|Industry||Online reputation management|
|Headquarters||Redwood City, California, U.S.|
Reputation.com (formerly known as Reputation Defender) is an online reputation management (ORM) company headquartered in Redwood City, California. The company's products and services are designed to help businesses and individuals monitor, manage, and improve the way they appear online, across search engines, online reviews, and social media.
Reputation.com was founded as Reputation Defender by a lawyer, Michael Fertik, in 2006. According to Fertik, it was intended to help parents after their children reveal too much online, but most of his clients were young job-seekers. By 2007 it had 55 employees and $2 million in revenue. In January 2011, the company changed its name from ReputationDefender to Reputation.com. In 2011 it was named a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum for its effect on society. The company has raised $67 million in venture capital. As of 2012 it was not making a profit. Some public relations professionals have stated that Reputation.com customers often end up paying money for a service that is not possible. Forbes has stated that these kinds of tactics can result in negative material becoming more prevalent, as false positive material is seen by Google as "cheating".
Reputation.com is an online reputation management company, which according to author Lori Andrews charges clients to remove items about them from the Internet with "no guarantee of success". Early cases where Reputation.com sought to remove photographs from the Internet, for example, removed about two thirds of the copies from the web, but could not remove the remainder. Websites like Spokeo are compensated for individuals they direct towards Reputation.com who become Reputation.com clients. The founder of Reputation.com has stated that this arrangement put Spokeo in a position that it was capable of profiting from adding negative material about those with profiles on their site. In other cases it will generate websites and social media profiles that are intended to rank higher in searches than negative results. It may also refer some clients to lawyers. The company often begins by writing to the operators of websites hosting negative content about the client, asking them to remove the information. According to the Wall Street Journal, the letters "don't make threats... but instead try to appeal to recipients' sense of fairness." Reputation.com charges for increases in the severity of the language used. It generally cannot remove newspapers or court records.
The company initially charged about fifteen dollars per client, and has asked for at least $1000 a year for its services. In 2007 it introduced a $10,000 service for executives. Some of the company’s software includes scoring systems used to identify consumer information and generate reputation scores for individuals. It has software that locates websites where an individual’s personal data is unknowingly listed and attempt to get it de-listed. It can also track online reviews and contact customers to solicit for positive reviews, but can also hide legitimate criticisms about a company, which the company's founder has stated is a legitimate criticism of its business model. Despite this, the company has 1.6 million customers. Its main competitor is BrandYourself.
In 2012, BusinessWeek noted that "Reputation.com scam" was an autocompleted phrase when typing the company's name into the Google search engine and that many unfavorable search results were hidden on the second page of search results for the keyword "Reputation.com". The autocompleted phrase is a tactic for Reputation.com to hide any reviews about the company that label it a scam, even if legitimate.
According to The New York Times, Reputation.com is popular, but controversial, due to its efforts to remove negative information that may be of public interest. According to Susan Crawford, a cyberlaw specialist from Cardozo Law School, most websites will remove negative content when contacted to avoid litigation. The Wall Street Journal noted that in some cases writing a letter to a detractor can have un-intended consequences, though the company makes an effort to avoid writing to certain website operators that are likely to respond negatively. The company's CEO says it respects the First Amendment and does not try to remove "genuinely newsworthy speech." It generally cannot remove major news stories from established publications or court records.
In 2008, former AutoAdmit administrator Anthony Ciolli filed a lawsuit against Reputation.com, among other defendants. The suit was in response to a lawsuit brought against Ciolli by two Yale Law School students for being defamed on the Internet message board, which is a forum for current and prospective law school students. Ciolli claims to have lost a job offer as a result of negative publicity from the original suit.
In a 2009 paper in the Harvard Journal of Law & Gender, law professor Ann Bartow said Reputation.com exploited the harassment of women on the Internet for media attention.
Two months after the company was founded, ReputationDefender was hired to remove online images of 18-year old Nikki Catsouras's lethal car accident, which police said was leaked by an officer. The company was able to get the images taken down on about 300 out of 400 websites. The New York Post said their effort was "surprisingly effective" but raised concerns that its polite letters were resulting in censorship of material offensive to their clients. Newsweek said it was ineffective. ReputationDefender said removing the images was an "unwinnable battle".
- Lavallee, Andrew (June 13, 2007). "Firms Tidy up Clients’ Bad Online Reputations". The Wall Street Journal.
- Gilbertson, Scott (7 November 2006). "Delete Your Bad Web Rep". Wired. Wired. Retrieved 2011-01-20.
- Sowa, Tom (February 26, 2007). "Find, destroy; Services clean up online problems". Spokesman Review. pp. A8.
- Greenburg, Andy (May 15, 2008). "Covering the worlds of data security, privacy and hacker culture". Forbes.
- "ReputationDefender Changes Name To Reputation.com". Dow Jones & Company, Inc. January 14, 2011. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
- Lori Andrews (10 January 2012). I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy. Simon and Schuster. p. 42. ISBN 978-1-4516-5051-8.
- Tom McNichol (2012-02-02). "Fixing the Reputations of Reputation Managers". Businessweek.
- Singer, Natasha (December 8, 2012). "A Vault for taking charge of your online life". The New York Times. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
- "Don't Fall for the "Reputation Defender" Online Scams". Public Relations Princess. 2011-11-06. Retrieved 2015-02-17.
- "Google-Proof PR?". Forbes. Retrieved 2015-02-17.
- "Internet Sheriff". Harvard magazine. Retrieved April 2011.
- Hindman, Nate (February 2, 2012). "Google Problems? BrandYourself Helps You Control Search Results of Your Name". Huffington Post. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
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- "Reputation.com spots, cleans up online blemishes". Biz Journals. July 13, 2012. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
- "Is Online Reputation Management Worth The Money?". Forbes. 2013-07-26. Retrieved 2015-02-17.
- "IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF PHILADELPHIA COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA" (PDF). Dmlp.org. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
- Jones, Leigh (10 April 2009). "Former AutoAdmit Exec's False-Suit Claim Lives On". The National Law Journal. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
- Nolan, Christan (26 March 2008). "Yale Law School Defamation Case Explores Anonymous Web Site Users' Free Speech Rights". The Connecticut Law Tribune. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
- Bartow, Ann. "Internet Defamation as Profit Center" (PDF). Harvard Journal of Law & Gender. pp. 383–430.
- Callahan, Maureen (February 16, 2007). "Untangling a Web of Lies". New York Post. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
- "One Family's Fight Against Grisly Web Photos". Newsweek. p. 3. Retrieved 2009-04-28.