A federal court has ruled that using the Like button is an expression of opinion. We discuss how the court of public opinion views it.
Each week, Erin Jones and I take a look at the most interesting reputation management stories, answer your questions, and share valuable ORM tactics. In this week’s episode:
- Bloomberg reports that Liking a defamatory post does not make you guilty of defamation. In this week’s episode we discuss how Likes, Shares, and Retweets can influence your reputation.
If you have a question you would like us to tackle, please leave a comment below or on my Facebook Page.
Transcript (forgive us for any typos):
Andy Beal: All right, we’re going to kick this show off with a story that has been reported by Bloomberg. It’s a ruling from a federal district court, and they were asked to look at a defamatory statement that somebody else had clicked like on, so when something gets posted to Facebook you can click like. They were asked to rule on whether or not clicking that like button was basically an endorsement of the defamation and that that person should also be guilty of defamation. Probably a surprise to nobody, at least not to Erin and I, that was thrown out because the court ruled that if you click like, and I guess by extension if you retweet or share something that is defamatory, that is a protected expression of opinion. You cannot derive from that anything else other than this being an opinion.
However, it brings up an interesting question because we often talk about how your statements, whether written or oral, can be used to define your reputation. It often goes undiscussed that even your actions online can affect your reputation, so your likes and retweets, while they may not be held against you in a court of law, they can certainly be held against you in a court of public opinion, isn’t that right Erin?
Erin Jones: Absolutely, you know something that I feel like I’m constantly reminding family, friends, clients, my younger sibling and his friends, people who use social media for a more social basis especially, that every time you click, comment, or share a post you’re not only endorsing the post that your attention is on, but you’re also endorsing the brand behind that shared content. You really need to be aware of what you’re clicking on and who can see it.
Andy Beal: Yes, and those funny little memes, or those risque photos, you like someone else’s comment on a polarizing story, those can all be seen by your friends and your network, and they can also be seen by people generally, just the general public if you’re not careful. You may have this really squeaky clean Twitter feed or Facebook stream where you’re very careful about what you say, but you don’t realize that when you like something, when you retweet it, and we’ve seen backlash from some major personalities in the public space where they’ve retweeted something and then it’s come back to haunt them because now that’s an implied endorsement and people make their opinion on your reputation based on that.
Erin Jones: Most definitely, and even on those posts where you might mark the angry face or a heart in support of sadness, people don’t always know what kind of response you put on a post and they don’t always take the time to look. If they’re just glancing through they see that you responded to something. They don’t know if it was in a positive or a negative light, but they do see that you’re in on the conversation and sometimes that’s enough to be really off putting depending on the topic of conversation, where the conversation is being hosted, and who else is a part of that conversation.
Andy Beal: Right, and I think you touched on something right there that’s really important, where it’s being hosted. Even if you like a story from a particular publication, so when I share stuff online I’m even conscious of people judging my reputation based on the source of the article that I’m sharing. I like to throw people off and keep them guessing so I’ll equally share stories from Fox News, NBC, BBC America, so that they can’t tag me as either being a liberal or a conservative because I am aware that if I share or I like something from a particular source, if that source is not respected by even just a small segment of the population it will get discounted and I’ll be judged on that.
Erin Jones: Definitely and the audiences of each of those places make a big difference too. An example I’ve been using a lot lately is I have two family members who are very, very polarized on opposite ends of the political spectrum, and when one of them comments the other one surely posts something in retort, but then the first person’s friends and people who have like minded ideas all jump on the person who responded. Likewise, when the other person posts something and the family member who disagrees with them comments, they’re getting it from the other side. You can have one opinion get perceived very differently in two different arenas just based on the audience.
Andy Beal: Likewise your inaction can affect your reputation, so if there’s a heated debate going on, or someone’s posted something that’s a racist comment, or even just a distasteful comment, and if you don’t come in and chastise them and rebuke them, then it’s almost an implied endorsement of that. We kind of saw that in a story recently where the gypsy taco place he could have just stayed out of the ugly comments, but he knew that if he done that he was basically endorsing those ugly comments, those racists comments, and so he came in and denied them and rebuked them to demonstrate hey, don’t judge me based by my supporters comments. I think it’s important to understand that if someone posts something to your wall and it’s really nasty or disgusting, if you don’t delete it or you don’t challenge it, then people are just going to assume you’re totally fine with it.
Erin Jones: Agreed, and that’s on both personal and public brand profile pages. We’ve all got family members and friends who tend to trend towards the inappropriate, or at least I know I do. They’ve all been threatened repeatedly to keep it off of my wall just because I don’t want to host those conversations. These are people who have professional level jobs and so I’m constantly cringing going, “Oh my gosh, what if your employer looks at this? What if a future employer looks at this? What if your mother-in-law is looking at this? What are you thinking?” They seem to continue to do it, and I think that eventually that kind of behavior tends to catch up with people, whether it be professionally, personally, with peers at our children’s school, you just never really know who you’re going to affect when you affect them. I think being as close to a genuine version of your true self online as you can is really important here so that you’re attracting the kind of people that you want to attract into your life.
Andy Beal: That is true, but there are some people, like you said family members you can’t really choose. Some tips that I think are worth keeping in mind. Now of course you can make everything private, you can make your Facebook page private, you can make your Instagram account private, you can protect your tweets, but you need to assume that someone is going to take a screen grab and post it publicly. While that is a little bit of protection to mark everything private, you are not out of the woods completely. A couple other things that I do, if I know I’m going to post something that I don’t feel like I want the general population to see then I may select a certain people group that gets to see that maybe on Facebook. Then likewise as well, what I like to do is I have it setup that if anybody tags me on Facebook or post anything to my timeline it actually does not show on my timeline until I approve it.
For the most part I’m avoiding pictures of wiener dogs and stuff like that that maybe just I don’t really want it to be part of my public reputation, but there’s sometimes where people will post things and I’m like, “Eh, I don’t really want that shown publicly.” You can go into Facebook and you can change your settings so that if anybody tags you you have to approve it to put it on your timeline. You get a little notification, your friend still sees that they tagged you, but it just won’t show on your public timeline. It might still show in search results but that’s at least a little bit more hidden.
Erin Jones: Yes I definitely recommend this, especially if you have younger siblings. I feel like my brother and his friends tend to get in comment tagging wars sometimes with things like this and they do pop up, and again if you don’t go read you may not have even been a part of the conversation but if someone tagged your name in it then you’re going to show up on somebody else’s wall saying this person was tagged in this post and sometimes they’re terrible. Definitely keep an eye on who’s using your name where and keep those settings as clean as you can for sure.
Andy Beal: If you’ve got the ability to pick and choose who your friends with or who follows you then certainly do that. There are some networks where you really don’t have a choice and you could block somebody, but it’s not much you can do. With Twitter it’s generally accepted that whoever follows you is not really an endorsement by you. However, there are a lot of people that will, for example on LinkedIn, they will accept every connection request that comes through your inbox without even taking a cursory look at who is this person, what do they do, are they a spammer, are they involved in something illicit, and protecting their brand. They’ll just go ahead and think to themselves, “Oh great, somebody else that wants to follow me,” but they don’t realize they’re diluting or risking their reputation because now they’ve become this friend with somebody that if they had taken a couple of minutes or even a few seconds to take a look at they would say, “No, I don’t think this really reflects well on me.”
Erin Jones: I agree, and I think there’s a hard line with some of that because there are those people that we have as friends, and then for me Facebook is where the people I really know are, and LinkedIn is more people I know through industry work. It’s interesting because sometimes these are people you respect when you hear them speak or you read what they’ve written, and then as you get to know their private personality a little bit better you start to back up a little and go, “Whoa, okay I liked that public persona but now I’m not so sure that I want to be this connected anymore.” Knowing where your networks are and how you interact with them in different places is important here also.
Andy Beal: It is a good idea to segment certain social networks based on how well you know that person. I think that’s a really good idea, and I think for the most part the social networks themselves have done a good job of segmenting themselves. You’ve got LinkedIn that’s like we’re your professional network, Facebook is your we’re your friends and family network, Twitter is a big old mess because I don’t really know, I’ve got a mixture of everything there. I think Twitter to me it’s where the brands speak and where we speak to brands and communicate with brands, I think that’s how I would define them.
There’s a lot of other social networks out there. I mean I’ve had a Flickr friend one time post photos of reenactments of bondage to their Flickr account. I’m like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, this is not who I know you to be. We’re shown here as friends,” so you have to keep an eye on this stuff. The smaller networks, you can’t just let them go stagnant and not be involved because you don’t know how they’re going to change and how that’s going to effect you. This is why it’s important as well to Google your name on a regular basis to see which of your social networks show up, and take a look at them from the same perspective that a potential spouse, employer, investor is going to look at because there’s been lots of stories of people that have had job offers retracted or lost clients because of things they have said in social media, whether they were just truly horrible or just a hint of political that didn’t match with the politics of the party.
Now all of a sudden, rightly or wrongly, you are being judged. Whether or not that’s subjectively or objectively you are being judged. You have to kind of keep an eye on what shows up in Google and say, “Hey, is this authentic to who I am?” I think that goes back to your point Erin of being authentic in your actions so that you attract the right kind of people that are similar to your own reputation.
Erin Jones: Definitely because you’re not only judged on your own actions, you’re judged on the actions of your neighborhood, the group of people that you associate with online can either elevate you or they can hold you down. Really knowing where that line is is critical, even for people applying to colleges. This doesn’t just go for professional employees, college admissions offices are looking at social media profiles and we’ve seen stories repeatedly of schools who have rescinded offers. There’s jobs, internships, social groups now check social media, there’s some emphasis here, people complain about how social media is bringing us down and doing horrible things to our culture, but I think there’s a real opportunity here for everyone to be better and to really put your best self forward and become that person that you want the world to see you as.
Andy Beal: We’ll finish off and that’s a good reminder. I mean you are the sum of all of your different characteristics, and while you can try and curate, and try and hide some of it, it’s better just to be authentic to your character and realize that that’s what your reputation is going to be. You need to decide how far you’re willing to let that go, so if you’re totally fine with your antics on Instagram showing up and effecting your reputation then that’s living an authentic life. Just keep in mind that all these things, even if you think you are keeping them in nice little separate piles where they don’t blend, they’re going to be seen, they’re going to effect your reputation. The next time you hit like, share, retweet, whatever your favorite flavor is, just keep in mind that you are going to be judged.
Whether you care or not, whether it’s rightly or wrongly it doesn’t matter, someone out there is going to be influenced by what you click on, just be thankful that if it’s defamatory the court has ruled that you are not also going to be liable for defamation so that’s a good thing.
All right, thank you for tuning it. We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode. If you have a question or there’s a story you’d like us to comment on please go to the Facebook page, which is /andybealorm, or you can go to AndyBeal.com, find any of the latest podcasts, posts, and leave a question in the comments. As always Erin enjoyed chatting with you this week.
Erin Jones: Same, thank you so much for having me.
Andy Beal: Thank you guys for listening. We hope you have a great week. Thanks a lot and buh-bye.