If the biblical prophet Daniel was talking about knowledge increasing in the last days, he surely would be shocked by the communication technology available to modern man. Specifically, the Internet is astonishing, even to those of us who use it every day.
Sometimes, though, it’s not used for good.
Steven Wyer knows all about that.
His new book, “Violated Online: How Online Slander Can Destroy Your Life and What You Must Do to Protect Yourself,” is a field guide (written the hard way, from personal experience!) for protecting your good name in this age of cyberspace.
Wyer makes an interesting statement in the preface; he says that he grew up knowing that we live in a society in which we can defend ourselves if defamed. But, he adds, “The playing field of the past has been paved over. It is now an information super highway – a highway that covers the globe.”
He’s quite correct, of course. Sadly.
Wyer, through his own experience of seeing his reputation and business destroyed due to online slander, has managed to overcome that and help the rest of us, too, with this book. You should take the threat quite seriously.
Wyer now specializes in what he calls Search Engine Reputation Management, o SERM, and he is now managing director for Reputation Advocate. This is all very personal for him.
“While I used to live by the belief that we are innocent until proven guilty, I learned the hard way it doesn’t work like that anymore,” he writes. “Online accusations damaged my business, hurt my family and deeply affected my income. And if it can happen to me, it can happen to you.”
Through that horror, Wyer realized there is no one there to help you; that was the impetus for “Violated Online.” Since surviving his own devastation, he has interviewed hundreds of people and through that, developed tools to combat online character assassinations.
Wyer traces the fascinating story of Mark Zuckerberg, who basically invented Facebook in his Harvard dorm room. Zuckerberg hacked into the protected areas of Harvard’s computer network, and the result was an initial generation of 450 users, with 22,000 photo views.
Cool, huh? Isn’t it cool that you can communicate via Facebook with people the world over? Yes, it is. But it’s also dangerous.
Wyer offers a definition of online slander: “Communication (for written, broadcast or otherwise published words) of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product or group a negative image. It is usually a requirement that the claim be false and acknowledges that the online slander is communicated to someone other than the person defamed.”
And it’s not just the individual. Wyer cites the story of actor/director Kevin Smith, who was asked to abandon his seat on an airline. He was of course put on another flight. Smith, however, tweeted his experience, in fairly bitter terms. Before you know it, the experience was in cyberspace, with various followers of Smith tweeting about the evils of this particular airline. The airline was forced to do damage-control in order to pacify Smith and his Twitter followers.
What makes “Violated Online” such a cautionary tale, though – and invaluable resource for protecting yourself – is the stories of individuals who have been virtually destroyed by malicious attackers.
Take the case of Dr. Wagner, who had built a nice dental practice in a Midwestern city. When the good doctor didn’t return the interest of a female patient, she took her wrath to the Web. As Dr. Wagner, who’d been tipped off by another patient, typed his own name into a search engine, he saw words like fraud, scam, thief, liar. Gadzooks!
You’ll have to read the details for yourself in Chapter 10, but suffice to say, Dr. Wagner’s nightmare is a true cautionary tale, and Wyer provides plenty of tips in the relating of these stories. He somehow manages to recount the devastations that individuals have gone through and at the same time, provide plenty of information for others to avoid such disaster.
The appendices make “Violated Online” a real resource. A social media guide and information on two laws – Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 – provide the reader with heavy artillery when confronting an online tormenter.
I will say this: If anyone had told me that a book with this subject matter would be one I couldn’t put down, I would have laughed. But … I couldn’t put it down! Wyer is quite an engaging writer, and his tales of woe from the likes of Ben, Sam and the rest will keep you glued to each page. At the same time, it serves you by means of avoiding seeing your life destroyed through the evils of online slander.