While a trustworthy reputation could take years to build, it could be destroyed in a matter of minutes. At first, this seems ironic, but when you think about all the information online that is extremely accessible, it makes more sense.
What would you do if false information about you began to spread online? Scary thought, huh? As unfortunate as it is, this happens all the time.
Have untruths about you or your business ever been published and spread online? Please share your story.
WebProNews recently spoke with Steven Wyer who saw his reputation and business destroyed as a result of online rumors. Although Wyer had a very successful background in the financial industry and was recognized as a powerful business leader for the 3 companies he had built, all this was quickly forgotten after false information started to float around online.
It all began when he became involved in litigation. As he explained to us, several documents that were filed in court made their way to the Web. Although these documents were later proven false, Wyer's reputation and business had already taken a big jump in the wrong direction.
"The information was all over the Internet, and it had negatively impacted my business significantly," he said.
One of the biggest problems with online defamation is that most people assume that the information they find on the Internet and in search results is true. It goes without saying that the majority of people don't fact-check, especially if they see the same story in more than one place.
Since a lot of this information can be found directly in search results, are the search engines to blame? Should they validate their top results? This question only raises others since manipulation of search results is frowned upon and would also interfere with SEO.
Vanessa Fox of Nine By Blue actually talked with us about this topic last year and said it was important that the accuracy of search results be considered in order to find effective solutions.
Wyer does not think the problem lies with the search engines, but he would like to see consumers more concerned about finding the truth.
"I don't think the search engines are blame," he said. "By definition, a search engine is nothing more than an algorithm evaluating variables."
"It's an issue of the reader, the person doing the search, being prudent enough to read it and see if it rings true," he added.
Wyer also believes that this issue is very challenging since the laws related to online defamation are so narrow. Often times, the slandering is coming from North America, but the servers for the sites are located in Europe, which complicates matters. Most small businesses cannot afford the fight, and those that do frequently find that the damage is already done by the time a solution is reached.
Since people did not try to find the truth about Wyer, he ended up shuttering his company. The story, however, doesn't end there. He also had a background in technology and software, which helped him turn his reputation around.
Through his experience, he realized that many other people were victims of online defamation as well. For this reason, he decided to make this sensitive area of his life into a new career.
"I was right there with business people all over the United States and [was] challenged to figure out what to do about it," he said.
He went on to say that starting Reputation Advocate was a "logical step" in order to help others find solutions for similar problems. Wyer also recorded his experience, and those of others, in a book called Violated Online: How Online Slander Can Destroy Your Life & What You Must Do to Protect Yourself.
Although a single solution doesn't exist, he believes that individuals and businesses should take proactive steps to prevent a reputation management crisis. In other words, people should regularly monitor what's being said about them online and address any legitimate concerns.
Are you taking the proper steps to avoid being violated online?