|Industry||Online reputation management|
|Headquarters||Redwood City, California, U.S.|
Reputation.com (AKA ReputationDefender) is an online reputation management company headquartered in Redwood City, California. The company claims that its 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 ReputationDefender 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.
In 2013, the company made several strategic acquisitions and entered the European market. In January, it bought the UK-based online reputation management firm Reputation 24/7. As part of the acquisition it began operating a second office in Liverpool. In June, it purchased PaperKarma, a mobile app that stops unwanted mail, catalogs, and offers. In July, it acquired MySocialCloud, a password management platform.
Some public relations professionals have stated that Reputation.com customers often end up paying money for a service that cannot be delivered. 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 unintended 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".
Jon Ronson, author of So You've Been Publicly Shamed, says that the company has helped some people who became agoraphobic due to public humiliation from online shaming, but that it was an expensive service that many could not afford.
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