Famous Last Words: Don’t Blindly Trust the Internet!
Calling itself "the first website to correct permanently any lies, misinformation and misrepresentations that permeate in cyberspace," it promises to protect "one's reputation in cyberspace forever." Individuals pay $1,000 a year; for businesses, the tab is $5,000 per annum.
Responsibility for Your Website Means Responsibility for User Comments
Recently, I heard of a website that changed its business model to allow outside comments to be posted with no editorial supervision to save money and time. While this may keep comment publishing in real time, this policy can make you the victim of serious embarrassment if editors are too hands-off with this system and errant comments see the light of day.
One of the most perceptive bloggers on the subject of the Internet is Anil Dash. He makes no bones about what he really thinks:
How many times have you seen a website say "We're not responsible for the content of our comments."? I know that when you webmasters put that up on your sites, you're trying to address your legal obligation. Well, let me tell you about your moral obligation: Hell yes, you are responsible ... you're the person who made it possible, it's 100% your fault. If you aren't willing to be a grown-up about that, then that's okay, but you're not ready to have a web business. Businesses that run cruise ships have to buy life preservers. Companies that sell alcohol have to keep it away from kids. And people who make communities on the web have to moderate them.
Dash's rules of the road:
- Have real humans dedicated to monitoring and responding to your community.
- Have policies about what is and what isn't acceptable behavior.
- Your website should have accountable identities—it is imperative to know the cred of the people whom you allow to talk to your readers. If writers don't want their actual names used, give them a pseudonym or handle, but know who they are.
- You should have a budget that supports having a good community.
Denny Hatch is a freelance direct marketing consultant and copywriter, and author of the Business Common Sense e-newsletter. Visit him at www.businesscommonsense.com or www.dennyhatch.com, or contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.