The University of California, Davis spent at least $175,000 to improve its reputation on the internet after images of campus police pepper-spraying protestors went viral in 2011, according to documents obtained by The Sacramento Bee. The money went to public relations firms that promised to clean up the university's search results.
One company outlined a plan for "eradication of references to the pepper spray incident," according to the documents, and was eventually paid nearly $93,000, including expenses, for a six-month campaign in 2013. After that, the Bee reports, the university paid $82,500 to another PR firm to create and follow through on a "search engine results management strategy." The latter firm was later given thousands more in other contracts to build a university social media program, and to vet its communications department.
A video of the campus police officer pepper-spraying Occupy Wall Street protestors became a major news story after hitting YouTube, as a meme made light of the seemingly "casual" way the officer had used the spray. UC Davis, it seemed, took notice of that negative response, and was willing to pay for help counteracting it.