Swiss media stories among targets of ‘digital hitman’ company

Some articles published online by Swiss media outlets, including the SBC and 24 Heures, have been deleted or made invisible by Eliminalia, a Swiss-based e-reputation company that provides its services to criminals and corrupt politicians, a disinformation investigation has found.

a person's hands are seen typing on a laptop
Digital reputation firm Eliminalia uses various techniques to remove genuine articles or make them invisible, including posting positive articles under fake online media names. Photo: Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Journalists at French Swiss broadcaster RTS had sight of confidential documents that showed that thousands of investigative reports published by media outlets around the world had disappeared.

Eliminalia’s promise is: “We eliminate your past. We help you with your future.”

The e-reputation leader has three offices in Switzerland and further outposts all over the world, totalling around a dozen.

The company states that it uses legal methods to erase photos or negative comments and that its clients are victims of “unjustified’ online attacks, but according to RTS, the reality is very different.

The list of Eliminalia’s clients seen by RTS, one of 30 media firms taking part in a global disinformation campaign piloted by France’s Forbidden Stories, includes convicted sex traffickers, as well as fraudsters, money launderers and arms dealers, and even former Chilean torturers.

The company has more than 1,500 clients around the world, including 43 in Switzerland, RTS reports.

Several are Italian nationals living in Ticino who have paid to clear their mafia business names in Italy so they can build new businesses.

Other Swiss clients are involved in tax evasion or cryptocurrency scams. There’s even a circus performer who was recently convicted of sexual assault on a minor.

Those looking to clear their name online will need to pay Eliminalia from CHF 5,000 up to several hundred thousand Swiss francs.

A service for organised crime

According to digital law expert and lawyer Sebastien Fanti, the EU’s “right to be forgotten” rule can sometimes be justified.

People can legitimately request that websites or search engines remove certain information about them, depending on how serious this information is and when it dates back to.  

“A youthful mistake or a teenager’s stupidity should not follow a person all his or her life on the internet,” he told RTS. 

“With Eliminalia, it’s not about the right to be forgotten. This company erases the investigative work of journalists, it erases the truth. This company is a digital hitman,” he added. 

Eliminalia says it is able to erase any online newspaper article. Indeed, the confidential documents seen by the investigating journalists show that articles from Swiss media, such as, the SBC, and 24 Heures, as well as other outlets like Le Monde and Vice News, have disappeared.

How do they do it?

Computer scientists use various techniques to delete the articles or make them invisible. One of these is the so-called “drowning” technique, which involves using more than 600 fake online media, with names such as CNN News Today or London Uncensored, to post positive articles about Eliminalia clients.

These fake articles then appear at the top of a Google search with the real ones ‘drowned’ out, i.e. pushed to the back of Google’s results list.

Eliminalia also uses a technique that de-indexes articles by abusing the copyright declaration system set up by Google, Twitter and Facebook. It clones negative articles about Eliminalia clients, changes the date of the article and makes a copyright infringement claim.

This sleight-of-hand trick means they can de-index the genuine articles, making them invisible.

The company also uses hackers who erase documents or specific articles at the source. RTS said this information came from a Spanish security service source, but that the investigative team had not found any proof that a major European media outlet had been attacked in this way, 

Eliminalia did not respond to Forbidden Stories’ and RTS’ requests for comment, but they did threaten legal action via a letter from a French law firm.

Furthermore, despite founder Diego Sanchez’ past involvement in the trade of surrogate mothers, which attracted negative reporting, there are only positive articles and videos about him online now.

This is presumably because the wealthy entrepreneur has used his company’s services to clean up his own past, RTS suggested. 

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What are the best websites and apps to learn German?

Whether you're a beginner in German or looking to gain some fluency, we've compiled some handy resources to take your language skills to the next level.

What are the best websites and apps to learn German?

The proliferation of language learning apps and websites has made learning German online easier than ever. But the vast range of options can make it difficult to determine which service is right for your needs. 

Here’s a guide to the best sites and apps to learn German (including Swiss German), whether you’re just looking to get your feet wet or want to make significant strides in your ability.  

Getting started: 

If you’re a beginner in German, there are many online resources available to improve your vocabulary and grammar skills. 

Leo is an online translation dictionary which includes an English to German dictionary. It is a great resource to expand your vocabulary, especially if you’re just starting out and encountering a lot of unfamiliar words. In addition to providing accurate translations of English words to German or vice versa, it also provides grammar information on these words, such as verb conjugations or noun cases. You can access the service for free via the app or online via the website. 


Duolingo and its ubiquitous green owl are famous worldwide, and the app is known for turning language learning into a playful challenge. Completing the site’s quick exercises, which include multiple choice questions, fill in the blank scenarios, and listening exercises, earns you points, and the challenge of maintaining your streak encourages you to “play” every day.

The free-to-use app or website can be a helpful and fun way for beginners to get a feel for the German language and master basic vocabulary and phrases, but it becomes less useful for those trying to reach an intermediate or advanced level of German, especially as it lacks an emphasis on grammar instruction. 

READ ALSO: Six ways to fall in love with German again

Learning German

There are plenty of ways to improve your German. Photo by Annika Gordon on Unsplash


Babbel is similar to Duolingo in that it’s a site which encourages you to commit at least 10 to 15 minutes each day to practice your German. But it offers a more conventional, less gamified approach, as it is structured by modules and lessons that put more focus on grammar rules. 

It also costs money, at around €60 for six months. But it does offer certain special features like live one-hour lessons every week at different skill levels. It also has a speech recognition feature that allows you to test your pronunciation skills. Like Duolinguo, Babbel will be most helpful for beginners.

Taking the next step: 

To make significant strides in your German skills, check out the resources below:

Deutsch Akademie: 

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive language learning service that is still free, try Deutsch Akademie. It offers over 25,000 grammar and vocabulary exercises, and also offers practice tests designed to prepare you for various German exams. If you’re self-disciplined, these exercises can be a great way to improve your German. Deutsch Akademie also offers a variety of online German courses, with prices ranging from between  €100 to €300.

Deutsch Online: 

Speaking of German classes, the Goethe Institut’s Deutsch Online courses are another great option to move through the levels of German. You start by taking a placement test which determines your current German level (between A1 and C1) and the structure of your course.

You can then choose to enrol in a group or individual course, both of which are designed to prepare you for the Goethe certificate exam to demonstrate you’ve completed the selected level. These courses are more pricey than those at Deutsch Akademie: the group course costs €439 while the individual course (which includes two live sessions with a teacher) goes for €695.


Perhaps the best way to take your German to the next level is by speaking regularly with native speakers, and Tandem helps you do exactly that. Through the free to use app, you can pair with a native German speaker whose English is around the same level as your German.

You can meet with your partner online over video, or in person, to work on each of your language skills. Tandem is a great option if you are an intermediate or advanced speaker and want to become more comfortable speaking German in everyday situations.

If you can’t find a tandem partner then try a language meet up. You can use sites like to find them, or even social media. You may be able to find Sprachcafés – informal meetings for people who like to speak languages and get to know other cultures and try out their language skills. 

People at a cafe

See if there’s a Sprachcafe in your area. Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

Swiss German: 

Learning Swiss German online is a bit more difficult. For free practice, your best bet is YouTube videos, such as the Speaksli channel, which features some videos about basic Swiss German phrases. Meanwhile, the uTalk app offers a paid service for learning Swiss German.

For a more interactive experience, you could try UNOmondo’s Swiss German course if you’re living in Basel, Bern, or Zürich. This service, which costs 1,200 CHF for 10 lessons, pairs you with an in-person tutor to learn Swiss German one-on-one.

READ ALSO: Seven things to know if you’re learning Swiss German


The Local 

Keep an eye on The Local’s language stories and words of the day to boost your vocabulary, perfect your grammar and learn more about the culture in German-speaking countries like Germany, Austria and Switzerland. 


TV shows

Check out the TV offering in your region to improve your German language skills. Netflix shows like Dark 

READ ALSO: The best TV comedies to improve your German while making you laugh

Podcasts and YouTube

Podcasts such as Easy German are a good way to improve your language skills, especially at an intermediate level. Lage der Nation (State of the Nation) has also been recommended as a good podcast for language learners and those who want to understand German politics on a more in-depth level, though you may struggle a little with the complicated vocabulary if you’re a beginner. 

There are countless YouTube videos that you can use to learn German too – including channels like Deutsch mit Marija and Hallo Deutschschule. and Learn Swiss German. and Dialekt Academy. Simply type in “Deutsch lernen” and your approximate level or the name of a topic you’d like to learn and see what comes up.