The Ethics of Online Reputation Management

In Violated Online | on July, 01, 2011 | by | 0 Comments

When people read Violated Online, or learn about Reputation Advocate and what we do, the conversation will often turn to the ethics of such an approach to dealing with online slander and attacks. While most people empathize with being violated online, some are hesitant to consider pro-active methods to address the issue.

To begin with, we have to acknowledge that there are many different types of online attacks. Court records, business rating sites, blogs that rant, legal documents and outright lies and slander can all qualify under the heading of a person or business being violated online. Privacy issues also quickly come to the forefront when discussing such matters. There is a lot of truth out there that should not be exposed. I will not attempt to offer a final conclusion for you but rather present a few more questions for you to wrestle with.

The first regards the issue of censorship. The word would imply that one person is imposing a position or opinion on another. Is correcting information or making it less visible censorship, or simply defense?

When someone defends themselves from being violated online and pro-actively presents true information about themselves, is that manipulation, or simply being prudent?
Just because the First Amendment of the Constitution allows for freedom of speech, should false accusations made by fictitious persons be considered as a basic right online?

As you work through your position on these issues allow me to provide some brief commentary. When someone is violated online the concept of “fair” becomes relative. For instance, when I was sued, unsubstantiated allegations were leveled against me personally and my company. Historically such allegations would have been submitted to the court and, while a matter of public record, these allegations would not have been presented to the global marketplace as fodder for comment and speculation. I did not deem this as “fair”.

By contrast, if a convicted pedophile is placed on a watch list that is available online, almost everyone would say that it was “fair” treatment.  While the convicted person could argue that they had paid their debt to society and needed to get on with their life, few would support that sort of information being suppressed or removed. This position might even suggest that there is a certain digital morality, unspoken yet understood.

Viewing other types of negative content allows for less weighty thoughts. We all have the right to have the truth known about us and defend ourselves when it isn’t. This has been true historically, through the press and in editorials as well as in more traditional debates that deliver point/count point perspectives. Questions that may be of help regarding an online response include:

• Is the content honest?
• Does the content have real value or is it just spam?
• What are you attempting to combat?
• Is the best methodology to file a formal rebuttal?
• Would conventional methods, such as litigation, work?
• Where will you draw the line? Will you attack your accuser?

Perhaps this article has created more questions for you than answers. I believe that might be a good thing. In the heat of defending our character it is easy to jump straight to the tactical aspects of defense. Considering these issues before such an online violation occurs allows for measured reasoning and will better prepare you for the day when you may be violated online.

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