Forged court papers are being used to force negative stories off of Google results


Reputation management companies are forging court documents.

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal

Reputation management companies are forging court documents in an effort to have Google permanently remove links to unflattering information about their clients from the search giant’s results, according to a new investigation by CBS News. The network found more than 60 fraudulent court orders. 

CBS News, which worked with UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, found phony court orders were sent to Google to have negative stories about local businesses and two convicted criminals, both sex offenders, removed from results. (Disclosure: CBS News is owned by CBS, the parent company of The Techy Trends.)

“It never even crossed my mind that people would have the guts to actually go out there and just forge a court document,” Volokh told CBS News. “They take a judge’s signature and they copy it from one order to another order and they pretend something is a court order.”

Google said it’s “vigilant” to protect its removals process from people trying to game the system. “We have processes in place to verify the veracity of court orders, and if we are alerted to removals made in error, we will reinstate that content as appropriate,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.

Reputation management companies often pour out positive stories in the hopes of tricking Google into pushing negative links lower in the results. That’s a common and legal practice. At least two of the cases involving falsified court documents have been referred to law enforcement, CBS reported.

The segment appeared on CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell on Thursday.

Update, 5 p.m. PT: Adds comment from Google.