult).

One of two things is true here, you either made a mistake in your ideas or you made a mistake in your explanations of them. If neither of those were true, you wouldn't be here asking this question.

If you want to revise the post to take a more reasoned/neutral tone -- and that's not a terrible idea -- you need to at least make a note of the changes you made and explain why you made the change.

Most people tend to be pretty reasonable and offering of forgiveness if you're willing to own up to your slip-ups without excuses or arguing.
posted by toomuchpete at 5:15 PM on August 25, 2009

The only things you can meaningfully do now are remove the page from Google's cache (explained on caveat's link) and remove it from the wayback machine. Any other sites that discussed your article will still continue to have your name and whatever excerpts of your content that they quoted. That's the way the cookie crumbles.
posted by Rhomboid at 8:42 PM on August 25, 2009

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