Australian tech company Removify says it can wipe your online slate clean of damaging content for both businesses and individuals. Founder Andrew Whitford explains the critical importance of managing your online reputation.
“Nowadays, reputation isn’t just about the content you’re creating. It’s also about the content people are creating about you,” says Andrew Whitford, Co-Founder of Removify, an online reputation management company based in Australia. “This kind of content isn’t always going to be accurate and truthful. It’s not always going to be fair and a lot of the time, it’s not even going to have a name to it.” Whether you’re talking false and damaging online reviews or racy or explicit images, Removify sets out to remove content and neutralise the threat, thereby helping individuals and companies preserve their reputations. Andrew talked Hive Life through the complications – and importance – of their task.
“For me, digital content creation and the removal of false and harmful content are both really two sides of the same coin with the same underlying purpose: putting your best foot forward and presenting the company in the best possible light,” explains Andrew whose background in digital consultancy and SEO has provided him with a solid foundation for founding Removify in 2018 with his friend Nick Bell. As they see it, businesses need help with navigating the waters of an Internet that leaves them unprotected. “Companies like Facebook and Google are being challenged over whether or not they’re complicit when their platforms are used for illegal or negative activities. Is Google liable for defamatory content posted on Google Maps Reviews or are they just innocent third-party hosts? Our view is in line with the Australian courts: both the content creator and the platform are responsible. But, when you see just how much defamatory content there is out there and how little responsibility is actually being taken by the platforms, it’s plain to see that they’re used to getting away with it.”
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This is where Andrew says Removify steps in to help, battling fake reviews on websites such as Tripadvisor and Glassdoor, and de-indexing negative images by pushing them out of search results until they are essentially ‘invisible,’ thus protecting the reputations of restaurants, hotels, B2C businesses and even individuals. The first task they face is identifying the perpetrators, many of whom are nameless individuals hiding behind false identities or anonymity. “We like to call these ‘keyboard warriors,’” says Andrew. “They’re people who get a kick out of eliciting a response. Their ‘courage’ comes from not needing to have any accountability.” Their behaviour often follows a pattern: “On review platforms, we can usually make a distinction between reviews that air legitimate criticisms and fake reviews for the purpose of attacking others. Other times, people create a fake story. Then, it becomes trickier to present evidence of trolling. You have to find out how much information the platform has on this account and whether the person even exists.” One development that could prove helpful is an added emphasis on user verification. “With companies like Amazon, you have to verify that you did actually buy that product. This stands in contrast with Google where any review can be made at leisure. It’s not a perfect system, but at least it shows companies are trying to give reviews a bit more credibility by making individuals put a name to what they’re saying.”
Removify also handles negative content outside the world of business. “The personal space is a different entity altogether where harmful content can be anything from an old MySpace profile that has embarrassing pictures to content directed against you.” Issues like revenge porn and online abuse can be seriously damaging, not just to personal reputations but also to our mental health. “When it comes to things appearing on Google, rules and policy changes make it increasingly hard to take content down. Regulation of data has also been a huge issue, such as the recent Facebook data leaks on cloud servers. This all results in a bit of a Wild West situation. The systems to defend yourself simply aren’t there yet and lots of people have trouble affording the work and detail required to take such results down.” What’s worse is that the impact of false and damaging accusations can be quick – and hard to counter. “In the legal system, an accusation has to be backed up with evidence to prove it. Accusing someone online reverses this. Rather than the reviewer having to provide proof for the accusations, the businesses have to prove that the accusations aren’t true to have it taken down, and by that point, the damage is usually done – a negative review will generally deter business more than a positive review will be beneficial.”
To combat the threat that negative feedback poses, Removify encourages their clients to get on the front foot. “More often than not, customers with a positive experience just forget to leave feedback or they don’t even think about it unless you remind them. There’s nothing wrong with taking the initiative in asking them.” Businesses should also be equally proactive when it comes to responding to negative feedback. “Those with negative experiences are in general more motivated to leave reviews online. Having systems in place where you actively ask customers for feedback allows you to catch problems and deal with them before they go online. Everyone wins: customers tend to be satisfied and will be more likely to use the services provided again, and you can create a more accurate image for your business by taking initiative instead of being reactive and allowing your online reputation to just happen to you.” In a world where just one bad review can be the difference between success and failure, it’s advice worth looking at.