As we counsel our clients on strategies related to the ever-evolving world of social media, there remains one consistent caveat: Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want published or broadcast via traditional media. All too often, what one individual might post as a tongue-in-cheek remark or off-color “joke” is instead taken all too seriously – often with drastic, long-term consequences for reputations and livelihoods.
In his new book, “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed,” author Jon Ronson examines multiple cases of “jury by Twitter”; whereby off the cuff posts resulted in firestorms of controversy involving mob mentality movements aimed at defaming and deflating, with replies and retorts often worse that the original tweets. In more prominent, high profile cases, jobs have been lost. And, adding insult to injury, resulting traditional media coverage can exacerbate the problem, adding fuel to the funeral pyre by ensuring such incidents live on via Google and Yahoo! – complicating hopes for second chances.
To be sure, the “right to be forgotten” argument has perhaps never been more prominent. In recent weeks, the European Court of Justice ruled that Google must remove links to content that is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” or face a fine. As reported in the June 26th Daily Telegraph, such content is not deleted but, rather, Google discontinues listing it in their search results. The Telegraph also reported that over 250,000 requests had been made for links to information to be removed by Google’s European site branches. Of course, this ruling does not apply to Google in the United States.
With our “next generation” utilizing social media more (and more casually) the possibility for more misunderstandings and offending are sure to increase. And while one of the positives of the medium is its real time immediacy, it would behoove all to be more cautious in expressing opinions rather than throwing caution to the wind.