The above image was posted onto Facebook by someone called Richard Kirby who lives near Farnborough and who doesn’t know me and who has never met me. What he has done is typical of the internet and I am in very good company, you don’t have to look far to find Nelson Mandela and Mother Theresa of Calcutta also being vilified. It is now a fact of life that once your name is known much outside your circle of friends and family people will attack you on the internet, usually from a position of anonymity. It goes with the territory.
And it is not just individual people who are attacked in this way. Organisations like soccer clubs attract a constant tirade of the worst possible abuse. And, of course, so does your company and the products that it creates. You cannot escape it. In our industry the three platform holders, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo attract an astonishing amount of vicious abuse. And in the democracy of the internet the voice of the abuser has the same weight as the voice of the reasonable person.
So what can you do to protect your reputation? There seem to be three courses of action. The first is to litigate against your tormentors. For instance in posting the image above Richard Kirby has committed the civil offence of libel for which I could sue him. And I would win. However it really is not worth the time and the trouble, the damages awarded would be trifling and the number of people pouring out abuse on the internet is so great as to make litigating against all of them impossible.
The second is to generate, or have generated for you, a body of “good” content that outweighs the bad. There are actually a lot of mechanisms for this. Social networking sites like Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, Bebo and MySpace. Social bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon, Digg and Reddit. Knowledge repositories like Wikipedia and Knol. Blogs and forums. Reputation management sites like Naymz and Lookup Page. And even the act of issuing press releases which get C&Ped all over the internet. A lot of this is what community marketing is about these days.
The third option is to rely upon the intelligence and judgement of internet users. They are used to seeing all this abuse and so have learned to give it little or no credence. People quickly develop filters which allow them to get what they want out of the internet whilst ignoring the rubbish. So your tormentors are pretty much wasting their time.
We live in an age where the reality of the matter is that internet abuse is ubiquitous. It is an inevitability that comes just from being well known. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, there is only one thing worse than being vilified on the internet and that is not being vilified on the internet.