TheDirty.com is an online gossip and tabloid-style website that encourages user-generated content to publicize the inappropriate or “dirty” behavior of famous (and not so famous) individuals.
Whether you are looking for a job, selling a product, applying for school, meeting a client, or looking for a date, a post on TheDirty.com can be devastating to your reputation.
What is TheDirty.com?
Nik Richie (born Hooman Karamian) started TheDirty.com in 2007, when it was known as DirtyScottsdale. It is a popular tabloid website where anyone can post news, gossip, accusations, photos, videos, or text about someone else. It is common for anonymous posters to mention real names and real locations, and the site is a magnet for angry spouses, jilted boyfriends and girlfriends, jealous coworkers, and frustrated business competitors.
TheDirty.com has played a role in some of the most infamous Internet takedowns of the past decade. The Dirty broke the story that New York Congressman Anthony Weiner continued to send sexually explicit messages to other women after resigning from Congress in 2011. The Dirty is also widely believed to have been the first outlet to publish the news story that Ashton Kutcher cheated on Demi Moore in September 2011. Sports celebrities also found their reputations tarnished on this toxic tabloid. NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley’s DUI arrest in 2008 was reported first by The Dirty — long before the national news media took notice.
The Dirty is open and transparent about its mission, it states clearly “The content that is published contains rumors, speculation, assumptions, opinions, and factual information. Postings may contain erroneous or inaccurate information. All images are credited to their original location. The owner of this site does not ensure the accuracy of any content presented on TheDirty.com.”
Although many posts claim to be true, the claims are difficult to verify, and some are so outlandish that they are almost certainly wildly exaggerated for dramatic effect. Some posts republish social media images without permission and celebrities are not immune from hateful comments and vile, hurtful remarks. Visitors of the site can search by location to find “dirt” on anyone mentioned in a post, and some unlucky people are subjected to multiple posts by anonymous authors.
If you have become the victim of a post on TheDirty.com, you are not alone, and there is help available.
What is Online Defamation / Cyber Libel?
Defamation is a false statement about someone, made to someone else, that results in some harm.
If a statement is true, it’s not defamatory. Opinions are protected speech — in order to be defamatory the content must be able to be proven true or false.
On a Website like The Dirty, calling someone a “floozy” or a “bitch” may be offensive speech, but it is probably not defamation as a matter of law, since how can it really be proven true or false. However, if a post states that someone has a sexually transmitted disease or is a convicted felon, it may, if untrue, qualify as defamation since one can provide medical or police records to prove (or disprove) the claim.
Another frequently confused area is the difference between libel and slander. Libel is an untrue defamatory statement that is made in writing or online. Slander is an untrue defamatory statement that is spoken orally — but would also include a statement made in a video or podcast.
All the time, people are creating false stories to hurt the reputation of others. This problem spreads far across the internet, and it is certainly not limited to content posted on TheDirty.com. Online defamation or cyber libel is widespread across the Internet.
Online defamation can happen to celebrities, politicians, religious leaders, companies, and just about anyone. Cyberbullying is just the newest form of harassment.
A Pew Research Center survey found that 41% of Americans have been personally subjected to harassing behavior online, and an even larger share (66%) has witnessed these behaviors directed at others.
Online defamation or cyber libel occurs when false and damaging statements are made about another individual via e-mail, message boards, blogs, chatrooms, or anywhere on the Internet.
Victims of online defamation can only take legal action if the information posted online is false and there must be proof of damages. Truth is an absolute defense to a claim of online defamation — even when the content is damaging or hurtful.
Why is it Difficult to Remove Content from TheDirty.com?
There are several ways to remove a post from TheDirty.com. You can allege a violation of copyright if you are the owner of an image posted on TheDirty.com, however, even if successful, the site is only obligated to remove the image — not the post. Another option is to allege a policy violation. We explain both options in greater detail below.
Although TheDirty.com requires users to enter their information to submit a post, such as their name, email address, mailing address, or phone number, this does not mean that they must give that information to someone who has become a victim to online defamation through the site.
In order to unmask someone who has posted negative content about you on TheDirty.com, you will have to take legal action.
In order to unmask and anonymous individual who has posted defamatory content on The Dirty and then remove a post from TheDirty.com you will usually need to obtain a court order for removal.
In a typical case, you would sue an anonymous “John Doe” defendant and then subpoena his or her Internet service provider (“ISP”) to uncover his or her actual identity (usually full name and legal address). Once you have successfully “unmasked” the identity of the anonymous individual, you would proceed with a legal action against the individual who posted the defamatory content. If you are able to win your defamation case, you can submit the legal decision to TheDirty.com with a request for removal.
Search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo will remove or deindex a page from its search results after receiving a court order.
Websites like TheDirty.com have broad protection from liability under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. We will go into this further, but it means that TheDirty.com is not responsible for what people say and post on the site, even if it is false. Although many posts on The Dirty include editorial notes which could conceivably open the door to liability, it is a very difficult case to prove, and so far, The Dirty has been successful in defending their rights to publish user-generated content.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act
The Communications Decency Act of 1996 was initially enacted to protect Internet users, specifically minors, from being exposed to inappropriate content online. From the perspective of online reputation management, the most relevant section of the Act is section 230.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act was put into place to protect websites from legal liability for user-generated content.
Although this was a great win for website owners and online publishers, it has become a problem for anyone who has had the unfortunate experience of someone saying something posting defamatory content online. Many websites allow anonymous postings and take little action to remove content that is hateful or hurtful to others — hiding behind the broad shield of freedom of speech when it is most convenient and expedient.
When someone posts content that is not true or that harms someone else’s reputation, the host is not liable. In fact, in Jones v. Dirty World Entm’t Recordings LLC, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that under the CDA, interactive computer service providers (like TheDirty.com) are immune against liability for unlawful or illegal content provided by a third party unless they materially contribute to the unlawfulness of the content displayed on their websites.
As a result of this case, if you choose to sue The Dirty, you will most likely be unsuccessful.
Fair Use and TheDirty.com
Fair use permits the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works – in accordance with Section 107 of the Copyright Act. Fair use is a complicated legal doctrine and it can sometimes be difficult to determine whether it is permissible or not to use content to which you do not own the copyright.
It is easier to remove a post or image from TheDirty.com if the person posting the content did not have permission. If you own the copyright to a photo and someone else uses the image without permission, you may be able to allege a copyright violation, but that is only the first step in the process. You also need to convince the web publisher that the use of the image is prohibited, and some websites are more restrictive than others.
That is why you should be careful about what sites you choose to post pictures. Not all social media platforms provide protection for your posted images.
Although, most of the well-known social media sites have a good policy where it would not go far for someone to take an image.
How to Use DMCA to Remove Copyright Content from TheDirty.com
The Communications Decency Act of 1996 was initially enacted to protect Internet users, specifically minors, from being exposed to inappropriate content online. From the perspective of online reputation management, the most relevant section of the Act is section 230.The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was enacted by Congress in 1998 to protect the rights of both copyright owners and consumers, especially online and when dealing with user-generated content. If someone has posted content on TheDirty.com that is a copyright violation, there are instructions available on the Website for submitting a DMCA takedown request.
You will need to submit certain information to TheDirty.com in connection with your DMCA request.
The Dirty.com will require some personal information from you, such as:
- Contact information – Address, Phone Number, Email Address
- Description of Copyrighted Work
- Location of infringement – URL address of the content stolen
TheDirty.com will also require the following to be included in the DMCA notice:
- A statement saying that you did not authorize the use of the material
- An electronic signature
- A statement saying that the information you provided in this request is accurate and that you are the copyright owner
TheDirty.com does give further information on their copyright page about what exactly should be included in your DMCA request.
The first tip is to include a “clickable link to the post,” and the second tip is to send the request as a standard HTML email. You can choose to send the request through the mail or FedEx if that is more convenient for you, but it will cause a delay in response and removal of the post.
TheDirty.com has the right to deny the DMCA takedown request and leave the post up on the site. Sending multiple requests for removal could result in classification as spam and a denial of your removal request.
How to Remove a Post on TheDirty.com
In many circumstances, to remove a post from TheDirty.com you will either need a court order or be able to demonstrate a policy violation. A policy violation is a failure to observe the terms and conditions for using the Website by the individual(s) who posted the content.
There are several examples of policy violations which could result in removal of a post from TheDirty.com
- Child pornography
- Revenge porn (that includes explicit nudity)
- Images of minors under the age of 13
- Personal financial information such as social security numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, etc.
In order to obtain a court order, you will likely need the services of an attorney. A court-ordered removal would require obtaining a legal judgment against the poster of defamatory content online and then presenting the court order to TheDirty.com which is hosting the defamatory content.
To ensure fast removal of posts or images that appear on TheDirty.com, many people will hire an online reputation management service.
Reputation Rhino has an experienced team of legal, public relations, marketing, and technology experts and we can remove a post on TheDirty.com.
Ask about our 100% money-back guaranteed removal service for TheDirty.com.