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Submission + - Utility wants $17,500 refund after failure to scrub negative search results (arstechnica.com) 3

mpicpp writes: Seattle City Light worked really hard to quash 2008 article, may sue Brand.com.

Seattle’s publicly-owned electrical utility, City Light, is now demanding a refund for the $17,500 that it paid to Brand.com in a botched effort to boost the online reputation of its highly-paid chief executive, Jorge Carrasco.

Brand.com "enhances online branding and clears negatives by blanketing search results with positive content" in an attempt to counteract unwanted search engine results. City Light signed a contract with the company in October 2013 and extended it in February 2014. The contracts authorized payments of up to $47,500.

Hamilton said that he first raised the issue of the utility’s online reputation when he was interviewing for the chief of staff job in early 2013.

“All I saw were negative stories about storms, outages and pay increases and I raised it as a concern during that interview,” he said. “And then after I started, [CEO Jorge Carrasco] and I discussed what we could do to more accurately represent the utility and what the utility is all about, because we didn't feel it was well represented online.”

Thus, the Brand.com contract. City Light says that it only ever thought Brand.com would help it place legitimate material in legitimate outlets—talking up some of the positive changes that have taken place at City Light during Carrasco's tenure. Instead, it appears to have received mostly bogus blog posts.

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