Most of us probably remember the 2008 story about the three teenagers who happened to be working late and decided to take a bubble bath in their employer’s (Kentucky Fried Chicken) kitchen basin. Then instead of keeping it a secret, the three bikini-clad, Northern California teens videotaped it and and posted it on both MySpace and YouTube with captioning.
Before the then unidentified 17-year old could clear her MySpace account, the video was seen by the wrong people. Hence, leading to her and the other two girls’ firings.
It’s Not Just Online Videos That Get Us into Trouble
While many of us have probably not done anything quite so risqué and then posted it online, videos are not the only thing that can cost us our good, online reputation. Angry forum posts, raging blog comments, political rants, and a whole list of online communications can cost us an otherwise good reputation. Whether you are tweeting, befriending or voicing your online opinions, words matter and pictures matter too.
When hiring, companies now conduct an online background search using not only major search engines, but also search features on Facebook and Twitter as part of their hiring background check. There have been stories of otherwise qualified applicants not being hired due to a silly, drunken picture posted on Facebook.
We’ve Gone From Big Brother to Big Data
It used to be that Big Brother was watching you! Now, it is Big Data is watching you too! As more and more companies (both offline and online) are collecting information about you to be studied. In his bestselling book, Moneyball, Michael Lewis proposes formulas that companies can use to see how likely potential hires are to excel in a company. This new science is called people analytics and the information is collected and fed into company databases. So, be careful what you post online.
Just remember. Not all forums are created equally. There are private forums, and there are public forums. Make sure you know which ones are which before you rant about your boss or former clients. Search engines can and will find public forum information.
It’s Not Always What We Say, But…
Sometimes it’s not even what we have to say but, what others have said or written about us. It never hurts to run an occasional web search using Google or Bing and check what —if anything—has been written about you. If you or your family are frequently in the public eye, you might want to join an online reputation management system such as Reputation.com or iKarma.com.
There are a total of about 50 different sites similar to these, and some are free and some are not.
What To Do If You Find Defamatory Information About Yourself
Should you yourself conduct a search and find defamatory information, your first responsibility should be to attempt to contact the source. Is there a way to contact the website owner with your concern or request? Most websites or blogs have contact information or you can go to Whois.net.
If the information about you is particularly libelous and the blog owner or website owner does nothing to remove the information, you might consider contacting an attorney or even the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). I knew one lady whose husband received a very negative review on a product that he handmade and sold on eBay. While it is okay for someone to write a negative review, it is NOT okay to do it in a libelous way.
How Will the Damaging Information Be Removed?
How is information removed once it is posted? Outside of the legal system (last resort), any libelous information can be removed by the website owner using a Google Removal Tool or a Bing Removal Tool or hopefully both. Not only will all links have to be removed, but also any file attachments will need to be purged from the File Manager of the website or blog.
Even if something is not currently being displayed in the public arena, it is still possible—for about the first month—to still be picked up by a search engine. Many of us from time to time have seen a “cached” article or website appear in an online search. Eventually, time will win over the search engine, and the information will become obsolete and disappear. However, it is imperative that your information be purged as soon as possible from the File Manager (root source) before more damage is done to your reputation.
Sometimes even outdated information can be just as harmful as any defamatory information. Maybe you would prefer that your latest promotion be found in the search engines instead of your former position. Again, the website owner can use the Google or Bing Removal Tools to adjust that for you. Both of these tools are free to use and self-explanatory. Just search for them and offer them.
Don’t Make These Two Mistakes
Also, make sure that when you are searching your name online, you are also clearing your cache and cookies from your browser. If you are not doing these two things, the outdated or false information will keep reappearing in your search even if it has been removed.
So, kick back and enjoy Facebook, other social media, and your favorite forums. Just be careful what you say, write or upload in private may not really be private after all. In fact, it may just be public enough to cost you your good reputation and potential employment.
I’d like to hear from some of you who may have found some derogatory comments about yourselves out there on the Internet. Please leave a comment below or we can always pick this up on social media.