Everything Online is Permanent: How Your Internet History is a Public Record
by: Blair Brown, COO, Marca Global
Today’s Internet: The Worldwide Whiteboard With Indelible Ink
In today’s digital age it’s easy to forget that every comment, like, emoji, tweet, blog, and forum post we attach our names to is written on an unerasable whiteboard with indelible ink. Everything online is permanent. Despite assurances from the popular social media sites that we can delete at any time, the internet never forgets.
That frat party picture that everyone found so hilarious 15 years ago can disappear from specific sites. But the digital trail it blazed lingers on the internet permanently. Though you may not be able to see it, it’s out there and ready to be dug up, and what was funny for the carefree frat boy of yesteryear could be disastrous to the high profile executive he is today.
Everything Online is Permanent
There is no handy “undo” button to call back these digital bits of free-floating speech should we find ourselves in the regrettable state of “posting remorse.” In a blog post for the Princeton University Press Angelica Ana highlights the award-winning 2010 book Delete by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger which looks at the unprecedented phenomenon of “perfect remembering.”
Mayer-Schönberger’s book analyzes the unforeseen consequences in the digital age. She observes:
“Humiliating content on Facebook is enshrined in cyberspace for future employers to see.”
Add to the indelible whiteboard a dearth of outdated information, statements which have been taken out of context, compromising photos and videos, and the ultimate free-speech nature of the internet which allows anyone in the world to chime in at any time with any comment, screenshot, or file they choose.
Now consider that the indelibly inked whiteboard (with your name inscribed in bold title font at the top) is supported by technology which makes all of this data available with the click of a mouse. Today’s internet is more user-friendly than ever. And it doesn’t take an IT expert to take advantage of inexpensive cloud storage, increasingly powerful software as a service (SaaS), and easy global access. As the internet goes mobile, the worldwide whiteboard is wide open for posts from anyone with a smartphone.
In Delete, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger proposes that all information should have an expiration date. A brilliant solution, but not one which is likely to function retroactively, if it ever does happen. The book has been out since 2010. But more than 8 years later the internet is still the Wild West of unregulated, undeletable information with no expiration date.
What Happens When Professional Athletes Tweet Before They Think
Below we’ll take a look at the consequences of some prominent blunders committed by prominent athletes when they chose to venture out into the unpredictable social media world beyond the white lines. Then we’ll look at some of the solutions you can use to take charge of your web presence and control the conversation concerning your online reputation in the digital age that never forgets.
It’s a case of fighting science with science. And at Reputation Sciences™, we have the proprietary digital solutions to offer control of the undeletable whiteboard of the internet. But for now, consider these cases of prominent individuals who should have thought twice before hitting the “send” button.
10-12 Million NFL Draft Dollars Up in Smoke
In 2016 Ole Miss football player Laremy Tunsil had high hopes for himself in the NFL draft for that year. The top-ranked tackle was expected to begin an illustrious NFL career from the number 1, 2, or 3 spots. Unfortunately, a picture of the talented prospect taking a bong hit with a gasmask surfaced on his Instagram account on draft day. Even though the bong picture had been shot two years prior at a fraternity house, it surfaced at just the wrong time for Tunsil.
The notorious bong picture led to text messages pirated from the young hopeful’s iCloud account. The messages discussed questionable money requests between Tunsil and the athletic director at the University of Mississippi. The disastrous timing of the two hacks is now an infamous case of malicious social media sabotage. It likely came from an embittered former “business advisor.” But that didn’t stop Tunsil from plummeting from the top 3 draft prospects at the time. The Miami Dolphins eventually picked up the left tackle at the #13 spot. That’s an estimated loss of 10 to 12 million dollars for Tunsil.
Your Past Can Always Come Back to Haunt You
Laremy Tunsil’s social media catastrophe demonstrates not only the potential for severe financial loss, but it’s an excellent example of the lingering effect of social media in the digital age. ESPN picked up screenshots of the incriminating text messages and they went viral. To this day, in 2018, Tunsil’s tarnished reputation remains because of that single bong picture. The incident is locked in for posterity, mentioned in his bio at Wikipedia, with the “draft day” fiasco appearing prominently in internet searches.
So, how was Laremy Tunsil hacked? The media circus continues to this day, involving NCAA investigators and the FBI. However, those involved are remaining tight-lipped about the incident. Apparently, the shadowy “business advisor” provided Tunsil with a new Apple device. And the naive youngster accepted an offer to have his account information transferred by that unscrupulous individual during the setup process. That’s when he broke the cardinal rule of the internet. He gave away his iCloud account password. That opened the gate to the barrage of social media attacks and the media circus which still haunts him today.
Olympic Swimmer’s Tweet Sinks Jaguar Endorsement
For Stephanie Rice, three Olympic gold medals for swimming and the Medal of the Order of Australia were no insurance. The blunt 17-character tweet cost her an endorsement and the late-model $100,000-plus Jaguar which was one of the luxurious perks of her sponsorship by Jaguar Australia.
In a burst of patriotic enthusiasm, then 22-year old Rice posted a short but ribald comment supporting her nation’s rugby victory when Australia’s Wallabies defeated South Africa’s Springboks. Rice tweeted “Suck on that f—gots” which she later admitted was done without discretion in “the excitement of the moment”, according to this report at Reuters. The 3-time gold medal winner has over 100 thousand followers on Twitter alone, so the retweets went viral and caught the attention of the ever-vigilant sports media. As they say, the rest is history.
The chagrined swimmer quickly apologized and removed the comment, but as we’ve already learned that couldn’t prevent an exponential storm of retweets heard round the world. This is one of the hazards for athletes and other prominent personalities on Twitter with huge numbers of followers.
The damage was beyond repair, despite the apologetic blog post from Rice. The Jaguar Australia general manager Kevin Goult made a public statement in a press release saying:
“Jaguar Australia today terminated its relationship with Stephanie Rice, who has been an ambassador for the Jaguar brand in Australia since the start of 2010.”
Stephanie Rice’s case underlines the fact that there is no such thing as yesterday’s news. The Reuter’s report we found as the source for this section carries the dateline SEPTEMBER 7, 2010 / 4:36 AM / 8 YEARS AGO.
Online Reputation Management: What Stephanie Rice Got Right
As an Olympic competitor, Stephanie Rice spends her career overcoming obstacles. She didn’t allow the fallout from the indiscreet tweet to rule the online conversation for long. While the internet never forgets, there are effective countermeasures you can take to prioritize what appears online. You can work to place the positive boldly at the top and suppress the negative to the bottom fine print.
When assessing Stephanie Rice’s web presence today it’s obvious that the former Olympian invested in her online reputation management strategy. A search for “Stephanie Rice Swimmer” (to distinguish her from the country singer of the same name) brings up an impressive list highlighting the positive aspects of her web presence. Stephanie has done an excellent job of “staking out her internet turf.”
Today she’s the swimmer-turned-glamour-girl, rather than the swimmer who makes homophobic tweets.
The top 3 search results include her name as a claimed domain for the website which she controls, her Instagram photos and videos, and positive YouTube video links. The infamous 8-year old tweet has a new home at the back of the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP). It ranks at about 20th overall. But eight years later, it is still there for anyone who wants to dredge it to the surface again.
How to End Your NCAA Career in 280 Characters or Less
The social media worlds of Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat can be a two-edged sword. Unfortunately, too many young athletes underestimate the lasting impact of their posts. On the one hand, 27% of college admissions officers have Googled applicants as part of the acceptance process. And a positive social media “footprint” can provide a competitive advantage. On the other hand, indiscriminate posts by carefree, innocently short-sighted high school student-athletes can nip NCAA careers in the bud, and the scholarships that come with it.
With social media “fails” becoming so prevalent among athletes at all levels, colleges are reacting with increased vigilance to reduce their chances of “press liability.” Administrators are now so sensitive to the issue that the high-school prospect who merely posts to Twitter 16 times a day may be seen as a loose cannon to be avoided because the frequency of tweets is considered “excessive,” without even considering the content of the tweets. That’s exactly what happened to a young quarterback up for a Division 1 scholarship in North Carolina, according to the article “Don’t Let One Bad Tweet Ruin an Athlete’s Future.“
Be Careful What You Tweet
High school athletes with a muddy social media trail of F-bombs, cyber-bullying, and hot-button topics can tweet themselves out of consideration. As one Rochester, NY coach wisely tweeted to his team “Never let a 280 character tweet cost you a $140,000 scholarship!”
For young athletes and students, and their concerned parents, the message is clear. You’re never too young to take personal online reputation management seriously. Concentrate your efforts on building a positive personal brand. Then you can gain an advantage in the college admissions process and the competitive world of sports scholarships, as well.
Reputation Sciences™: Make ORM the Norm
ORM is the advanced digital science of Online Reputation Management. And Reputation Sciences™ provides the essential tools you need to control the conversation visible to the ever-expanding online world. The internet and social media are here to stay; indelible, undeletable, and compiling everything you’ve ever done online into the ultimately transparent permanent public record. Everything online is permanent. Smartphones abound, with high-resolution audio and video recording capabilities that put George Orwell’s Big Brother to shame. In the web-based world, we’re always on stage but we don’t always control the spotlight. ORM is the solution to take back that control.
All of us in the digital age are vulnerable to attacks on our online reputations. Whether attacks originate from a self-inflicted lack of experience or those reacting to a perceived injustice, they’re present. As we move up in society, we’re likely to step on a few toes. And we may not be aware of it until the “offended” party takes their revenge online.
Ex-spouses, disgruntled customers, professional rivals, rogue employees, and truly any individual can scribble all over our public profiles. That tarnishes our indelible worldwide whiteboard which records every aspect of our online reputations for public consumption. Whether we work in the spotlight or the local stage, we’re all on the worldwide stage of the digital age.
Silence is Not an Option
Hiding from the digital spotlight is not a viable solution in today’s world. If you don’t control the conversation surrounding your online reputation someone else will. Set social media aside for a minute. Even old public records have made the digital transformation from the basement file cabinet to the public internet. Mugshots, court cases, FCC violations, and arrest records are all there waiting for fresh eyes. And anyone with malicious intent or legitimate intent can evaluate your public profile for career opportunities or exploitation.
At Reputation Sciences™ we have the proprietary digital technology to protect your personal, professional, and corporate brands. When you’re ready to take the reins of your online reputation and build a brand which shows you in the best possible light to the world don’t hesitate to contact us.