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Accountability on the Internet

The current level of accountability on the Internet.

reputation accountability

About a year ago I noticed a sign while driving down the main highway in the town that we live in. The sign was white and in big red letters stated,

“Terry Johnson Construction – Please pay my son.”

Terry Johnson owned a construction company. Evidently he hired a few sub-contractors for a major job and was very late in paying them for the work performed. One of those sub-contractors complained about the situation in front of his Dad who then took matters into his own hands. His Dad had a small business that was on the main road in the town where Terry Johnson conducted his work. So, he decided to put up that sign for all to see on their way home from work.

Now, the above explanation for the sign is simply my assumption. Would you say that it is most likely accurate? Maybe, maybe not…

What if the man's son actually over billed Terry Johnson for work performed and Terry refused to pay the extra amount he received in the bill?
Or perhaps the man's son did an awful job and Terry Johnson only agreed to pay him partially because he would have to hire someone else to finish the work?

There are dozens of other possible scenarios. So, we can't immediately assume that Terry Johnson Construction is in the wrong here. But, naturally we would all have the tendency to do so.

Well, let's assume that Terry Johnson Construction is actually the victim in this situation. Let's say that the man's son did a sloppy job and the job ended up costing Terry Johnson much more than it was supposed to. So, Terry decided to go ahead and partially pay the man's son while he went out looking for someone else to finish the job successfully.

Rep Management

Driving home from work one evening Terry noticed the sign and was absolutely livid. Within days word was spreading fast and Terry Johnson Construction was already beginning to feel the impact of negative publicity. 

How difficult will it be to track the person who put up the negative sign about Terry Johnson Construction? Not hard at all, right?
The father of the offended sub-contractor stuck the sign right out front of his own shop and claimed the supposed victim as “his son”. That's pretty clear. So, Terry Johnson has the option to give the father a call and explain his side of the story. He can also explore potential legal solutions if need be.

 

The internet is a whole new ball game and you can multiply the potential impact of negative publicity in cyber-land by a thousand. But in cyber-land we lose one crucial component – accountability. Let me show you what I mean. Have you ever been to a product review web site? Well, if you would like to post a review for Sony's new XDS Digital Camera what type of credentials are required by the web site to allow you to register and post a review?

negative PR
PR

Most likely it's a series of little text boxes where you can enter in your own name or simply Santa Claus if you prefer. So, let's say you register at a site like epinions and your true contact information is

Charles Thomas
3147 West Hills Ln.
Atlanta, GA 30328

If you decide to insert this instead,

Bobby Lips
222 Jumpin Ave.
Hollywood, CA 90210

Will your keyboard send an electric shock through your finger tips causing a burning sensation in your toes? Or will your fingers suddenly stick to your keyboard while your computer dials 911 and sends a fraud signal to the police headquarters?
No, your computer does not punish you for lying. So on Epinions you become well known as “Bobby Lips” the harsh, hard to please, digital camera reviewer based out of Hollywood,California.

WHY DOES ALL OF THIS MATTER?

Because on the internet ANYONE can say ANYTHING about you are your company.

And those comments directly affect your bottom line, which can directly affect your salary, which can directly affect whether you take the family here next summer,

reputation

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