embarrassing photos
  • 13
  • October

The Effect Embarrassing Photos Have on You & What You Can Do

With the internet everywhere and almost everyone owning at least one mobile device, it’s safe to say our lives these days are lived online. Especially in the past few years, the internet is where we work, how we stay connected with family, and a place to socialize and blow off steam.

Blowing off steam often leaves embarrassing photos and an unflattering digital footprint. If everyone has them, why are these photos risky for your career? How can you get them removed? And how do you know if you need help?

Learn more about how to protect yourself and get help from the team at The Reputation Management Company

Social Media Lacks Context

An image of a bunch of social media apps coming out of a phone.You’ve probably seen a statement or picture online that presented a horrible image of someone. But your opinion changed when you read the whole tweet thread or learned the event the photo was taken. Out of context, it was horrifying. In context, it was harmless or at least made sense.

The internet, especially social media, is good at stripping things from meaningful context. Even if you’ve lived a relatively quiet and uncontroversial life by anyone’s metric, you probably have photos out there that present a bad image. Maybe they were just intended for your best friends or partner. Maybe they were from a more carefree time in your life.

Work Reputation

Hiring managers. often Google potential employees before inviting them for an interview. They don’t have much information about you, so every little bit counts. If a manager sees an image of a candidate at a college party or engaging in risky behavior, that can prevent them from getting the interview and, ultimately, the job.

Companies feel they are under pressure to present a certain brand image. An employee who seems to go against that image can be a risk.

Certain jobs can require an even higher bar to clear. Public schools and school districts often have strict codes of conduct that regulate what teachers can post, even during their off hours. Working in the medical or legal professions generally have higher ethical responsibilities, as well. For those in these industries, the Reputation Management Company provides crucial services. 

Legal Issues

If you are applying for workman’s compensation, lawyers for your employer may check your social media for any evidence that your claim is fraudulent. Pictures that show you having fun during your time away from work can be easily taken out of context. 

The Social Security Administration also has a policy that they review the social media profiles of a disability claimant. A “throwback Thursday” Facebook post showing you running a 5K or doing heavy yard work can prove that your disability isn’t as bad as you claim.

Divorce and child custody issues present another occasion where your social media accounts are going to be under heavy legal scrutiny. An old photograph of you at a party long before you had kids can be used to make the case that you’re not as responsible as you might seem.

Online Harassment

Facebook “challenges,” where people post photos of themselves from the past, are one way older photos can come to the fore and present issues. The other way these photos come back is less fun but real: online harassment.

An innocent mistake or misread comment can cause an army of internet trolls to attack you. Often, these trolls claim they come with “proof” in the form of old screenshots or photos taken out of context. 

Online harassers might pressure your boss in an effort to get you fired. They may target other people in your community to affect your reputation in your religious congregation or volunteer organizations.

Even after the initial wave of harassment stops, the “allegations” harassers make against you may live forever on social media. These claims may occasionally be dredged up all over again if they aren’t dealt with.

Getting Photos Removed

You do have some recourse when it comes to embarrassing photos on social media. These companies generally have lengthy terms of use that allow you to get some posts and photos taken down. In practice, though, getting things removed can be tedious or difficult. 

This is where The Reputation Company can step in and help get things taken down. 


Facebook’s policies only allow for the removal of images that violate its terms of service. Though this includes photos that are a clear violation of privacy or that depict law-breaking, Facebook might still refuse your request to remove the image.

You can remove the Facebook tag that ties you to the photo. This at least makes the image harder to find both on Facebook and through search engines.


Twitter allows you to report a tweet that’s harassing or intimidating, contains nudity, or features a copyright violation. Though the company reviews every request, a tweet can take several hours or days to remove it.

Even if a tweet is removed, quote tweets (QTs) that reference the original harassing tweet will still remain.


You can report any photo or comment on Instagram for being intimidating, harassing, or violating community standards around nudity. If Instagram decides the content doesn’t violate community standards, though, your options are limited.


You can report any pinned content for violating Pinterest’s standards. Pinterest’s community standards forbid hate speech, pornography, or material intended to harass or intimidate. 

Members who report too much material will have future reports ignored by the company, though.

Why Is It So Hard To Remove Photos?

A photo of a bunch of imagesRemoving embarrassing photos from the internet can be incredibly difficult and feel like a David and Goliath situation. 

Part of the reason why, is that various social media companies have varying codes of conduct that can be confusing to understand. Joining social media can also mean signing your name to user agreements that limit your options in the future.

Other reasons have to do with certain US laws and the way the internet is structured.

Unique US Laws

Because many of the biggest social media and internet companies are based in the US, the internet often runs by American laws. And the laws around speech in the US are pretty special. 

The First Amendment of the Constitution protects almost all speech. Court decisions, including the Supreme Court, grant a narrow range of exceptions. That means companies often cannot be ordered by the government to delete information from the internet.

In the EU, the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, gives EU citizens the right to request that websites delete personal information about them. This is also known as the “right to be forgotten.” Businesses do not always have to comply, but it’s simply easier to get embarrassing pictures of you removed in Europe.

GDPR does not apply to US citizens. And while US firms that serve EU citizens do have to comply with GDPR for those users, it can be hard to access those rights in practice.

DMCA Requests

One area of US law that can make managing your reputation online easier is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA. This law from 1998 says that online publishers must remove content if they receive a request from the owner of the material’s copyright. In the case of photos, the person who took the picture generally owns the copyright.

While the DMCA can make it easy for individuals to get content removed without a lawyer, there are restrictions. It’s considered perjury for you to make a false claim that you hold certain copyright. People also have the right to reproduce copyrighted material for educational purposes, parody it, or comment on or review it. This is called “fair use.”

You may need help to truly make the DMCA work for you. The Reputation Management Company can help you strategize the best approach. 

The Best Defense Is a Good Offense

Even if you do manage to remove photos that violate social media terms of service, getting Google or other search engines to remove material can be near impossible. It can also be legally impossible to get personal websites containing photos of you removed.

The only solution is to simply bury misleading or embarrassing information about you with flattering and relevant information. This can mean posting better photos to social media and tagging them with metadata that will rank the photos higher in search engine results.

If you have a personal or small business website, you can update your page more frequently and keep an active blog. Updating with high-quality content will push embarrassing photos down the results list.

Bringing In The Professionals

Removing embarrassing material from the internet requires skills, information, and time. It can be hard to go it alone, even if you’re just trying to get your social media cleaned up.

That’s why it’s well worth it to hire professionals. The Reputation Management Company can navigate confusing social media reporting rules, use copyright laws to your advantage, and develop a strategy for burying what can’t be removed.

Trying to manage your image online can make you feel like there’s no one on your side. But if you go with a partner, The Reputation Management Company will have your back. 

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