01 Jun 2016

Protecting Your Online Reputation

by Verlie Oosthuizen, Partner, Durban,
Practice Area(s): Employment | Social Media / Cyber Crimes |

In a world where your character can be destroyed in the time it takes to click a mouse, it is sad to realise that it will take far longer to undo the damage done to your reputation online.  Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes when you have conducted yourself online in a way that has brought your name into disrepute and, even worse, when someone else has conducted an online vendetta against you.  Last week, we discussed the Protection from Harassment Act 2011, and that is one route to pursue if you know the person responsible for the damage.   However, when your details have been posted on a distasteful site and you cannot locate the website owners, it becomes difficult.  The first step is to attempt to report the issue to the website itself.  If that does not yield results you should locate the IP address of the site.  This is sometimes tricky in cases where the site has been protected by a proxy, but assistance from a clever IT guru may produce some rewards.  You can then report the issue to the Internet Service Provider (ISP) of the website.  This can be effective as ISP's can be held to be legally responsible for the content that is published on their sites and to avoid liability they may take down the site or the content.  Although it can be extremely annoying, if your personal details such as your mobile number have been posted online, it would probably be a good idea to change your number as soon as possible.  If you Google your own name and you see undesirable results, it is important to take active steps to flood the internet with good content about yourself so that the horrible references get crowded out.  This is time consuming and may require work across various social media platforms, however, it is the most effective way of dealing with an online reputational disaster.