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SEO Assassination - Is It Possible?

I have a friend whose site fell a few pages back on the search engines. She is convinced there more might be SEO blackhatting a major corporation.

My friend runs a web site critical of a major corporation. I run a similar web site and blog, so I've tried to help her with backlinks from my own sites. We've also actively cultivated a community of interest that's fairly well educated on SEO, so it's not a matter of some one-page brochure site with no meta info languishing in the void. In the past we've done a good job of at least staying on the first Google search results as the major corporation.

About a year ago, we all started getting bumped off, but my friend was bumped off further than others. I figured this just meant that the corporation was getting better at SEO. However, my friend noticed that there was an increasing amount of spam that linked back to her site in particular.

She suspects that the corporation, or some person affiliated with the corporation but acting independently, has been buying spam for her url. She's worried that she's being penalized/sandboxed by Google because of a lot of spam that she has no control over at all.

I've been skeptical about this because the only evidence is that a lot of splogs are pointing to her web site. I think it's also possible that the corporation simply paid Google to privilege their search results.

Is there any way I can do more research into this? If the corporation has indeed been SEO blackhatting, I'd love to prove it and rake them over the coals for it. But even more, I'd like to be a support and a help to my friend, who is convinced this is what's going on but can't prove it.

Anyone have any advice/ideas?
I don't think it's possible to negatively affect a site by simply linking to it. If it were, it'd be total anarchy out there already as everybody and their monkey's uncle would be trying to sink the competition. Your friend should go through an SEO checklist to make sure she's hasn't done something recently to trip any red flags with Google (most particularly linking out to bad neighbourhoods). Also she should closely examine the sites that rank ahead of hers to see if there has been any significant changes in their approach to SEO. Look for something in common that all the sites that rank ahead of hers are doing that she is not. SEO is a sink-or-swim affair. You've got to stay current and move quickly with the times.
I would also like to suggest having a good look at the outher sites, have they for example all gotten more links recently.

Its far more likely that she has tripped some sort of red flag and been filtered than the ranking eing "manipulated" by a competitor.

Are you in a position to reveal the url and keywords?
Search engine change their bot's algorithm occationally. I don't really think that the problem is about the backlink, because it's a one way link not a reciprocal link.

I remember years ago when google changed a big algorithm of the bot, many SEO company were forced to out of bussiness because they were no longer possible to do their work.
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