Message Board Mayhem: How What's Written Online Can Affect You in the Real World
The harsh reality is that an anonymous person online posted derogatory comments about you and tarnished your name.
In the age of the Internet, breaking into the workforce is an ever-evolving process. Web sites like Google is host to a plethora of information to anyone who searches for it. Prior to an interview, a simple Google search of a potential employer can yield numerous results that can help you be well-informed about the organization.
On the other hand, your future employer can turn the tables and Google you. The Ponemon Institute, an independent research organization, released a survey in December that revealed that about half of hiring officials in the United States turn to the Internet when sorting through job applications. Nearly one-third of the Internet searches produce results that would withhold a job, according to the survey.
Of course when it comes to personal Web pages and networking sites, most of us know to exercise caution about what we post.
But, what about what about other people post about us?
On March 7, 2007, the Washington Post ran a story about female graduates of the Yale Law School who were victims of an online harrassment. One of the women believed that the personal attacks on the forum dissuaded law firms from hiring her.
AutoAdmit.com is the Web site that claims to be “the most prestigious college discussion board in the world.” This site does contain a great deal of helpful information about the law field, but it is also full of racist, sexist and other derogatory discussions that are posted anonymously.
Despite the controversy that this site has caused, Jarret Cohen, this founder of AutoAdmit.com, thinks of it as an opportunity for people to practice this First Amendment rights. Although he could do so if he desired, Cohen is not obligated to take down any of these derogatory and harmful comments from his Web site.
When dealing with the Internet, there appears to be a time lapse between reality and the law. The possibilities on the Internet seem endless. The constant creation of new programs and applications makes it practically impossible for the legal aspect to keep up. It is no easy task to limit people on this ever-changing landscape.
So when it comes to the controversy surrounding AutoAdmit.com, it is not very shocking to find out that legal proceedings were hard to come by. The Yale Law School had no jurisdiction to shut down the Web site.
Aside from the grayness of the legal aspect, I think the bigger issue at hand is what drives people to post such damaging and hurtful comments. Professional jealousy could be one contributing factor. There is no denying that we live in a very competitive world, but certain levels of respect should always be maintained. Sabotaging another person’s career is not the right way to put yourself ahead.
Some men that posted sexist comments are actually going so far as to lay the blame on the victim. The idea is that women who post pictures of themselves online are begging for the attention. But I find it hard to believe that anyone would beg to be sexually discriminated against.
Online people hide behind the shield of anonymity. For the person who posts derogatory comments, there are no repercussions. Once submitted, their hate floats around cyberspace. But, when someone goes to Google the person who is named, that person feels the repercussions of someone else’s actions.
So how can you protect yourself with such limited options? First of all, always be cautious about any social networking Web site that you join, and remember to thoroughly think through anything that you put online. If there are negative things about you posted online, Web sites like ReputationDefender.com can help clear your name for a small fee.
The bottom line is that employers should also take anything they read about you online with a grain of salt. I think we all know that the Internet isn’t always the most reliable source of information. But you never know how info about you online will be interpreted by others, so all you can to present yourself in the best possible light online--and hope that the law catches up with the realities of the internet very soon.
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