Saturday, January 11, 2014

Online reputation means more than ever, with employers, lenders, maybe insurance companies and landlords

Yesterday, as I noted on my COPA blog, the media (Katy Couric) discussed the causes of the teen “knockout game” where people are assaulted on public streets and videos posted on YouTube or social media.  These would violate terms of service and probably get taken down after police look at them.  Nevertheless, speakers noted that many lower income teens do not have the cognitive grasp of what is wrong with seeking Internet fame this way.  People crave attention among their peers, but have no grasp of how this is viewed by the “real world” in which people have to make a living, raise families, innovate, and the like.
It is true, that the capacity for self-broadcast without bureaucratic gatekeepers, facilitated by laws that limit downstream liability (Section 230 and DMCA Safe Harbor, with respect to different perils) has invited a lot of negative behavior.  I can tell that the quality of visits to my blogs has deteriorated over the past three or four years, as more people who are “serious” get intimate news from social media sites (so I often post the links and news items that I want the 70-100 parties who follow me on various sites to see regularly on social media as or instead of my blogs).  
There was another news story recently that can be correlated to this.  Lenders are starting to look at social media profiles for signs of problems – like posts that talk about impending job loss or quitting (there’s one in my Facebook feed right now).  We’ve all heard about employers doing this – and sometimes getting the wrong person.  I wonder if landlords and insurance companies (especially property) are likely to do the same thing, concerned that "gratuitous publication" could attract hazards, even to others.  We’ve even heard about doctors Googling their patients (instead of the other way around).  A decade ago, it was about Googling a prospective date. 

All of this suggests a new facility in social media: the ability of users to set posts and tweets to disappear after a certain period of time.  Some users would want that. Should the Snapchat concept apply to texts (or pokes) and tweets?  I wouldn't use it (and a picture isn't worth anything to me unless I can keep it), but some people really just want "conversation", not publication. 
The issue of online reputation grows all the time, and many younger people still don’t get it.  

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