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On the Internet Everyone Hears You Scream

October 15, 2009

One of my early experiences of the internet came from my maths tutor at college. It was 1994 and he described the net as the Wild West, unpoliceable, unpredictable and a free for all. While only some of that is still true today, there is certainly one thing that’s become clear, the internet has a very long memory.

In the age of the real time web we need to be exceptionally careful with our digital output, whether that’s social network updates, blog posts, photos, audio, video or whatever. This is even more critical if you are in business, where customers may be reading your thoughts several years down the line when things have changed radically. Whatever you type today may bite you in backside tomorrow.

It is not even possible to hide behind anonymity any more. In a recent landmark ruling Google has been forced to hand over the identity of an anonymous blogger. This was after the person published less than flattering comments about a former Vogue cover girl on a popular New York blog. If this ruling is upheld it will signal a shift away from one of the defining characteristics of the web and will set a dangerous precedent. I expect it to be the first of many cases.

There is already legislation in place in the UK in the form of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations that prevents companies masquerading as someone they are not. Sadly it’s become fairly commonplace for businesses to misrepresent themselves. The aim is to build excitement or alter the perspective of a product or service. Recent examples include hardware supplier Belkin paying users for favourable reviews on Amazon. And McDonalds and Sony were observed creating fake blogs (or flogs) to build a buzz around a new product.

My advice is simple: be yourself , be polite, be honest. The same rules apply on the net as they do in real life. The internet is no longer the Wild West and if you’re in business, think before you type.

From → PR Activity, Web Tech

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