Instagram Adds Support for Portrait and Landscape Photos 0

Instagram Adds Support for Portrait and Landscape Images

Tired of cropping your selfies to fit into the proverbial box that Instagram requires?

If so, then you’ll be happy to hear that Instagram now allows portrait and landscape photos for all users.

The news below, announced by Instagram, states that the app will update its feed to accommodate photos that are portrait or landscape orientation.

For Instagram power users this opens up a ton of creative opportunities to use different types of images to show off their photography skills and/or products and services.

Instagram Adds Support for Portrait and Landscape Images

Source: Thinking Outside the Square: Support for Landscape and Portrait Formats on Instagram – Instagram Blog

Want tips on how to use Instagram to grow your brand and engage your customers?


Image courtesy of Instagram

This post, Instagram Adds Support for Portrait and Landscape Photos, is from the Online Marketing Blog by imFORZA. Enjoy!

Source: IMforza

33 FAQs About Removing Negative Search Results 0

man frustrated with computer

Negative search results can happen to anyone.

They’re frustrating. They’re unfair. And they can dramatically influence your chances for landing a job, earning new clients, and even getting yourself a date.

You probably have a load of questions (that’s why you’re here, right?) about fixing your search results. The world of online reputation management (ORM) can seem murky and mysterious to the uninformed, which is why I’ve put together a comprehensive list of the 33 most frequently asked questions people have about removing search results from Google. (I refer specifically to Google in this article, but the answers apply to Bing & Yahoo as well.)

One of our main tenets at Brandyourself is transparency — we want clients to know what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it. Scroll through these 33 questions and find the ones that most apply to you. Or, read the whole thing to give yourself the ultimate preparation for battling that negative result. Looking forward to answering any additional question in the comments section below — see you there.

Here we go! 

1. How can I get this negative result ‘taken down’?

Unless you own the content (in which case, what are you waiting for?) getting a negative result ‘taken down’ is actually quite challenging. The website owner doesn’t have to take it down, probably has little incentive to listen to you, and may even miss your email request altogether.

For these reasons, getting a negative result taken down is unlikely to work. But if you succeed it can be very effective.

Here’s how you do it. Go to and find out who the website owner is. Contact the owner by email and request (politely) for them to take down the offending material. I’d suggest going the sympathy route — explain that the material is damaging your reputation and try to show how you’ve changed for the better since the content was published. Whichever route you decide to go, remain polite and remember that if they do help you out, they’re actually doing you a favor.

NOTE: The disadvantage of this method is that it doesn’t solve the underlying problem of having a weak online presence. You still leave yourself vulnerable to other slanderous results if you don’t take actions to build up a positive presence. See #6 for more details.

2. When is it right to submit a DMCA request?

The most common reason for submitting a DMCA takedown request is if the offending material infringes on your legal rights as a copyright owner. If someone is clearly using your material without permission (photos, written content, audio, video, etc.) you can submit a request by going to your DMCA Dashboard and creating a new notice.

You’ll need to be able to identify and describe the copyrighted work, show an authorized example of the work, and provide a URL to the allegedly infringing material.

Google gets millions of these requests every month, so don’t expect to get any results unless you can make your case crystal clear. You should also be aware that any request you send will be tied to your name and all requests are made public on so think carefully about the risks before you move ahead with this request.

3. Can we take legal action?

It is very difficult to get search results legally removed because people can say pretty much anything they want online. Even if you have a strong case proving defamation or libel, the legal process can cost you thousands of dollars and take many years to settle. The court system is a notoriously difficult place to solve these kinds of problems.

If you’re interested in hearing about your legal options, definitely speak with an attorney. Just remember that a lawyer may come back to you with the upsetting news that there is nothing that can be done to take down your negative result — and still charge you for their time.

4. What about the “right to be forgotten?”

In 2014, the highest court in Europe decided that European people had the right to influence the search results for their name in some certain circumstances.

The New York Times explains:

Under the ruling, Europeans who felt they were being misrepresented by search results that were no longer accurate or relevant — for instance, information about old financial matters, or misdeeds committed as a minor — could ask search engines like Google to delink the material. If the request was approved, the information would remain online at the original site, but would no longer come up under certain search engine queries.

This sounds promising. So what’s the catch?

As of this article’s publication (August 2015), removals only apply to European versions of Google search results ( and for example) and not the American version, The number of removals so far has also been relatively small. Of the 1,000,000+ requests since the court’s decision, only 41% were approved, and that number is much smaller for specific categories like public figures, serious crimes, and child protection.

Finally, beware the risks associated with this move. According to Danny Sullivan at, Google will disclose the removal in a process similar to DMCA complaints and even report the removal on

DMCA search result removal

Google tells us that it will show disclosure when URLs are removed under the new Right To Be Forgotten method in a manner similar to above. In other words, while the URL itself is forgotten, the fact that Google was made to forget it will be remembered.

If you are still interested, you can submit a search removal request here. You must submit a copy of your photo ID and be able to prove that the offending content is “irrelevant, outdated, or otherwise inappropriate.”

5. Can I submit a complaint to Google?

Aside from the “right to be forgotten,” there are only a couple instances where it makes sense to ask Google to remove something.

The first is the above mentioned DMCA request. The second is regarding highly sensitive personal information like bank account numbers and signatures. The third is revenge porn. Google decided to start honoring requests to take down those kinds of damaging results as of June 2015. You can read more about that on Google’s public policy blog.

To ask Google to take down these results in these specific cases, you can submit your request here.

6. If we can’t take down the negative, what CAN we do?

The most effective way to handle a negative result is to bury it with positive, relevant content about yourself.

s step process

This is an easy three-step process.

  1. Build yourself a website. Buy a domain with your name in the URL (like and build it on a simple platform like WordPress, Squarespace, or BrandYourself. Then make some high-authority social profiles that fit in with your personal brand. Everyone knows LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter but some other great ones to start with are, Slideshare, Crunchbase and Youtube.
  2. Optimize your profiles to be search engine friendly.
  3. Most importantly, keep your sites and profiles updated consistently with original, quality content and lots of organic activity.

As your properties gain more authority over time, they will start to rise higher in search results for your name, eventually pushing down the negative or irrelevant results.

7. How does Google’s search algorithm work?

SEO basic factors chart

When you type something into the search bar, Google tries to serve you the most ‘relevant’ search results for that term. Relevancy is determined by a number of on-page and off-page ranking factors. Let’s look at a few:

On-page Ranking Factors

  • Quality Content: Google rewards sites that have amazing content that provides lots of value to users. Content that is longer, well-written, and original is considered higher quality (from an algorithmic standpoint) than short, thin, and duplicate content.
  • Keyword Optimization: Keywords are the core words and phrases you want to rank for in search results. In this case, the primary keyword will be your full name or business. Keyword optimization does not mean unnaturally stuffing your keyword onto your site — that kind of behavior can earn you a nasty Google penalty. Focus instead on writing engaging content and weaving your keyword in naturally when it is appropriate. Some obvious places to include your keyword are in the URL of your website, the title, the header tag, and an About page.
  • Outbound Links: Outbound links, the ones you use to link out to other sites, are seen as signals of trust. Link out to authoritative sites in your industry that provide real value to the user. As a general rule of thumb, don’t exceed 25 outbound links per 1,000 words.
  • Site Architecture: You want to make sure that your site structure has a logical hierarchy and that you are linking to all your pages in an easy-to-use navigational menu. Give your URL slugs appropriate titles and make the process of getting around your site as simple as possible.

Off-page Ranking Factors

  • Backlinks: Links still matter a ton because search engines use them as signals of trust and relevancy. The important distinction today is that the QUALITY of the backlinks matter. One link from a highly authoritative site like the New York Times is going to be far more effective than hundreds or even thousands of links from no-name sites. The opposite is true too — spammy backlinks from link farms can do your site more harm than good. Focus on creating incredibly useful content for a target niche and you’ll be well on your way to getting a variety of links from relevant websites.

    • Don’t be afraid to reach out to your network to politely ask for links to your website. Appropriate places to start might be your business or a philanthropic organization that you’re heavily involved with.
  • Social Engagement: It’s not clear how much weight Google gives to social connections and interactions as a ranking factor but there is a correlation between social votes and high rankings. Build your personal or corporate brand across your social network, grow your following organically, and share your content to get the most out of your social connections.
  • Personalization: Local search is becoming an increasingly more important factor for search. There are many ways to take advantage of this factor, including registering your business’s address in Google+ and setting your location in your social profiles. If your site is getting loads of links from sites related to your location, it is more likely to rank, at least in that target location.

This just scrapes the surface, but it gives a good sense of the factors Google looks for when ranking search results. For more info, check out Google’s own SEO Starter Guide 2015.

8. Are there any special SEO tricks I can use?

Even as recently as a few years ago, you could get away with using “black-hat” SEO techniques, tricks used simply to game search engines like Google. These were things like link farming, cloaking, and keyword stuffing.

Today, these techniques will do you more harm than good. Google has gotten much better at detecting these tricks and penalizing the websites that use them. If you remember one thing about the future of SEO, it’s this: The arm of SEO is long, but it bends toward user experience.

Want to know the best SEO trick in the book? Do things that real users would do. Create incredibly engaging and valuable content that makes other people want to share it and link to it. Play by Google’s rules, and you’re much more likely to win in the long run.

9. Can we buy backlinks?

Buying backlinks falls into the “black hat” camp and is never a good idea. Backlinks from link farms and the like are in breach of Google’s webmaster guidelines and the search giant is quite adept at identifying violators and dishing out serious penalties.

10. How long does it take to bury a negative result?

bury negative search result

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Anyone who guarantees a specific timeline for pushing down a negative result is lying and, frankly, being irresponsible. Depending on the competitiveness of the keyword and the authority of the negative result, pushing a negative off the first page of Google can take up to a year or longer.

11. Can we buy traffic to our websites?

Purchasing website traffic is another “black hat” technique used to game the system and is therefore inadvisable. It might seem like an attractive short-term solution, but it is unsustainable and can actually hurt you in the long run. Google has released multiple algorithmic updates to penalize this kind of dishonest traffic-building behavior so your efforts are likely to be for naught.

Instead of buying traffic, focus on creating quality content — useful content that adds real value — and you’ll have a sustainable source of traffic for months and years to come. If you want to use some disposable income on your campaign, try strategically using paid campaigns for sites like Twitter, Stumbleupon, or Outbrain to increase your content’s reach.

12. Why is this old, irrelevant, negative result still ranking?

Google uses a number of on-page and off-page relevancy factors to determine the rankings in search results.

That negative result from years ago may not be relevant anymore but it’s probably built up lots of authority over the years. Even if it’s a static page, the rest of the site that it’s associated with might be constantly updated, which lends extra authority to that static, older page.

All the properties you’re creating for yourself will be keyword optimized and updated regularly with content, which puts them at a distinct advantage. But your properties are newer and they haven’t built up enough authority yet to overtake that ancient negative result. Here’s an example for you to visualize what happens over time.

domain authority over time

13. Why did the negative result suddenly jump back up in the rankings?

Google frequently updates its search results based on a number of relevancy factors. Fluctuation in search results is completely normal, especially for a competitive keyword. For more information, check out question #22: “Why am I seeing different results than you?

14. It’s been 3 months, why aren’t I seeing any results yet?

Three months is simply too short a time to see results. If you maintain regular activity on your web properties, you might start to see things rank in the first 3 pages, but you might not. Keep at it!

15. It’s been 6 months, why aren’t I seeing any results yet?

It depends how you’re measuring results. If your goal is to beat a negative result, there will be plenty of smaller successes along the way before you finally push the negative off the first page. Properties will begin to rank on the first three pages and you’ll start to displace other irrelevant results along the way.

If you’re not seeing any of your properties rank on the first three pages after 6 months, then it may be time to re-evaluate the situation. Is the keyword extremely competitive? Do you need to put more firepower behind your efforts? Is it time to restrategize the way your sites link to each other? Are there easy link-building opportunities you’re leaving on the table? Speak with a SEO specialist to come up with a new strategy to reflect what you’ve learned.

16. It’s been a year and the negative is still on the first page. Should we just chalk this up as a failure?

No! There are two things to consider:

  1. Firepower: Online reputation campaigns can routinely take longer than a year depending on the competitiveness of the keyword and the amount of firepower you put behind your campaign. If your properties are ranking on the first few pages, you can be sure you’re on the right path. Keep up the good work and consider increasing the amount of time you put into your campaign.
  2. Branding: Your online presence is not just a means to an end. It’s your personal brand and it tells a truthful, relevant story about you. That negative result may still be ranking, but it no longer defines your online presence. Are your other web properties ranking on the first page? If so, they’re mitigating the negative page’s impact and telling viewers the full story. Are you earning more monthly website views than the amount of Google searches for your name? If so, then you are beginning to really define the way you are perceived online.

17. Are there some short term tactics we can use?

No. Burying negative results takes time and there is no shortcut to generating authority on a number of web properties. Press releases can sometimes offer “flash-in-the-pan” results because they mimic a news article, but these results fall of SERPs as quickly as they arise.

18. If Twitter and LinkedIn are so authoritative, can’t we just create a bunch of those profiles for my name?

Google tends to rank only one result per domain on the first page. So while this sounds like a good idea in theory, it doesn’t typically work out in reality. It would be smarter to refocus your efforts on creating amazing content on your already-existing profiles.

19. Why does this process take so long?

It takes time for your web properties to generate enough authority to begin ranking prominently. Even if your properties are more SEO-friendly and optimized better for your name or business, they’re still much newer than that negative result. For that reason, it’s going to take time for your properties to gain enough authority to overtake it.

I’ll share the chart from question #12 here again so you can visualize what I’m talking about:

domain authority over time

20. Is the process different if I have a negative image result?

Pushing down a negative image requires the same process as a negative search result, but a different focus. You’ll still need to build SEO-friendly web properties and generate consistent quality content, but you’ll want to remain focused on the images you upload to your sites and social profiles.

Perhaps you’ll add a gallery page to your website and embed many more images into your articles. Whatever you decide, remember to optimize your images properly: use your keyword in the file name, rename the title, and give it appropriate keyword-related alt text. Bonus tip: reduce the image size to the minimum you need for your site so you don’t slow things down.

21. How do I optimize a social profile like LinkedIn or Twitter for SEO?

social media icons

There are 6 steps to optimize any social profile for great search results.

22. Why do I see different results than you’re seeing?

There are a number of reasons you might be seeing different search results than someone else. Here are the big 3:

  1. Location: Especially after the Google Pigeon update, people have started to notice a sometimes-dramatic change in search results depending on the searcher’s location. Your results make look horrible in New York but much better in San Francisco. Want to check? To change your search location, click ‘Search tools’ and then click your location and replace it with your preferred one. (To get a different country’s search results, go to the country-specific Google address, like for France.)
    Location google search
  2. Personalization: Your results may be personalized based on your web browser’s cookies, your IP address, or other saved data. To avoid this issue entirely, you can reset your cookies or open up an incognito window and search from there.
  3. Algorithm Experiments: Whenever Google engineers want to test something, they try it on a small percentage of random users. If you’re getting different results even after clearing your cookies and searching incognito, your search may be testing a new tweak to help improve the overall results.

23. Why am I seeing different results on mobile?

It’s official — Google reports that more Google searches now take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries, including the United States. Since Google always aims to deliver the best user experience, it has increasingly prioritized mobile-responsive websites, especially after the recent “Mobilegeddon” update. If you’re seeing different results on mobile, it could be that Google is serving up results based on your search history, your location, or simply because there are some sites that are better for a mobile viewer’s experience.

24. It sounds like a long process to change my business’s search results. Should I just change my business name?

That’s up to you, but consider this: what happens when people do their due diligence and search the previous business’s name to gauge your credibility? If you think you can completely cut ties from the business, then it’s might be something to consider, but don’t go that route before adequately weighing the risks.

25. What’s the point of linking everything together?

link structure diagram

The benefit of linking everything together in a consolidated way is that you pass little bits of authority between your web of online properties. New social properties won’t hold that much authority by themselves, but they will be much stronger once they’re tied together on the backend.

This kind of linking strategy makes sense too because it’s exactly what a real user would do. Any professional with an array of social media profiles will want to direct people back to their website. When it comes to the future of SEO, focus on doing what a real user would do and you’re likely to succeed in the long run.

26. Are we done once we push down the negative result off the 1st page?

The good news is that less than 10% of people search beyond the 1st page. You can probably afford to ease up a little once you’ve pushed the negative off, but the worst thing you can do is rest on your laurels and let your properties get stagnant. Remember that consistency is key to high search results and maintaining activity on your sites and social profiles is important to keeping them above the competition.

27. Do I need to have a blog?

You don’t necessarily NEED one, but you’d definitely be shooting yourself in the foot without one. In most cases, it’s simply too tough to get a website to rank on the first page without a consistently active component like a blog.

28. How often do I need to update my blog?

This truly depends on the nature of the negative result and the goals of your campaign. At the very least, you’ll want to update your blog once a month with a 350-450 word post. But if you spend more time on your blog — in length, quality, and consistency — you’re much more likely to drive quicker results.

29. Do I need to worry about my search results if I don’t have a negative?

Yes, absolutely. In most cases, your online presence is the first impression you’ll give to employers, clients, and even potential dates. According to 2014 statistics, 80% of employers Google job applicants before they even invite them to an interview.

Plus, preventatively building up a positive online presence is insurance for the online world. The more authority your web properties have, the harder it will be for someone’s slanderous comment to rank for your name.

30. I’m a private person — do I need to put information out there about me to beat a negative?

Long gone are the days of keyword stuffing and shoddy content. If the negative result is about you, you’ll need to at least talk about yourself in some basic terms to give Google (and ultimately, users) what they’re looking for. By naturally weaving your name into the content on your site, you’re trying tell Google that your content is not only about you, but it’s also more relevant than the negative article. Google is getting much better at gauging quality, relevant content — if you use your name without providing relevant information, you’re going to have a hard time convincing Google that your website is more relevant and authoritative than the negative.

That being said, the benefit of having your own websites and social profiles ranking for your name is that you get to choose what information goes online. Instead of a negative article besmirching your name, you’ll get to define how you’re perceived online. If you’re a private person, consider leaving out the personal details and talk instead about your creative process, your love of a particular hobby, or something else entirely.

31. Why do I need to write about myself in the third person?

real name chart

Google doesn’t know who “I” am but it definitely knows my full name. Whenever possible, write bios in the third person to show Google that your content is clearly about you.

32. Will press releases help bury the negative?

There are mixed feelings about press releases in the SEO and ORM industry. At Brandyourself, we’re not sold on their efficacy in the long run. In most instances, we’ve found press releases to offer short-term successes (because they mimic news articles) without giving the desired effect of long-term rankings (because they fall off SERPs as quickly as they show up.)

Like comment sections on blogs, press releases no longer provide dofollow links, the links that are acknowledged for ranking purposes. As Google gets better at sniffing out press releases, they are likely to have less and less of an SEO impact.

33. Would getting articles published on third party publications help?

Absolutely. If you can create really engaging, high-quality pieces of content, third party publications can be a big help to any ORM campaign.

Articles about you are more difficult to acquire, and you also run the risk of a journalist mentioning a relevant negative result.

But getting ordinary articles published on third party publications is a great way to supplement your campaign. Those articles can sometimes rank by themselves merely by being affiliated with your name as an author. Plus, getting an author page on publications like Huffington Post can often provide an awesome place for a valuable backlink to your website and social media.

Have any more questions or concerns? Let us know in the comments section below!


Source: Brandyourself

Ashley Madison Hack: What Can People Sue Over? 0

Ashley Madison lawsuits
Ashley Madison Lawsuits: Which are possible and which are not?

Online purveyor of pro-paramour lifestyles,, encouraged users to “have an affair,” because “life is short.” Well, the company’s lifespan may now be in jeopardy thanks to a possible litigation tsunami heading its way.

Who can exposed Ashley Madison users sue: the website or the hackers? What can “victims” legally claim? What are the chances of Ashley Madison successfully defending themselves? Will the business survive a litigation onslaught?

Let’s deconstruct the scandal and possible legal aftermaths.

The Hacking Scandal Basics

What is

From its website: “Have an Affair today on Ashley Madison. Thousands of cheating wives and cheating husbands signup everyday looking for an affair…With Our affair guarantee package we guarantee you will find the perfect affair partner.”

Who owns

Avid Life Media (“ALM”), a Canadian company that also operates websites called Cougar Life and Established Men.

Who hacked the site and when?

An ostensibly ethical hacking collective known as the Impact Team claimed responsibility for the breach. Impact Team announced its coup in mid-July; at that time, it made demands of ALM, offering a month-long compliance window. ALM didn’t comply with the demands, so Impact Team leaked the data in mid-August.

What reason did Impact Team give for its act of hacktivism?

Impact Team targeted two of Avid Life’s properties. Excerpts from its public statement regarding the hack:

“Full Delete netted ALM $1.7mm in revenue in 2014. It’s also a complete lie. Users almost always pay with credit card; their purchase details are not removed as promised, and include real name and address, which is of course the most important information the users want removed.”

“Avid Life Media has been instructed to take Ashley Madison and Established Men offline permanently in all forms, or we will release all customer records, including profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails. The other websites may stay online.”

How did Avid Life Media respond to the initial hack?

The company behind Ashley Madison did not comply with Impact Team’s initial requests. Instead, ALM told users it had augmented security on the site. When the initial data dump hit, ALM speculated that the information wasn’t real. After its forensic team had explored the matter, however, the company acknowledged the breach.

What information did Impact Team eventually release?

Via two 20 and 9.7 gigabyte-sized data dumps, initially only accessible with a Tor browser, Impact Team divulged around 32 million accounts. Some accounts are bogus; some are legit. Currently, most people aren’t paying much attention to email addresses not attached to payment accounts. And even for accounts that do include credit card info, there is no guarantee that the card holder’s identity wasn’t hijacked.

We should note that Impact Team didn’t release full credit card information, only the last four digits.

Did Impact Team explain why it eventually released the data?

Yes. According to Impact Team:

We have explained the fraud, deceit, and stupidity of ALM and their members. Now everyone gets to see their data … Keep in mind the site is a scam with thousands of fake female profiles. See ashley madison fake profile lawsuit; 90-95% of actual users are male. Chances are your man signed up on the world’s biggest affair site, but never had one. He just tried to. If that distinction matters. …


“Too bad for ALM, you promised secrecy but didn’t deliver.”

Impact Team also urged the exposed to “make amends” and encouraged: even though it is “embarrassing now,” users will “get over it.”

Did make any effort to secure user data?

Yes. The site used a PHP bcrypt algorithm to store passwords, which is considered an acceptable method amongst digital security specialists. However, as Robert Graham, CEO of Erratasec explained, “hackers are still likely to be able to ‘crack’ many of these hashes in order to discover the account holder’s original password.”

Avid Life’s Statement About The Data Revelation

“This event is not an act of hacktivism, it is an act of criminality. It is an illegal action against the individual members of, as well as any freethinking people who choose to engage in fully lawful online activities,” the company said in a statement. “The criminal, or criminals, involved in this act have appointed themselves as the moral judge, juror, and executioner, seeing fit to impose a personal notion of virtue on all of society. We will not sit idly by and allow these thieves to force their personal ideology on citizens around the world.”

Two Important Things to Consider About the Hack That Could Impact Potential Legal Actions Stemming From the Incident

Fake Accounts: Countless Ashley Madison accounts are fake and created by bots.

No Verification Required: doesn’t require email verification to create an account. As such, an innocent person’s address could have landed in data scrum if:

  1. The email address is publicly available online, and a bot picked it up in an automated profile creation scrape;
  2. Someone else used the email of an enemy – or friend – to set up an Ashley Madison account;
  3. A reporter or investigator set up an account to get a peek behind the curtain for research purposes.

Legitimate accounts are most likely attached to credit card information – like reality TV’s Josh Duggar’s account.

Ashley Madison Hack: What Can People Sue Over?

According to statements issued by the collective, one of the main reason’s Impact Team targeted Avid Life Media’s sites was the company’s paid security option.

“Find yourself in here? It was ALM that failed you and lied to you. Prosecute them and claim damages. Then move on with your life.”

Which raises a question: Can “hack victims” (i.e., Ashley Madison users) successfully sue Ashley Madison and Avid Life Media? It’s an insanely complicated question.

An ocean’s worth of individual details would factor into the fitness of any potential claim. That said, let’s take a look at some potential types of lawsuits that could be brought, then deconstruct the likelihood of success.

Hypothetical Ashley Madison Lawsuit Category: Defamation / False Light Invasion of Privacy

Can Ashley Madison users sue the website for defamation or false light invasion of privacy – a tort very similar to defamation on the law books in some states? On a scale from one to ten, the chances are about a .5. Why? Two reasons:

  • Though there are rare exceptions (like in Massachusetts), “truth” is a rock-solid defense against slander and libel claims. And in the case of the Ashley Madison hack, Impact Team covered its proverbial “butt” by pointing out that not all of the accounts are necessarily real.
  • Due to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Internet service providers and certain social media platforms enjoy a considerable amount of third-party defamation immunity protection.

Now let’s look at some hypothetical scenarios.

Hypothetical Ashley Madison Defamation Lawsuit: Individual User v. / ALM

Again, the likelihood of an individual user successfully suing Avid Life Media (’s parent company) for defamation is between slim and none. Under U.S. law, to win a defamation claim, plaintiffs must prove that the defendants made false statements of fact. In this case, though Impact Team hacked and leaked data, – nor its employees – made false statements of fact about users.

Intention also plays a primary part in state-side slander and libel suits. In this case, Ashley Madison executives didn’t act with actual malice, neither did they act with reckless disregard for the truth.

HOWEVER,’s website featured verbiage that promised a premium account option – and option that included information “deletion.” This program could be the basis of a solid breach of contract claim, which we’ll get to below.

Hypothetical Ashley Madison Defamation Lawsuit: Individual User v. Impact Team

Like ALM, it’s unlikely that individual users can bring successful defamation lawsuits against the Impact Team. Firstly, the collective didn’t spread lies; it leaked information. Even in instances where an automated bot scraped an email address from the Web and amended it to Ashley Madison’s database, the hackers, in theory, should be immune from libel liability. Why? Because in the collective’s release statement, Impact Team admitted that a large chunk of the user data was most likely false. The team even highlighted an ongoing class action, over fake profiles, against ALM.

Hypothetical Ashley Madison Lawsuit Category: Individual User v. Individual Online Shame Spreader

Theoretically, one type of Ashley Madison defamation lawsuit that has a shot at success is between an individual whose information was falsely leaked and a person who publically makes assertions based on the presence of that false information. Huh? This scenario is best explained in an example.

Example of a Potentially Successful Ashley Madison Defamation Lawsuit

John and James are co-workers and rivals for a job position. Turns out that John’s email address was amongst those leaked in the Ashley Madison data breach. John, however, has never used Ashley Madison and is happily married. His email landed in the website’s records on account of a bot that scraped the Web for addresses to make fake profiles – a subversive online marketing technique. In fact, John had no idea his email was even in the leak.

Now let’s cut to James, John’s work rival. He searches through the Ashley Madison data dump and comes across John’s email. Teeming with schadenfreude, James immediately takes to Twitter and scolds:

“John Doe is an adulterous CHEATER! He’s slept with the entire office and probably has a disease!!”

A tweet like this could be deemed defamatory (or at least false light). For starters, James makes a false statement of fact by asserting that John is a cheater and has a disease. Arguably, this is a reckless statement because the Impact Team explained the probability of false-positive accounts and highlighted the ongoing lawsuit involving fake profiles. Moreover, James extrapolated an entire story based on one piece of information.

There is no guarantee that John would win our hypothetical case, but of all the possible Ashley Madison defamation conflicts, a scenario like his has the best chance of success. But again, all online libel lawsuits depend on the details of the case, so it’s best to speak with an attorney about the specifics of your’s.

Hypothetical Ashley Madison Lawsuit Category: Data Breach / Online Privacy

Hypothetical Ashley Madison Lawsuit Category: Individual U.S. User v. / ALM

“Ashley Madison users can surely sue for violations of online privacy, right?”

Not necessarily.

Believe it or not, the United States doesn’t have a universal online privacy law. California’s online privacy statute comes the closest, but as of this writing, it doesn’t appear that ALM has violated it. After all, the company did take steps to secure passwords; the hackers were just smarter.

And though ALM at first questioned the validity of the data, the company did “fess up” in an appropriate amount of time. Moreover, ALM is working with law enforcement officials to find the culprits — all of which is in accordance with California’s – and other states’ – online privacy laws.

Of course, there may be extenuating circumstances that affect the validity of any given User v. ALM online privacy lawsuit.

Hypothetical Ashley Madison Online Privacy Lawsuit: Individual E.U. User v. / ALM

Though European Union online privacy laws are stricter than those in the United States, the probability of a successful Internet privacy claim in an E.U. court is equally as low as it is state-side. Mostly because the overseas digital privacy laws have more to do with acknowledging certain types of tracking (which you can read about here [link]) as opposed to punishing instances of data breaches.

Hypothetical Ashley Madison Online Privacy Lawsuit: Individual User v. Impact Team

Can individual users sue Impact Team for invasion of privacy? Highly Doubtful. Again, the word “privacy” isn’t even in the U.S. Constitution, and Capitol Hill has yet to pass a universal online privacy law.

Besides, finding the members of Impact Team is probably a longshot.

Hypothetical Ashley Madison Lawsuit Category: Breach of Contract

Hypothetical Ashley Madison Breach of Contract Lawsuit: Individual User v. / ALM

“Breach of contract” lawsuits – or a breach of contract class action – may be the legal straw that breaks Avid Life Media’s back.

As a pay option, offered members a deletion service for $19.99. And as the world now knows, it looks as if those promised deletions never happened.

Even if ALM included some tricky language in its terms of use policy about “deletion” not really meaning “deletion,” the company could still be in trouble. How? Because the language used to promote the service led the average user to believe that his or her data would be expunged completely; that was the conspicuous message.

Besides, the law, in many ways, no longer allows for “fine print” gotcha clauses, which are buried behind hyperlinks, in an agate-font text. Hiding important information like that is considered underhanded and judges ordinarily don’t grant absolution for those types of tactics.

Other Possible Lawsuits: False Advertising and Fraud

In addition to breach of contract, it’s possible that the government may sue for false advertising – on account of the $19.99 deletion promise. Others will argue that it was fraud to take the money and then not fulfill the promise they made. Whether either of these types of actions will be pursued or successful, time will tell.

Can ALM Sue Impact Team For The Hack?

Another possible Ashley Madison hack lawsuit that, theoretically, has a chance of success? ALM v. Impact Team.

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is the main hacking law in the United States. And, it’s controversial. Some people feel the penalties are way too steep, and it only serves in over-punishing the “little guy” instead of the true masterminds who know how to properly cover their tracks.

You can read more about issues related to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, here. Even if law enforcement agents were to unearth members of the Impact Team, it’s doubtful that ALM would prevail in the end…or that the case would even see a courtroom.

Make Sure Your Legal House Is In Order

The fallout of this Ashley Madison scandal will be long in the making. And if any claims do arise, like a Phoenix out of this particularly murky legal quagmire, rest assured that it will take years to litigate.

In the meantime, if you run a business and have an e-tail presence, be sure you are up-to-date with the latest online privacy and data breach laws and standards.

Click here to schedule an online privacy legal audit of your company or website.

Article Sources:

Estes, A. (2015, August 19). The Ashley Madison Hackers Just Released a Ton of Stolen Data [Updated]. Retrieved August 25, 2015, from

Ragan, S. (2015, August 18). Ashley Madison hackers publish compromised records. Retrieved August 25, 2015, from

Doctorow, C. (2015, August 20). Ashley Madison commits copyfraud in desperate bid to suppress news of its titanic leak. Retrieved August 25, 2015, from

Kim, Z. (2015, August 18). Hackers Finally Post Stolen Ashley Madison Data. Retrieved August 25, 2015, from

Source: Kelly Warner Law

Ashley Madison Hack Data Dump and how to handle 0

Is your email and information compromised on the Ashley Madison hack?

Our friends at Remove Names have create a list if you have been compromised take a look below….

Have you been compromised by the Ashley Madison Hack? Since hackers published more than 10 gigabytes of Ashley Madison data last week, I have received hundreds of emails asking what can be found, what can’t, and what people should do.

Here’s my advice.

☆Talk to your spouse and don’t lie.☆

● First things first. Tell your spouse why you were on the site. Was it a joke, or were you a member when you were single?

● If you did join to have an affair, don’t hide it.

● I would not be trying to fabricate a web of lies at this point, you’ll dig yourself deeper because, unfortunately, evidence is out there.

●Think about your exposure

● Next, think about who else might be looking for you and how you should handle the situation.

● For example, does your job have a morality clause, which could lead to you being fired?

● If you do community service work or volunteer with your church, would an association with Ashley Madison affect your membership?

● Be prepared to explain your situation, and again, be upfront about everything.

● Ignore blackmailers and check privacy settings

● Blackmailers can match your email address to your Facebook (FB,Tech30) or LinkedIn (LNKD, Tech30)account. They can threaten to share your ties to Ashley Madison with people you know, but these extortionists have nothing of value that’s not already in the public domain.

● You can safely ignore it.

● While that’s true, having your identity associated with Ashley Madison can be pretty damaging on its own.

● Adjust your privacy settings on your social networks so that people can’t identify your friends and family or share any of your personal information with them.

● Consider using a new email address

● If you used your real email address on the site, you should consider getting a new one if you’re applying for a job — or going on dates.

● Doing so may help you limit the risk of a background check that could dig up your Ashley Madison information.

● Be wary of online scams

● You might be lured by links to malware that advertises itself as the stolen database — so don’t click.

● Understand what was compromised

● The release data entries go back as far as 2002.

● Accept the fact that the data is out there

● Focus on damage control now because there’s no way this data will ever be removed from the web.

● The exposure is irretrievable.

Remove Names can help with Damage Control. We can help limit your exposure on the internet. For more information please contact Remove Names at 1-866-848-2022 or by email at

Source: RMN

Protecting Your Business’s Reputation on the Internet 0

According to a recent survey, more consumers are reading online reviews, they are forming opinions based on those reviews quicker, they are paying close attention to star ratings, and – in general – they are highly trusting of online reviews.

Business's online reputationThese survey results, discussed below, reaffirm just how vulnerable businesses are today on the internet.  Consequently, business must spend some time focusing on how they are being perceived on the internet and work to protect their online reputations beyond simply attempting to put out a quality product or service. All it takes is one or two unhappy customers or disgruntled customers to tarnish a business’s online reputation.

Consumers weigh in on online reviews

It is no secret that online reviews are being written in large numbers.  Yelp, the clear leader in the online review game, has been home to 83 million reviews in its 10 years of existence (as of June 30, 2015).  And anyone who Googles a business or searches it on Bing has seen how prominently Yelp’s review pages and star rating scores are being displayed – among others (Google, of course, also displays its Google reviews among the very top search results).

Accordingly, reviews are easy to find, and many people are reading them, whether they actively seek out online reviews or just stumble upon them when running internet searches.

In fact, according to the BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey 2015 alluded to above –which polled 2,354 North American consumers, 90 percent Americans and 10 percent Canadians – about 92 percent of the respondents indicated reading online reviews at least occasionally.  This is figure is up four percent since last year’s survey.

The consumers surveyed also indicated that they pay most attention to overall star ratings. And on a related note, just 14 percent of those polled by BrightLocal indicated they would consider conducting business with a company that has a rating of less than three stars (on a five-star scale).

On the flipside – despite the vast majority of consumers reading online reviews and there generally being positive reactions to highly-rated companies – the survey results also seem to suggest that some consumers are becoming less trusting (or at least somewhat skeptical) of online reviews.

While 80 percent of those surveyed by BrightLocal last month said they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations – certainly a high number – the survey saw a three percent dip from last year.  Similarly, 68 percent indicated positive reviews make them trust local businesses, but that was a drop from 72 percent in 2014.

While many consumers are easily impressionable when it comes to online reviews, there seems to be an increasing amount of skepticism from some – especially with more instances being reported of many fake reviews, including cases of internet defamation.

Fighting back against harmful reviews

Whether false online reviews or simply negative (but legitimate) feedback online, businesses must be prepared to protect and defend their reputations on the internet.

According to a Deloitte study often-cited on our blog, executives from large companies have identified reputation as the single most important strategic risk.  It speaks volumes that large companies are so concerned with their reputations, especially given how crucial positive reputations are to the small- and medium-sized businesses.

In our white paper, “Protecting Against, Preventing and Planning for Online Reputation Attacks,” we discuss the many strategies businesses must consider in anticipation and in the event of reputation attacks – including in the form of online reviews.

In short, a business should ensure that there is positive content about it online and, if online reviews are important to the business, to consider implementing a program to generate more reviews.

Developing positive search results, higher quantity of reviews

First impressions of most businesses are formed on the internet, in particular through the first search engine results pages.  Therefore, businesses will want to ensure – to the extent possible – that their top search results are populated by positive or neutral content.

As such, businesses will want to develop content, including building up company websites; creating affiliate websites; managing and regularly posting to blogs; writing guest posts; and creating other so-called “web assets.”

Given that online reviews are so prominent today, including their locations in search results, these cannot be ignored – in particular if the ratings are lower than ideal.  Thus, businesses should consider establishing a content-neutral program for obtaining more reviews, without actively and impermissibly soliciting positive reviews.

Should any issues balloon beyond just negative reviews, but actually false and damaging content, businesses will need to weigh their options, including – but certainly not limited to – potential legal action.

For more information, contact Whitney Gibson at 855.542.9192 or Read more about the practice at and follow @WhitneyCGibson on Twitter.

Source: Vorys