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The University of California, Davis has spent at least $175,000 to hire companies that would try to “expedite the eradication of references to the pepper spray incident in search results” and to counter “venomous rhetoric about UC Davis and the chancellor,” according to new documents obtained by the Sacramento Bee.
The pepper spray incident occurred at the Sacramento, California-area university on November 18, 2011, during a demonstration that was part of the broader “Occupy movement.” After asking seated protesters to leave, UC Davis police officer Lt. John Pike pepper sprayed several of them at close range.
Video of his actions were widely distributed and ridiculed.In October 2013, a judge awarded Pike more than $38,000 in worker’s compensation benefits from UC Davis itself to compensate for his apparent psychological pain and suffering stemming from the incident. Pike was fired from the university police force.
Meanwhile, Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi has been chancellor of the university since 2009 and has been recently scrutinized for her controversial place on private corporate boards, including a for-profit textbook company.
According to the Bee, “Students have occupied the reception office outside Katehi’s office since March 11 in a sit-in that they say will last until Katehi resigns.”
As many Ars readers no doubt understand, it is nearly impossible to “eradicate” something from the Internet, no matter how much money you spend. Nevertheless, there are companies that have made a business out of it by trying to seed the Internet with essentially spoofed or “positive content” to try to drown out other search results.
In 2014, Ars reported on how Seattle’s publicly owned electrical utility, City Light, demanded a refund for the $17,500 that it paid to in a botched effort to boost the online reputation of its highly paid chief executive, Jorge Carrasco.
Dana Topousis, a UC Davis spokeswoman, did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment.