Online Ethics - What Say You?
Posted 07 July 2008 - 09:20 PM
I can't remember.
One of the basic underlying House Rules we hold fast to here at Cre8 is "Don't attack the person or company". Rather, vent all you want about practices but without the intent of slandering a person.
Twice, recently, two or three of us from the Moderating team had horrendous experiences with our web hosts that we shared in the "Back room". None of those companies will be getting any business from anyone on the staff here. We chose to not go public with our experiences because, however fun it would be for a few minutes to cuss out hosting companies with no brains, we knew in the end it wouldn't prove to be helpful and could possibly bring the forums trouble.
It's our way of keeping some sanity here. But, in a social environment and one that hopes to educate and inform, I sometimes wonder if we do the Community an injustice by not blowing the lid off unscrupulous businesses.
To some extent, we do share opinions. Google takes heat for example. But, its rare you'll find a particular person thrown to the wolves here.
Blogs seem to stretch and push ethical boundaries with the freedom of speech belt.
More and more I see bloggers purposely communicating to people they dislike by writing negative blog posts about them. It becomes a "he said, she said" piece. If you're written about in a highly hateful manner, what do you do? Anything?
Another example is one I found where not only the person is slandered and ripped to pieces in a blog, but their employer is as well. The post contains links and its obvious the intent is to show the company and person in a bad light.
There are some things, in my mind, that are off-limits. I don't write about the inside workings of a big national company my spouse works for because I would never do anything to risk his employment there.
Blogs are now being used for revenge.
Is this okay with you?
I'm curious to know what you all think and feel about where blogs are going...social communication devices as well.
Is it hurting or helping us to have so much freedom to express ourselves?
Posted 07 July 2008 - 09:35 PM
Say, someone in our industry cheats. Wouldn't you warn your readers and colleagues about the practice or a company, if it is alive and well, like Network Solutions? (Btw, I heard rumors they hired a really savvy SEO lately, so they should be improving, hopefully.)
The same concerns about awful hosting providers. Not only you help your readers by them not stepping in the same trap, but also provide the other part of the coin: you share about positive experiences, when they happen, too (it's part of free speech, also). So it's fair, IMHO.
If your information bears no constructive essence to your readers, then it's useless and is more like tossing gas into the fire. Even if we forget about the possible legal consequences here.
Edited by A.N.Onym, 07 July 2008 - 09:42 PM.
Posted 07 July 2008 - 09:40 PM
If someone writes somewhere, "Kim Krause Berg is unethical" and doesn't back it up, the words are still out there and someone will believe it just because it's been said. Kinda like those stupid tabloid magazines
This caught my eye...
Personal privacy violation
A woman claims her life has been ruined by someone who set up a Facebook website page in her name describing her as a vice girl. The forged profile featured her photograph, correct date of birth, middle name and mobile number, listing her job as ‘prostitute’.
No facts. People responded to this fake profile.
Posted 07 July 2008 - 10:41 PM
Posted 08 July 2008 - 12:28 AM
As moderators, I think we have to not only take the higher ground, but a responsibility for the content created here. If someone said, "Don't use Kim Krause's services, she is incompetent," the post would immediately be removed, as it breaks our rules against attacks against moderators and their businesses. The same would go if someone attacked one of members' business. We would be guilty of hipocracy, if we allowed posts that were designed to deter customers from a business or damage their reputation. I think even a seemingly honest comment like, "I had a horrible experience with XYZ Hosting," could easily snowball into an avalanche of similar comments. The reality could as easily be that, taken as a whole, XYZ Hosting has a very high customer satisfaction rate, but only the would-be thread only attracted people who agreed with the subject, "Don't Use XYZ Hosting, They're Horrible."
So if one were a potential customer reading the thread, would the thread be a service or disservice to the people reading it? No real way to tell, in the hypothetical example above.
Plus, I don't think we don't want the attract the unsavory lawyer types, itching to file a defamation case, do we?
I think we've made the right decision with our policy.
My two cents.
Edited by Respree, 08 July 2008 - 12:30 AM.
Posted 08 July 2008 - 04:35 AM
In November last year a friend of mine was landed with a several hundred dollar bill by her host, for apparently hacking into their system and executing DoS attacks. My friend only just understands updating her wordpress blog and using an FTP client, there was no way on earth she'd successfully hacked anyone or anything. The supposed documentation that showed this so-called hacking was put forth, and any idiot could see that my friend was clearly not at fault. A little investigating uncovered a whole stream of people who had suffered the same fate by this host, and had actually coughed up the money.
Had these people not talked about their hosting troubles, I'd have never discovered the pattern of blatant fraud which led me to write a series of blog entries on the company. Sure, I ran the risk of being prosecuted for libel but the risk, to me, was worth saving other people from this companies clutches. The company folded in April due to unrelated legal issues and I have a 'portfolio' of complaints from ex-customers, one of which has been charged tens of thousands of dollars.
An employee from the company contacted me a couple of weeks ago and released information about the company, including a statement that basically said he didn't understand why the customers had been charged for any malicious activity on the server because the company weren't charged by the data center for it.
Anyway, whew, bit of a tangent there... I honestly believe that word of mouth is one of the strongest ways a business can grow. That must mean that it can and should be used in the reverse?
That said, I have no problems in a forum being kept free of naming and shaming. If a person has a problem with a company they can take it up with them in their own time, on their own space.
Posted 08 July 2008 - 08:27 AM
My website and one of my blogs went off-line six days ago with error messages being displayed indicating too many connections to the website. The behavior was erratic since simple HTML pages would occasionally display while others were displaying the error message. Such behavior would persist with the same HTML pages displaying correctly and others always displaying the error message.
The hosting service allows communication on technical problems only by their web form. You can also call them by telephone but you will get very little useful information by doing so since this is covered by a different group who are only message takers.
Since first reporting the problem I have kept them up to date with information from Google Analytics to show that the site was almost completely shut down. From them, I have had e-mail responses indicating that
- since the problem was intermittent (not true) they were having a problem finding it
- the problem must be caused by script issues of my making setting up too many connections on the website
Finally they have closed the ticket on the issue, citing the script issues on the website as the explanation for doing no further work. I have now moved to another host and all is running correctly again. When I have the time, I will certainly be commenting elsewhere on this sorry mess. I gather others have experienced similar wholly inadequate service.
Posted 08 July 2008 - 01:48 PM
For instance, I woulda liked being warned about Re*******ly. That way, I could have pulled out in time.
This goes especially for companies that really tend to rip people off -- be it either because of incompetence or ill will. I understand that Cre8 doesn't want to become the web police, but members-only rants backed up with facts would be welcome here.
Posted 08 July 2008 - 02:12 PM
How do web site properties offer space for valid customer complaints and protect themselves from slander lawsuits or whatever?
If you find your good name being used somewhere in a negative way, what do you do? Do you have any recourse?
Another point to ponder:
I have a client whose name is his domain and I'm battling a situation where someone with the same name has an Amazon wish list and some kinky things on it, and it comes up very high in rank for searches on his name. It's not his wish list and he's upset that people might think it's him.
Is there any recourse?
Posted 08 July 2008 - 08:08 PM
Reputation Crisis Management
Depending on the SEO skill level of the villain, their determination and the authority of the site on which the damaging diatribe was published, the offending results can be buggers for businesses to cleanse themselves.
Enter the SEO sharpshooter specialist, focused on attaining organic prominence as quickly as possible under pressure. The objective is to push the nasty content as far down the SERPs as possible and, if necessary, debunk the credibility of the damning editorial.
Unfortunately, when SEO's decide to slander other SEO's, it becomes a true battle because the SEO becomes the weapon of choice.
Posted 08 July 2008 - 08:54 PM
Posted 08 July 2008 - 11:13 PM
- creating a wish list of his/her own would be adequate, perhaps with more details about himself to make it easy to identify the person (no numbers, tho).
- creating profiles or name-focused pages on strong sites, such as wordpress.com, digg.com, myspace.com, facebook.com, online journals, friends' blogs and other sites might push the Amazon page a bit lower.
- linking from these or other pages *and from his site* to his/her own wish list on Amazon would help, too. If his wishlist gets significantly more incoming links, then it'd be chosen to show at all or be the #1 of the 2 from Amazon for the query.
Edited by A.N.Onym, 08 July 2008 - 11:14 PM.
Posted 09 July 2008 - 02:50 AM
I think this is such an interesting issue, and I'm really of two minds about it.
I am definitely against attacking individual people on blogs or forums with the exception, perhaps, of political situations wherein debate of this kind is considered typical fare. Even there, I would hope that one would attack the policies and actions of people rather than simply writing rude things about their person, their family, etc.
On the other hand, a case like Jem points out illustrates how blogging about truly wretched company policies is actually a public service. I have written several blog posts along these lines after having really unacceptable experiences with large companies. In many cases, the reputation manager has then appeared on my blog with a response, an apology, etc. Had this level of watchful care been put into customer service, I wouldn't have been blogging about my bad experience, but I believe that with some companies, the only way to get fair treatment is to make a public declaration of dissatisfaction. It doesn't say anything very good about such a company, if less care is being put into initial good service rather than after-the-fact damage control, but my concern is that victims of unscrupulous or awful companies have some way to voice their experiences. Blogging provides that medium.
That being said, I fully support Cre8asite's policy. This is probably not the right place to be panning crummy companies. A personal blog would be a better choice for this, I'd say.
Posted 09 July 2008 - 05:30 AM
Miriam mentioned that she has blogged about companies and received an apology - this reminded me of the time I blogged about a shoe website. The website was not very accessible and I was having problems. The CEO himself came and left me a comment, apologised for the bad experience and promised to get the developers to solve the problems. Sure enough, they were fixed, and I think their website is better for it.
Posted 10 July 2008 - 07:53 AM
At the end of the day, if the concern is a valid concern, and not one purely based on personal perception, then there is a place for it. Random rants aimed at organisations doesnt do anyone any good
Posted 11 July 2008 - 06:41 AM
Is it hurting or helping us to have so much freedom to express ourselves?
Is a blog accountable to anyone? I read a blog article which says "Crea8 is bad". Yes, that is a negative, but who's writing it...who are you exactly? Probably no-one, maybe someone. I can only imagine their are companies that are writing negative blogs and articles, paid for by competitors seeking to increase the negative press on a company (just look at political spin to see this kind of dirty writing). Does the average internet user take what they read as fact, irrespective of the source?
If you go and respond to an inflamatory blog posting you can actually send a negative message to your customer. I therefore think that whenever you respond to these types of communication there should be a balance between the perceived damage (usually "oh my god this is terrible", words of an internal stakeholder) and the actual damage (as guided by company research on current customer perceptions).
For example, if someone writes something about a company complaining that it is not eco-friendly, and the company has conducted research and knows that its customers have in fact a high opinion on this policy, responding to an ad-hoc blog post may actually make some stakeholders question their opinion ("I thought they were good on eco, but now I'm not so sure"). Therefore I think the main thing is for businesses to develop close relations with their customers to frame better what is only likely to become more prolific in the future. And also to provide a transparent way for any complaints to be handled and reporting on the outcomes. Companies need to be truthful with their customers if they want to survive. No longer are we stupid, corporate reporting is key.
It's interesting to note that a company mentioned in this thread stopped trading (thus dead wood gets cleaned out eventually).
It's when a customer feels the company is un-approachable that they start to vent their anger, so it's our job to capture that and turn that around to something positive.
I would not be surprised if I saw extra steps in place in the future to make bloggers more accountable on what they write. In the meantime I think knowing your customer and communicating with them is the way forward.
For all the others they can enjoy the rest of the web landscape....
Posted 11 July 2008 - 10:55 AM
I feel compelled to let people know about these situations because their very livelihood is at stake.
What happens for instance when Google, SiteAdvisor or some other service identifies your site, or the entire server, as being infected with malware or loaded up with thousands of hidden spam links (the new BH SEO hacker trick)?
Your site is flagged, your customers are warned to stay away, your business is ruined.
Trying to get your site out of all these black lists can sometimes take months to correct, if ever.
Many customers are just told to "change their FTP password" by the host and without someone posting about the seriousness of the situation with the host that customer is doomed to keep repeating the problem over and over because the FTP password isn't the problem, it's the infected server.
Would you let people know about this serious situation in advance or just sit idly by and watch innocents get hurt?
My ethics compel me to tell people about the problem otherwise I become part of the problem if I do nothing.
Posted 11 July 2008 - 01:38 PM
Doing something can bring on more abuse.
According to Online Negative Reputation Case Studies - That’s Never Been Easier, people would rather keep spewing.
The websites discussed offer anyone anonymously to post a rant on other people or companies - be it a former boyfriend or a place of work.
As to someone writing about me or these forums in a bad light, it happens. It's happening now. I was just called a "bully" by a member of these forums.
Do I say who it was? Do I give it more power by paying attention to it? Does it matter what they think?
Another thing I think about is reputation management and our children. When someone writes badly of us or our companies, our children are also subjected to this hatred.
According to some of the new sites going up, it's okay to rant about the ex-boyfriend or an employer and try to cause them harm and public shame.
It's not okay with me.
For those who feel it is okay, how is hurting people on purpose, for spite or revenge, a good thing?
Posted 12 July 2008 - 03:48 PM
Another recent article on the subject:
Reputation, skepticism and social media
While we are unable to define 'privacy' online how can we possibly protect 'reputation'? I suspect it will be a painful journey before we come to terms with 'data'.
I mention this because this power of the pen has been wholesale transferred to bloggers. With Google in the mix, anything we say about a person or brand creates a digital trail of commentary that is somewhat-permanently associated with that brand or person. For better or worse.
It's one thing when it's right - or at least a valid representation of an experience - but what happens when it's wrong?
Still, it raises an interesting question:
Can social survive skepticism?
Can we be people first and job titles second? Or do affiliations always lead and ideas follow?
And, if we open ourselves up to believing in that authenticity, how do the real spinners and pimps fit in?
Posted 13 July 2008 - 01:12 AM
I think the "online ethics" in terms of legal stuff is a bit of a gray area, (still), internationally. In the "offline world" there are definite paths and procedures regarding identifying slander - and definite paths to take to resolve these issues. Not so online. Yet.
Glyn raised a good point earlier on - "Does the average internet user take what they read as fact, irrespective of the source?" Sadly, in the business world where a rumour/remark about a company can start a wildfire of blogs, Diggs, Stumbles etc, I don't think it's the "is it true or not?" principle that is concerning here - it's the fact that for a brief moment in time, (due to the individual blogging platforms and social networks SEO capabilities), the remarks about a company are quickly thrown up in the air.... stick together for a short time.... get seen by everyone..... and then drop back into the www mire. (Except, of course for "Cache Land" ). However, the damage is done.
In the case of where I had a major beef with a company and had facts and figures, (which weren't going to find me in any litigious situations or expand my dealings with them if I hadn't settled the dispute with them already!), and I felt that I was doing some kind of social justice by letting the public know so that others wouldn't suffer the same grief I had with the company, then I may well blog/Digg/Stumble about it. I have to say though - only if my job/income/reputation online business/livelihood depended on this would I, (or should anybody else, really?), be forced into action. I think IncrediBILL nailed it a little earlier - "I feel compelled to let people know about these situations because their very livelihood is at stake." And, as you say Kim, once these remarks start effecting family and friends, (where your online business/persona is your livelihood), it may well be time to take some action?
I Like This Idea As A Preventative Measure
Yura, (so used to calling you Yuri! ), - creating your own wish lists/Digs, Stumbles etc to "Outdo" the bad guys. And from one of your own posts Kim: "Enter the SEO sharpshooter specialist, focused on attaining organic prominence as quickly as possible under pressure. The objective is to push the nasty content as far down the SERPs as possible and, if necessary, debunk the credibility of the damning editorial."
As a preventative measure for ALL companies who are concerned about "Online slander" etc. The idea of employing someone, (or be it part of their SEO person's job to do), to protect the image/online standing of a company, is an excellent idea, (does it happen already?). It wouldn't be just about promoting the company, it would be protecting the company. In the "what-shall-I-promote-next" affiliate marketing world, a person would research a potential product to promote in many simple ways. Using Google and the product name, (XYZ for example), I would search for "XYZ review", "XYZ law suit", "XYZ legal trouble", "XYZ bankrupt".... and then go search Digg, Stumble Upon etc for similar things. ("Google Alerts" is also a good, (free and not time consuming at all! ), way of keeping track of yourself on the net to some degree).
The creation/protection of a company's online persona as a preventative measure, (and as a continuous process policing those social network areas/ search engines etc), could do so much to counteract any random acts of "hate", or online slander by a mere individual.
As regards these forums and the rules that we have here.... I agree with no "no personal attacks". Ultimately, from an SEO point of view, (using my earlier analogy of things being thrown up in the air and sticking together...) -
1. How far up in the air would one post/thread here at Cre8asite go? (Would it be worth it anyway?)
2. What would it stick to, (other future blog posts/Diggs etc - and would we want to be associated with comments and assertions made there)?
3. How long would it stay up in the air?
4. What would be the fall out when it came crashing down?
5. "Cache Land" - at what point on the future would this post/thread resurface to cause Cre8asite acute embarrassment/legal wranglings?
Blogs and other social communication devices are not policed. What goes in them is pretty much up to the user. As regards the topic of this thread, the effect of the content of blogs etc can be devastating - far more than in any other medium. This is the root cause of concern in my opinion. However, how this issue is tackled is a whole new can of worms.....
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