The Internet contains a free flowing stream of information, connecting us to each other and the world like never before — but is there a downside?

While traditional news sources are morally obligated to adhere to a universal set of standards, the digital world remains largely unfiltered; this is because the internet has historically served not just as a source of information, but also as a means of free expression. Readers must sift through content and determine whether it is accurate, up-to-date, and unbiased, or intended for entertainment value alone.

So what happens when a person’s privacy is threatened by this freedom of expression, which is made permanent once it’s pushed out into the digital space? Should there be a moral compass that dictates what information can be shared and promoted online?

The Right to be Forgotten

In 2014, the European Court of Justice ruled in favor of a man who claimed that Google had violated his privacy by refusing to remove links to incriminating articles about him in its search results. The verdict started a heated controversy about who, if anyone, has the “right to be forgotten.”

While many people believe that any type of digital censorship threatens to decrease the quality of the Internet, a number of devastating cases have persuaded others that the “right to be forgotten” should be upheld in certain situations.

Tragic Cases of Internet Abuse

In 2015, Tiziana Cantone from Naples, Italy, sent a video to her ex-boyfriend that showed her having sexual relations with another male. Contone soon became the brunt of an internet-wide joke when her ex shared the video on several social media platforms. It became so popular that “the phrase ‘You’re filming? Bravo,’ which she says to her lover in the clip, went viral online and was printed on T-shirts, smartphone cases, and other paraphernalia.” The dialogue was also used for comedic purposes by Italian brands and even a few celebrities. Cantone committed suicide shortly after the incident, further putting into question the right to be forgotten and the moral responsibility of Internet platforms.

Another tragic case of Internet abuse spurred similar controversy after the Catsouras family lost their daughter Nikki in a horrible car accident. Photos from the accident showed up online in the midst of the family’s grieving, putting Nikki’s mutilated body on full display. The family went to great lengths to prevent Nikki’s younger siblings from being exposed to these heartbreaking visuals.

Reputation Management

While there are plenty of tragic cases that may seem to build a strong case for “right to be forgotten” advocates, the practice has not yet been widely implemented. So what happens if malicious content is published about you or your brand? Not every case requires a long-winded legal debate, especially ones that aren’t as severe as the tragedies previously mentioned. There are other ways to ensure that unsavory content is not the top hit in search results when your name or brand is Googled.

Reputation management is a proactive strategy used to help brands or individuals maintain a positive online persona. It works in the same way that SEO and brand publishing help you achieve top search engine results and build favorable recognition.

The idea is to outshine and outweigh any bad and potentially unfair reviews or publicity with all the well-deserved good ones. Publishing quality content, maintaining a strong social media presence, and forming trustworthy relationships with online audiences are all reputation management strategies that can help protect your brand from negative search results.

Longneck and Thunderfoot offer thought leadership services to turn your company executives’ opinions and insights into authoritative content that starts meaningful sales conversations. Learn more about thought leadership here.

Author Ami Foote

A graduate of the University of South Carolina, Ami is a staff writer at L&T. She has previously written for Ireland.com, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Britax Child Safety, and a variety of non-profits around the country. On a good day, you can find Ami obsessively consuming one or all of the following: folk music, NPR, black coffee, jeopardy, or Guinness.

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