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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

August 15, 2008 at 10:19 AM

Seattle lawyer’s fight with SPU over Google tracks self-defeating

We’re running an interesting story today about a Seattle lawyer fighting Seattle Pacific University over an old story in its student newspaper.

Shakespear Feyissa wants the story purged from the Falcon’s online archives, but the paper’s editors refuse. School administrators are willing to delete the archive, which is surprising for an institution guided by ancient scriptures.

But maybe Feyissa’s beef shouldn’t be with SPU and the Falcon, but with FindLaw instead. When you Google the guy’s distinctive name, the first result is FindLaw’s listing of the lawsuit he filed against the school in 2004 over his dismissal in 1998.

The actual Falcon story doesn’t appear for two or three pages – basically nowhere land in Google, where only a tiny percentage of Web users will go.

If Feyissa believes he was wronged by the school for throwing him out, he should have pursued it. But by filing several lawsuits, he created public records and news coverage that won’t ever go away.

The FindLaw listing is for a breach of contract suit he filed. Feyissa also complained to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights that racial discrimination was a factor in his dismissal. The school being cleared of that allegation led to the Falcon story he’s trying to get purged.

Now, by raising a stink about the online newspaper archive, he’s only making it worse.

On the all-important first page of Google results, a search for his name also returns things such as his LinkedIn profile, his support for Obama and his activities in the East African immigrant community.

Rising today in the search results are links to our piece, retelling the story of why he was thrown out of the school – a 1998 arrest after a student complained of attempted sexual assault, which never led to charges but put him in jail for five days.

With information at our fingertips – through Google or any other search engine – Feyissa may want to reconsider that old saying, that there’s no such thing as bad press.

The silver lining is that his outrage motivated him to pursue a career helping others, as a civil rights lawyer. Better that than P.R.

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