Imagine you are the CEO of a company and your marketing director comes to you and says you need to Google our company. You do the Google search and you find a 20 page blog that is all about you as CEO and the criminal acts being performed by you and your company. At first, you think that obviously nobody is going to believe this. Then you think about that big investment bank meeting coming up and the due diligence that they will do. Now, you panic.
So your first thought is we have to get our attorneys to send these guys a cease & Desist letter and this should clear it up. Of course, then you have the meeting with the attorneys and they say absolutely, who do I send the letter to? Well, maybe we should send it to Google they think (very much a wrong thought typically). Ultimately, they decide the best would be to find the blogger but how do you do that?Oh well, let’s try google and see what they say.
So now you reach out to Google and demand they remove the blog or reveal the identity. Of course, all you have to work with is some internet form that says “report abuse”. Dammit, where is their friggin phone number you scream. So off goes your form into the never land of the internet. After a few days, you get a standardized form letter that basically says, “can’t help, hire an attorney”. ARGHHHH!
Now you really begin to panic because as best as you can tell, there is no way to identify this anonymous blogger. You now wonder if this blog is now going to be a permant fixture on Google? The picture that we have painted above is very real and very common. It is usually about this stage that we receive a skeptical call that says, “you probably cannot do much about this but….” The good news is that often we can do something about it.
When we deal with an anonymous blogger, we always ask very strange questions at least as perceived by our clients. They come in thinking “I just want you to tell me who is behind this” however often, that is the most difficult task. What we ask in return is if you had that name, what would you be most interested in:
Using that information to stop them, like with a cease & desist letter
Similarly, trying to force them to remove it.
Or do you really need ID because you want to sue for damages.
To understand why we ask these questions, we must think like a blogger. Specifically, as a blogger that is attacking someone, then you are probably a little bit nervous about being discovered. The good news is that can be used to persuade them.. Fortunately, everybody leaves a trail on the internet. This includes IP addresses, email addresses, and many other clues we choose not to discuss.
So, let’s suppose your goal is to get removal of the material & stop the blogger. And as is common with blogs, then often there is a way of interacting with the blogger. Without getting into gory details, lets just say that we are good at extracting partial information about themWith that partial information, then we can often reach out to them and resolve the matter before their ID is uncovered. Once we can disrupt their belief that they can remain hidden, then often we are well on our way to resolving the problem.
Now, if you need to identify for purposes of litigation, then the process changes a little but not as much as you might think. First, we gather every shred of evidence possible including IP addresses that become available during the investigation. Next, we locate all the places where this person is likely to be caught during the discovery process. Often, many final ID’s are not made into this stage. Then we help the appropriate attorney extract the appropriate information and presto, they are BUSTED!