Chicago-area woman says repeated requests to remove scathing entry were ignored while the site offered "scrubber" services from others with steep fees. Lisa Parker reports.
The break-up was bad, as break-ups will be.
“I felt so betrayed,” Darlene Williams said. She accuses her ex-husband of being a “liar, a cheater, abusive, and manipulative.” And she said all that online, in a forum she thought was safe.
ReportYourEx.com is one of several sites that cater to the anger, rage and revenge motive of people who say their ex’s cheated on them. The site says it aims to help the broken-hearted victims of cheating spread the word so that others may be protected from the same emotional harm.
"I poured everything out: how he cheated, what was found out, what I lived through,” Willams told NBC5 Investigates. "I just wanted to vent my feelings and see if other people felt or had gone through what I went through."
It was a therapeutic experience, Williams said, until she realized the impact that one online entry would have. One Google of her ex and:
"Sure enough it took me right to the website ReportYourEx.com and I was floored!"
Williams’ scathing post, with serious allegations, was the top search result connected to her ex-husband’s name. She said she tried to eat those words -- clicking on the sites "REMOVALS" tab, which says only an author can remove an entry. She said she followed the directions but nine months and at least 50 repeated requests later, it still stood.
Williams said the free option was impossible, while the site is dominated with more expensive ones: ads for removal sites that offer to help remove an entry for a steep fee. ReportYourEx.com calls them "independent 3rd party services" but also recommends three of them directly.
For those whose names are listed on the site, the price of leaving them up may also be steep. We picked 75 names from the list, randomly, and loaded them in a search engine. After searching first and last name and a home state, the vast majority of searches had the ReportYourEx.com entry in the top 10 results.
Kent Law School Dean and privacy expert Harold Krent took a look at some of the entries.
"I saw allegations of HIV positive, transmitter of VD, certainly if false these can be considered defamatory," Krent told NBC5 Investigates.
Krent said a central question about the business model centers on its relationship with the so-called “scrubber” removal sites: Are they truly independent?
"The key issue is whether the website is being truthful in representing its relationship to vendors," he said.
Back on the site where an ex’s vexes can live for years, Darlene Williams said the words she typed in rage now threaten her ex-husband’s job as well as her alimony.
"I just thought it was a venting thing, you know, and no one would see it," she recalled.
Williams’ post was taken down after our interview. We asked ReportYourEx.com for comment, but the company's internet middleman told us we'd need a subpoena to get the names of the company owners. Anonymity the site also promises people who write posts, unless a lawsuit is filed.