Scott Pilutik

I am an attorney and consultant living and working in Manhattan, focusing primarily on church/state constitutional law. I'm a recognized expert on the Church of Scientology organization. I also have strong interests in intellectual property law where it intersects with emerging media, and free speech.

I support the efforts of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the National Lawyers Guild, the ACLU, Creative Commons, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I am a member of the New York County Lawyers Association and the New York State Bar Association. I also enjoy (watching) hockey and (doing) photograhy.

Online I can be found on Facebook, Twitter. My resume can be viewed here. I can be reached by phone at 212.645.6241 or by e-mail at pilutik[at]gmail.com.

Reputation Defender

I’ve never heard of this Reputation Defender, but it’s scary/interesting what they’re up to.

“First, we SEARCH. We scour the Internet to dig up every possible piece of information about you and present it in an interactive monthly report.”

[...]

“Next, we DESTROY. You can select any content from your report that you don’t like. This is where we go to work for you.
Our trained and expert online reputation advocates use an array of proprietary techniques developed in-house to correct and/or completely remove the selected unwanted content from the web. This is an arduous and labor-intensive task, but we take the job seriously so you can sleep better at night. We will always and only be in YOUR corner.”

From what I can tell, ‘DESTROY’-ing basically amounts to sending an email begging the site host to remove the offending content. Having been on the receiving end of scary lawyer letters from the Church of Scientology, I’m not impressed.

This all came up in the context of this St. Pete Times story, where a politician–Cheri Yecke–hired the company to scare some science-bloggers into removing posts which recounted her defense of Intelligent Design (she’s running for Education Commissioner of FL, making these particular posts politically relevant). As I would have advised, she might as well have hired arsonists to staff the fire dep’t, because not only were the posts not removed, but greater attention paid to them (and subsequently will be paid to them, at least while the novelty of ReputationDefender remains fresh).

I don’t necessarily see a problem with the legality of the service itself, but between its rhetoric (DESTROY!) and performance (please) lies a gaping chasm. Perhaps more importantly, nowhere on their site does Reputation Defender warn potential clients of the scenario of which Cheri Yecke is now familiar, where the goal of censoring triggers a huge overlay of posts (like mine right here, and this one from PZ Myers, and Wesley Elsberry) echoing the original article. Neither Reputation Defender’s website nor its User Agreement makes mention of this material possibility, of which a reasonable consumer would want to be made aware. I’ll render no guess as to whether this is deception or ignorance without more facts.

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