Some people with bad “online reputations” are hitting the undo button.
Those who’ve been slandered online or a embarrassing moments caught on the web are taking their cyber lives into their own hands by hiring attorneys, detectives and online “reputation managers” to clean up the dirt.
“There’s a huge amount of information about you online,” said Michael Fertik, the founder of ReputationDefender, a company that charges up to $1,000 a year to monitor a client’s online presence. “Googling yourself just doesn’t do it anymore.”
The fragility of online reputations has gotten more attention recently with several high-profile cases. Upset about being called a “skank”on a blog, model Liskula Cohen went to court to force Google to reveal the blogger’s name last year. Last week, Carla Franklin, another model and Ivy League grad, took legal action to find out who called her a “whore” using three aliases on Columbia University’s website.
“It was shocking and disturbing,” said David Fish, a lawyer for Franklin. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, more than half of internet users have searched their name online, and 71 percent of young adults on social networking sites have tightened up their security settings.
“Initially I would put everything on Facebook, but lately I stopped,” said Sofia Rebelo, 24, of the East Village. “I don’t want people to speculate about me.”
In four years, demand from people looking to fix their online reputations has caused ReputationDefender to grow from one employee to 110, Fertik said. Others have gone to security consultants to deal with everything from online stalking and bullying to slander about their businesses.
Libel suits addressing online comments have also increased, with damages awarded in the millions of dollars, according to Sandra Baron, director of the Media Law Resource Center. But proving that the web slurs caused real damage is often difficult, she said.
“Many are simply choosing to ignore it,” she said.
Tips for handling your online rep:
- Create your own online persona on Facebook or another social networking site before someone establishes one for you. Tell your own history in a tasteful way.
- Constantly monitor your name through searches on Google, Facebook, YouTube and other sites.
- If you see a problem, get on it. Email the people who put it there and tell them to take it down. If they don’t respond, get in touch with a lawyer or other advocate.
Source: Michael Fertik, ReputationDefender