Anyone looking for a job these days will live in fear of their prospective employer unearthing some dubious photo on Facebook or dodgy blog post that could jeopardise their application. But never fear, new businesses are now beginning to appear that promise to repair your online reputation for you. Indeed, here in France, the online reputation management sector is particularly hot, with numerous firms now focusing on this emerging market.
One example is Reputation Squad, which specialises in "e-reputation" management and is staffed by IT specialists, lawyers and communication professionals. It identifies the authors and publishers of ‘offending’ web content and asks them to delete it (or at least to modify it, by replacing the name of their client with his or her initials). If they are unable to contact the owner of the website, they simply “drown” the embarrassing story by posting SEO-enabled content that pushes it down the search engine rankings.
Even though I find this concept very intelligent, I also find it a little dubious. If someone can change your past, who’s to say they won’t also improve your online reputation by fabricating some positive stories?
For me this new trend makes the internet less democratic, as it allows those who can afford it, to manipulate their reputations to their own advantage. Too bad for those who can’t afford it. But I guess that’s a story as old as time.
However, it is difficult to see how this concept will catch on completely. There will always be those who stand up for the freedom of the press, freedom of speech and who are prepared to speak out against censorship of any kind – particularly in a country like France! If we can’t believe what we read, then what is the world coming to?