Should websites be able to raise objections on behalf of their anonymous users? A California Appellate Court thinks so – Glassdoor v. Superior Court (Machine Zone, Inc.)

While I sometimes think that the California courts can get things wrong, e.g. Hassell v. Bird (2016) 247 Cal.App.4th 1336, rev. granted, (thank goodness) they also, in my opinion, can get things right.  On March 10, 2017, the Sixth Appellate Court for Santa Clara County, California in the matter of Glassdoor, Inc. v. Superior Court of Santa Clara County (Machine Zone, Inc.), under Case No H042824, concluded that Glassdoor  (a website in which workers can post their own reviews about past or current employers) has standing, i.e, the authority, to assert an anonymous user’s interest in maintaining his anonymity against Machine Zone’s efforts to compel Glassdoor to identify him/her.  Can I get a fricken hallelujah!

Clearly I am elated by this ruling.  This is not only good for people who write honest reviews but also for websites that allow third parties to post content on their websites.  In my line of work I have seen parties file claims against anonymous authors sometimes alleging causes of action that wouldn’t even stand up to basic case analysis of the statute of limitations let alone anything more complicated like ensuring they have met the requirements that are necessary under state law in order for a website to release and anonymous author’s identifying information.  These parties will then submit their subpoena or some form of discovery order to a third-party website like Glassdoor and demand production of the identifying author information.  If the website’s subpoena compliance department is lead by anyone like me, chances are they have an entire checklist of criteria for their respective state that must be met prior to production.  Here in Arizona the controlling law is Mobilisa v. Doe (App. 2007) 217 Ariz. 103, 114-15, 170 P.3d 712, 723-24.  Mobilisa requires that a requesting party show: 1) that the anonymous author has been given adequate notice and a reasonable opportunity to respond to the discovery request (which itself has specific requirements that have to be adhered to); 2) that the requesting party’s cause of action could survive a motion for summary judgment on the elements of the claim not dependent on the identify of the anonymous author (and that requires more than laying out a mere prima facie case); and 3) a balance of the parties’ competing interests needs to favor disclosure.  Indeed, Mobilisa sets out some hoops that requesting parties have to jump through in order to try and protect the rights of an anonymous author and if requesting parties don’t conform, chances are that subpoena is going to be met with objection.

While I haven’t seen it all that often, I can think of a few instances where counsel was met with my objections and they tried to argue that the website lacked standing to raise such objections.  Typically I find this to be the biggest cop out – nothing more than an effort to circumvent the rules – especially when they are met with legitimate objections like statute of limitations or failure to meet other requirements.  Many websites, like Glassdoor, will fight this if challenged and I’m pleased to see this outcome.

Absolutely the anonymous author has their rights and can assert them on their own behalf but there are many reasons why an author may not stand up and defend.  What if the author doesn’t get notice of the matter?  I have personally seen some suspicious activities going on in the past and UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh and Public Citizen Litigation Group attorney Paul Alan Levy have helped raised awareness about many of the same concerns that I have had.  Take for example their Washington Post article which discusses “Dozens of suspicious court cases, with missing defendants, aim at getting web pages taken down or deindexed.”  What if the author lacks the knowledge to even understand that they have a defense?  The minute that a lawsuit gets filed defendants tend to get scared – especially if they are not in a solid financial position.  It’s not uncommon for an author to stand behind their story but fear the litigation and so they bury their head in the sand in hopes that the matter will “go away.”  They may not even consider the fact that they have a defense.  It’s not as if many people have legal knowledge -even the basics – and legal departments of websites can’t be giving people legal advice.  What if the author told the truth and cant afford a defense?   Here again I am aware of a situation where a person wrote a review – alleged that the story was truthful, but got sued in another state over the posting and couldn’t afford to appear and defend the situation in the other state.  How is that justice?  I’m sorry ma’am/sir – your right to free speech is only to the extent your pocket book can pay for a defense?  

Now I’m not suggesting that websites take on the litigation defense of all of their users – that would not be economically feasible.  Websites usually have no unique knowledge that would put them in a position to argue truth as a defense or anything like that.  However, I think websites who want to help protect their anonymous authors should have the ability to stand up to those who may be simply trying to take advantage of an anonymous author’s vulnerabilities through basic objections.  If you are making claims that are so far outside the statute of limitations it isn’t even funny, OBJECTION.  You’re case couldn’t stand on it’s own anyway.  If you aren’t following the correct process under the applicable law to ensure that an author has the appropriate notice and reasonable opportunity to defend, OBJECTION.  You can always attempt to cure the deficiencies and try again.  If you can’t – well, then you probably don’t have much of a case in the first place.  It’s a whole lot easier for a website’s legal department or subpoena compliance department to look at a situation and say “Nope, try again…” or “Nope, not happening…” than it is for a user to try and teach themselves the law or hire expensive counsel (face it – even the cheap attorneys aren’t “cheap”) to teach them the law and make the same objections on their behalf – within a short period of time.

I am so glad that the Glassdoor court recognized some of these issues and considered the potential for chilling effects on free speech.  As the Court points out in Glassdoor, “…some attacks on anonymity may be mounted for their in terrorem effect on potential critics.” Glassdoor at p.12.  This is a fantastic ruling and you can review the entire 33 page ruling below or by clicking HERE.

Until next time friends…

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Fighting Fair on the Internet | Part 8 – Don’t Be Sheep – Think Before You Click or Opine

The Information Highway Turned into a Mis-information Highway.

When did everyone lose their minds and all critical thinking skills?  Are we nothing more than mindless drones who forgot how to conduct any research?  Did they stop teaching these skills in school?  And who in the heck decided it was a good idea to create a bunch of fake garbage and post it to the internet just to see how gullible everyone is or use it as a mechanism for revenge?

Before you share – be proactive and conduct a little research. THINK before you CLICK and SHARE.

Some of these examples may be older, but it’s going to prove a point:

No, Mark Zuckerberg is not giving away his stock to you people who share the message on your page. No one gets something for nothing…and what you are assuming he said isn’t what he said. No…it’s not been confirmed by some news station either.  Did you actually see it on the news?  No – don’t share it “just in case.”

No, Facebook is not likely to start charging for its use. Are you serious? They probably make way too much money off of advertising and selling data that you all give for free when do anything on the website…including playing all those mind games to find out what personality you have or what your first Facebook picture was.

No, Facebook isn’t going to make everything you posted public…which is comical because if its online, in a sense, it is already public…but that’s a different story for a different day.  I’ve seen so many copy and paste different versions of a privacy scare (privacy hoax) that suggests the information was seen on the news and that if you copy and past some crap that talks about the UCC 1-308 and the Rome Statute you are advising Facebook that you don’t give them permission to use your data and that it is private and confidential.  I’m sorry, but friggen really?  You all have Google…how about learning what UCC 1-308 and the Rome Statute even refers to before making yourself look like a bone head and sharing it with other people who will do the same bone head thing by accepting it as gospel and sharing it – you know, “just in case.”  Is the “just in case” one’s way of saying I’m way too lazy to research this, but since it uses legal words it must be legit, so I’m going to share it anyway?  FYI – The UCC stands for the Uniform Commercial Code and governs the sale of goods and other commercial transactions like processing checks, etc.  The Rome Statute has to deal with International Criminal Court.

No, Walmart is not likely to give you hundred dollar gift cards for sharing stuff on your page. Nope, Target isn’t likely going to do it either. What a brilliant subliminal advertising ploy that people are playing into though.  It gets so many to share their name brand all over the internet without them having to do anything or spend any advertising dollars.

No, you’re not likely going to be given a chance to get a new car if you share some advertisement that was probably created by basement boy with time on his hands who wanted to see how many people would share his inside joke on your page.  Did you bother to check in with the company to see if it was a legitimate offer they were running?  Mmmm, my guess is probably not.

No, Redbull isn’t made out of “bull semen” or “bull pee.” It’s made up of all kinds of other things, including synthetic ingredients that arguably may not be the best for you but come on… bull semen?  Seriously?  Who comes up with this stuff?

No, your favorite “news” station isn’t telling you everything you ought to know.  Indeed, your favorite news station has clipped, edited and skewed what was REALLY said…so you better go find the whole debate or story, educate yourself by taking the time to watch the whole thing (pray it was live otherwise it’s likely been edited to fit an agenda), and THEN form an opinion – to do anything less is to allow yourself to be swayed by only a tiny piece of information that may, or may not, have been taken out of context. Don’t be sheep.  It’s amazing how many people take Main Stream Media (MSM) for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  Having been interviewed a few times by MSM for different stories I can tell you the final product is swayed, chopped, hacked bullshit that looks and feels like a whole story – but it’s not.  In fact, in my experience, it’s actually quite different.

No, a headline doesn’t always reflect the story.  Ever heard of click-bait?  That headline that get’s your attention, because it sounds like a train wreck, is often misleading as to what is actually written in the article.  If you are going to click on that advertising dollar generating article, at least don’t be lazy.  Read the entire article, and even then, take it with a grain of salt because it’s probably not the whole story.  Don’t just read the headline and then share it will all your friends making assumptions based upon the headline alone.

No, that review you read may not be legitimate.  Even if it is in multiple places all over the internet – it could all still be the same author or content scrapers.  I’ll talk about that more in another blog eventually.  Yes, many people write honest and legitimate reviews for legitimate reasons BUT just like you see on social media, there are review trolls.  Review trolls are the people that suck at life so bad that they have to resort to making up or drastically embellish stories about their exes:  ex-business partner, ex-employer, ex-employee, ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, ex-husband/wife and even former friends or family that they aren’t getting along with.  Some people even resort to making up crap about themselves to gain sympathy of others (playing a victim is so easy these days) or might resort to making up stories about their competitors – because well, some people can’t stand to see others do better than them and misery loves company.  Be sure to take everything with a grain of salt and remember to conduct some research – after all what you read (be it checking up on a person or a business) could be entirely made up and once it’s up…it can’t always come down.  That goes for you too Human Resource hiring managers…

No, that meme that someone put together with their phone, incorrect math, spelling and all, isn’t necessarily true.  I can understand sharing the funny ones for humor or satire, but some people post that sh!t like it’s the TRUTH!  Holy cow – anyone can make that stuff up and then ya’ll go sharing it like it was written in the Encyclopedia Britannica.  Oh wait, some are too young to even remember actual fact books like that.  And when did “meme” even become a word?  Seems about the equivalent of the  so called words “bae” and “fleek” to me.  I wonder if my parents thought the same thing about the use of the word “rad” back in the 80s – but then again, at least “rad” was just the shortened version of “radical.”  That at least made some sense.

As a society, I feel that we need to stop being so damn lazy and accepting garbage, including MSM stories, posted on the web as truth without question.  I’ve seen so many accept anything that is written on the Internet as gospel and then share and opine based on, well…nothing but bad information. WTF?  You might as well take your brain out, play pat-a-cake with it, and stick it back in as mush.  You were given a brain…so use it!

Until next time friends…

 

Don’t be an E-BAG

Are You a “Chatty Cathy” Via Email?

Do you remember back when businesses exchanged typewritten letters to one another and if some one wrote back to you within a weeks time that was considered very responsive? How about the days when people would actually pick up the phone or got together for a meeting to discuss important topics that would require a back and forth conversational dialog.  Where did that go?  Oh yeah…technology.

Many times I have said that technology is a blessing and a curse.  I have opined how technology has contributed to the loss of the human connection and manners.  One day I may even write about how I believe technology is actually creating more stress for people…because you are always tethered by it and are expected to be “on” all of the time.  It’s exhausting just thinking about it.  In that same vein comes this wonderful technology that we call “Email” which is becoming incredibly abused.  Rather than just using it to send legitimate “need to know” information, and keeping the communications on point, it seems that many are now using email to hold a conversation in lieu of picking up a phone or scheduling a meeting that would allow for regular dialog.  For comedy, and not with any ill intent, I like to refer to these types of people as E-Bags.

POINT OF REFERENCE:  Let’s be clear about the angle I am coming from.  As a lawyer and entrepreneur I maintain multiple e-mail accounts for business and receive hundreds of e-mails a day.  I want to ensure I am receiving all of the legitimate information that I need in the shortest amount of time possible.  This is why E-Bags are a personal pet peeve of mine.

Five reasons why using email for conversations, generally speaking, can be a bad idea:

  1. Time is money!  It takes a long time to write out paragraphs of information and if you go back and edit at all, you are looking at 30-45 minutes for something that could have been said in five minutes on the phone.  If you are business billing your customer/client for that time, maybe you don’t care…but if you are the customer/client, you could be paying someone to read emails about your whatever, off topic, conversation.  Seriously.  Think about that.
  2. Everyone’s time is valuable!  Chatty Cathy conversations, especially when there are more than two participants in an email string, do nothing by waste time and irritate people when they have to read through your messages to see if there is anything important that pertains to them directly.  When you start pissing people off, naturally, they aren’t going to pay much attention to your communications in the future.
  3. People get too many emails to keep up!  If you chat away via email you are running the strong possibility that your communications will get overlooked.  If you are a known chatter, even when you provide very important information or a request in your communication, it can be overlooked because the recipient may assume that you are just chatting again and won’t read your email or will, at best, merely skim it.  The chances of your important information getting lost increases dramatically.
  4. Conversation emails are like dumping trash on top of small presents in a bag.  When you use email as “chat” you are basically littering in your own inbox.  You are dumping “trash” on top of the important things which can make them harder to find.  This is especially true if you manage an email account that has a high volume of incoming email to begin with.
  5. The written word, especially when written in a hurry, can be perceived in many ways that was unintended.  When I present to students and adults I explain how one single sentence, with only seven words, can be interpreted seven different ways depending on the emphasis that the reader places on any particular word.  This can lead to a break down in communication and lead to more relationship and communication problems that could have been avoided through a phone call or a meeting.  Never underestimate the power of being able to hear voice tone, word inflection and/or pick up on body language.  You can’t get those things from the written word.

Three instances when engaging in conversation via email can be a good idea:

  1. When you are making introductions.  If you are making an introduction between your self and someone else, or maybe you are connecting two people who have never met before, conversational email communication is probably going to be expected.  You are trying to open a free flow of friendly dialog so that they can get to know one another.
  2. When your entire relationship is based upon email.  If you have never met a person, or perhaps have never even communicated with a person over the phone, then, in that case, being conversational is appropriate.  It can connect you and provide opportunity for dialog when other communication mediums are not available or appropriate (think an online forum for example).
  3. When your customer/client expects it and is willing to pay for your time.  Some customers/clients are just long winded, they have lost the human connection so they don’t like actual phone or in person conversations, and they EXPECT to communicate via email primarily.  In this case, if that is what your customer/client wants, then by all means…go for it.  Just be sure to let your customer/client know, up front, that they will be billed for such communications.  Again, time is money and your time is a valuable commodity that you cannot ever get back.

If this resonates with you (because maybe you are a conversational emailer) or maybe because you share the same frustration with conversational e-mailers, be sure to chime in with your #EBAG experience.  I’m only writing from what I see personally but am always open to other perspectives and learning.

Snapchat Story Hit Home With Students

If you read my last blog article discussing how Kids Get the Short End of the Lesson Learning Stick, you know that I think that the internet today has a way of prohibiting kids from learning lessons “the old fashioned way.”  As part of my mission to educate kids (and adults) on the very serious issues that I have seen evolve out of one’s use of the Internet I decided to start guest speaking and my very first stop was my personal home town.

Last Monday I spent my time up at Blue Ridge High School in Lakeside, Arizona giving a presentation to the students regarding Internet use and the repercussions of the same.  This wasn’t your traditional “bullying is bad” speech that most kids get.  This was a full blown actions and consequences from the same speech.  If you want kids to have a clue, you have to tell them why things are bad…not just “be nice because bullying is bad” and use current examples.  Remember, chances are these kids are far more tech savvy than we could even dream of being!

20160516 - BRHS - Junior-Senior - Q2 re Top 4 Social Media platforms

Part of my presentation involves students taking an online quiz.  Out of the 56 students that responded from Session 2 (Junior and Senior students only) I learned that Snapchat was the most popular medium of Social Media being used by the students, following closely by Instagram and Twitter.  Upon learning this I used a very timely article that I just read about involving Snapchat as a teaching opportunity.  I discussed the recent story that has been floating around in mainstream media (e.g. Washington Post, CNN Money, etc.) about the 18 year old girl who was trying to take a selfie, while driving her father’s Mercedes with passengers in the vehicle, at a speed of over 100 mph, just so that she could apply a Snapchat filter to her selfie showing how fast she was going.  According to the articles, the girl ran into another driver causing him permanent injuries and the victim is now suing Snapchat under a product liability theory.  You can read the entire article as published by the Washington Post HERE.  Be prepared to be a little upset over it.

I explained to the students that not only will this girl likely face criminal and civil problems (and fees for counsel relating to the same) but I also talked about how this has become national news; that since she is over the age of 18 her name is plastered all over the internet in connection to her mistake; and to consider the comments that the general public is posting in relation to the article.  I told the kids that people are crazy and if you read the comments, some wanted that girl dead!  Sure it is harsh, but it’s the truth and I told them that this girl is probably the recipient of some serious hate mail because, for whatever reason, that is what this world thinks is right to do.  Indeed, not only does this young girl have to deal with the fact that her actions hurt someone very bad for the rest of her life, and deal with potential civil and criminal claims, but also may have to deal with hate mail…and that her family may also be subject to the same kind of ridicule.  I drove those points home.

Just looking at their faces as I told the story; the number of side conversations that ensued; and the questions that I received from the audience told me they were listening!  They were really listening!

I have been saying for a long time that education needs to happen now and I am pleased to be apart of that process!  If you have or know of a school or youth group that you think need to hear more about this topic, from someone who really understands and can present the information in an informative and entertaining way, consider sending that person this blog article or contact me.  I am currently booking lectures for students (and adults) for 2016 through June 2017.

Until next time friends…

P.S. – If any of this resonates with you, or you agree with that I have said, please consider sharing this article and/or leave me a comment.  I’d love to hear your feedback and/or about your personal experiences.

 

Kids Get the Short End of the Lesson Learning Stick

There is a reason that many of us joke that we sure are glad that we were “young and dumb” before the advent of the internet and technology like smart phones with built in digital cameras, etc.

In my day, being “young and dumb” wasn’t the societal crime that it is made out to be today.  Not because stupid things didn’t happen but mostly because no one knew about the ridiculous things that happened – well except for those few people, usually some friends, that were around at the time.  Sure, there might have been rumors about what happened, but typically there wasn’t evidence of it.  For many of us, were lucky if we had a 35mm camera which required actual film that you had to take to someone to be developed by some stranger…and if you were from a small town, maybe it wasn’t even a stranger.  If you were really lucky, you might have had a Polaroid which gave you instant pictures!  That was as close to “instant” as you got.  Even then, unless you showed that particular picture to every single person in the entire school…not that many people knew that it even existed.  And hidden videos…yeah, have you ever tried to take a “secret” video with a device that required a VHS and had to be carried on your shoulder?  Bullying?  Yeah, it existed…but at least then there were ways to get away from it.  Indeed, while we may not have had all these new advances in technology, in a lot of ways, we were actually really lucky!

We didn’t have social media postings that spread like wildfire and fistfights that got caught on tape.  We weren’t taking selfies and posting half naked pictures of ourselves for the general public to see and basing our self worth on “likes” and “shares.”  More importantly, if we made a dumb mistake, we often had the typical punishment handed down from parents, the school, or maybe the authorities if it was more “drastic” but even then…very few knew about it and, generally speaking, it didn’t haunt you for the rest of your life.  It wasn’t blasted on the internet for the whole world to see…forever.  It’s made even worse by our current news media who pick up a story presumably for “ratings” and call it news…meanwhile the kids, and their futures, are really suffering.  Indeed, back in the day kids could do dumb things, learn from their mistakes, and grow into respectable and responsible adults that have nothing more but stories to tell and wisdom to pass on to younger generations.  Not anymore.  Kids get the short end of the lesson learning stick…

Of course there is an exception to every rule…but generally speaking, kids (and adults) now have to be smarter and think ahead far more than ever before.  As I discuss in Part 4 of my blog series of Fighting Fair on the Internet, not only could you be banned from usage of platforms, but you could get into fights, you could end up with creepy stalkers, you could have a run in with the law – both criminal and civil (even if you tell the truth), you could permanently be scared by something that can’t be removed, and you could lose out on wonderful opportunities – for jobs, college, volunteer organizations, and relationships…and over what?  Some dumb shenanigan that you tried to pull or some other posting made by either yourself, or someone else – that can be haunting forever.

It is clear that times have changed.  Drastically…and unless you are in a position to see and deal with all of the repercussions of what goes on, us adults may not even really know the full extent of what goes on and what can happen.  After all, I myself was completely naive about many things until I got into the current area of law and career path that I am in.  But I have seen a lot – and what I can tell you is that kids (and adults) need some serious education.  I’m not just taking about not being a bully…but far beyond that!

Next Monday I will be giving a presentation to a fully body of High School students on internet use and the consequences of the same.  I have been saying for a long time that education needs to happen now and I am pleased to start that process!  If you have or know of a school or youth group that you think need to hear more about this topic, from someone who really understands and can present the information in an informative and entertaining way, consider sending that person this blog article or contact me.  I am currently booking lectures for students (and adults) for 2016 through June 2017.

Until next time friends…

P.S. – If any of this resonates with you, or you agree with that I have said, please consider sharing this article and/or leave me a comment.  I’d love to hear your feedback and/or about your personal experiences.

 

Fighting Fair on the Internet: Part 5 | Words DO Hurt

13139249_10153931221552819_4713360848051877835_nToday, while taking a mental/emotional break from the negative stress and duties that my line of work brings to me, I stumbled across this picture on a social media post.  The quote “The tongue has no bones, but it is strong enough to break a heart.  So be careful with your words.”  Given all that I have experienced in life, and all that I see through my career path right now, I can tell you that this is such a powerful and true statement.  Words do hurt…and while the focus used to be on what is being said verbally, now with a majority of our communications being electronic and we have seemingly lost the human connection because of it, now more than ever, it counts for the written word as well.

STICKS AND STONES:  Yes, I am well aware of the old saying “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.”   You know, to an extent that is true.  People can say what they want but it’s not like anyone is going to take away your birthday with words.  I also think that people need to have a certain level of a thick skin and ability to cope because some people are just giant jerks…but life does go on.  People grow up, people learn to move past their own hurt that causes them to feel the need to hurt others, they learn from their mistakes, change their attitudes, break bad habits, and so on.  So to all the “suck it up buttercup” minded people…I can agree…to an extent.  I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I have if I let everyone who said an unkind word to me really get to me.  In fact, in some instances, it was only fuel to my fire for working hard to become better…better at whatever they were trying to tear me down over.

IT’S A DIFFERENT WORLD: At the same time, we are living in an entirely different world today.  We have adults who don’t really understand the types of bullying and harassment that can go on now.  Consequently that means that when their children, or grandchildren, or nieces and nephews, come to them with problems relating to bullying now…they don’t really have an idea on how to address it.  Heck, I know a lot of adults that don’t even know how to address it because it’s not just an issue targeting youth – many adults are now the subject of attacks, be it personally or maybe through reviews of their business.  Now, of course, there is some basics and wisdom that we can all draw upon from when we were young…but there are other dynamics that are involved.  It’s not because us “older” people are stupid and don’t know what it is like to be bullied – it’s just different…and in many cases, way worse than any of us ever had it growing up because we didn’t have all of this instant access and technology.  More and more we are hearing stories of kids killing themselves because of bullying.  I’ve read the stories – it’s heartbreaking.  And why?  What is the root cause?  Is it because the kids are being coddled too much and lack coping skills?  Or is it because of the new ways that people are being targeted through the use of technology and the seeming inability to get away from it?

STORY THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: Coinciding with this exact topic, many years ago, in my early 20s (before all this social media stuff) I had a friend forward to me an e-mail that had been circulating.  My friend knew that I had been going through a rough time in my life and I was struggling with my own reactions to what others were saying to me.  Up until that point, there were times that I could be equally unkind to someone when pushed.  Nevertheless, that one silly little e-mail, for whatever reason, resonated with me and forever changed the way I thought about the words that I would speak (or write) to someone.  Because it was so impressionable upon me I will share a version of the same “Nails in the Fence” story here:

There once was a little girl who had a bad temper.  Her mother gave her a bag of nails, and told her that every time she lost her temper, she must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.

The first day the girl had driven 37 nails into the fence.

Over the next few weeks, as she learned to control her anger, the number of nails she hammered into the fence each day gradually dwindled.

She discovered it was easier to hold her temper than it was to drive the nails into the fence.

Finally, the day came when the girl didn’t lose her temper at all, and she went to find her mother…

When she proudly told her mother that she was able to control her anger, and didn’t need to hammer any more nails into the fence, her mother suggested that she now pull out one nail for each day that she was able to hold her temper.The days passed and the girl was finally able to go back to her mother and tell her that she had pulled out all the nails from the fence.

The mother took her daughter by the hand and together they went to the fence.

She said, “You have done well, my daughter, but look at the holes in the fence.  The fence will never be the same again. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like these ones that have been left by the nails.  You can put a knife in someone and draw it out.  But it won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound will still be there.  A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one.”

When I read that story, I realized that I was a lot like that little girl in the story.  In conversations with friends about life I have repeated versions of this story to explain my way of thinking and why I don’t “fight back” sometimes.  After all, when you are in an argument there is nothing more frustrating than when someone gets silent and gives the “silent treatment.”  But to be honest, my silence is out of respect.  Respect for myself, and respect for the person I am in a disagreement with.  You see, I remember every harsh word uttered to me by those I loved the most.  I also remember all the harsh words that were uttered to me by people I didn’t even care so much about.  What I learned from this, through self reflection, is that people will likely remember any words that I say out of anger…even if I later apologize, because I remember.  What I don’t really remember is all the times people were silent.  I rather people struggle to remember all of the times I got silent rather than live with scars from harsh words that I could have said when I was angry.

TAKE A BREATHER AND BE MINDFUL OF YOUR WORDS:  When you are dealing one-on-one,  with someone in person, it’s always important to be mindful of your words…regardless of age.  Children are the most impressionable.  Furthermore, understanding that we are living in a different world, where written words can be out on the internet FOREVER, it’s important that each of us take extra care in what we write.  You might be angry today, but as with all things in life and as my grandfather used to say, “this too shall pass.”  Before you go all keyboard warrior on someone, take the time to calm down, breathe, and determine if what you are about to write will REALLY serve a purpose that is positive down the road.  If the answer is yes, chose your words wisely and remember the “Nails in the Fence” story.  If the answer is no, let go of the ego, and remain silent.  What you write today can haunt you, and someone else, for life…and life is way too short to live with that kind of a burden.

Until next time friends…

P.S. – If any of this resonates with you, or you agree with that I have said, please consider sharing this article and/or leave me a comment.  I’d love to hear your feedback and/or about your personal experiences.

 

 

Online Negativity: A Potential Pitfall to Your Otherwise Perfect New Business Name

For many entrepreneurs, coming up with the right business name can be hard.  After all, you want it to be catchy and tell people what your business is about.  You might want some eye catching creative logo to go with it too.  You also want to be able to link that business name and logo with the internet, i.e., domain names, social media, etc.  Equally important is making sure all of these creative things (name, logo, etc.) are unique to you and your company, otherwise you could face intellectual property challenges down the road.  No one wants to make that costly mistake!  Perhaps you even engage an attorney to help ensure that all of these things are set up right and check out just to be sure.  When all of these things are on track you might feel like you have got the green light and you are off to the races!  Or are you?

One of the pitfalls I see in business is people starting businesses with a GREAT business name only to later find out that somewhere someone else has (or had) a same or similar business name with a bunch of negative online articles or reviews about it!  As many of us are aware, stuff on the internet stays around for a long time…as in forever in some cases. Basically, even if the business has long since been done and gone, those articles and reviews may still be around…possibly at the top of search engine listings.  Even worse, people who don’t pay that close of attention, perhaps prospective customers, might think that the old business name (and crummy article or review) that had nothing to do with you are one in the same with your business!  This is true even if you have different locations, different logos, and do totally different types of business!  Yes, a few unfortunate issues with our society (generally, not all) are: 1) people don’t typically read (they skim at best); and 2) people sometimes think everything on the internet is the truth without second guessing the information or where it came from!  Yikes!  Talk about a bad combination and potential for an online reputation nightmare for your new business – especially if your prospective customer doesn’t play that close of attention to details…like the fact that you aren’t that other business with the old articles, etc!  To top it off, solutions aren’t as easy as writing the websites that are hosting the articles/reviews and asking them to take them off.  In most cases, that won’t work and, generally speaking, they don’t have to.

PRO TIP:  When doing your due diligence for your business name, in additional to all of the intellectual property considerations, you should also consider running searches on top search engines like Google to see what, if any, negative information you can find on the internet using the name of your company and names closely related to your company, e.g. Frosty Ice Cream vs. Frostys Ice Cream, etc.  Going in with your eyes wide open as to what problems are present, if any, will help you determine if you want to consider other business names OR maybe at least consider some social media campaigns or other options that will help educate and differentiate you from the other(s).

If you not sure how to go about these kinds of searches, you are encouraged to speak with a Business Attorney in your area who can assist you or perhaps a trusted Reputation Management consultant (though do your research before you hire anyone).  Anette Beebe is the managing member of Beebe Law, PLLC which is an Arizona based law firm representing clients in the state of Arizona.

 

 

Your Social Media Could be Damaging to Your Professional Goals

Technology is all around us and chances are you probably have some level of interaction with Social Media.  For example, you might have a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr or some other online blog, etc.  Further, if you are the normal person, you probably post and interact freely without really considering consequences of those interactions and THAT is what I am discussing here.

I’d like to think that most people are pretty good at self policing and watching what they say online, however, as I have eluded to in my blog series “Fighting Fair on the Internet” that isn’t exactly the case.  Through my own personal and business experience I have come to find that people can be very dark and spiteful.  There is something about the internet that can bring out the worst in people…kind of like booze.  I believe there are a whole host of reasons for that, some of which I discuss in my blog series, however what remains true is that people are now, more than ever, being very “free” with their emotions (positive and negative) and their personally identifying information.  Not only does this behavior present some level of risk from a security standpoint, but also a risk to your professional goals.

Some studies suggest that 77% – 80% of employers will “Google” (meaning run a search using the popular search engine, Google) a perspective employee prior to a job interview.  Chances are, the statistic is probably similar for any person looking at anyone, for any position, in today’s market.  What is your name associated with?  Typically it will be associated with professional websites like LinkedIn and social media accounts such as Facebook where you place particular information out there for the public view.  In other instances it could be attached to anything else that you have been tagged in, had your name mentioned in, and/or your information has otherwise been placed in the public domain.  Do you know, for sure, what that information looks like? Does that information, to the eye of the most strict and ultra conservative individual, give a positive or negative impression of you?

If you feel like you are being turned down for opportunities and you aren’t sure why…maybe it’s time for “check up” on your personal social media presence.  The easiest way to do this is to simply run a search for your name, or names that you are known by, via a popular search engine like Google.  Another avenue would be to go to the particular social media outlets that you use and check to see what is visible to the public.  For example, on Facebook, you can (at least as of this writing) go to Settings, Followers, then “Want to know what followers can see?  View your public timeline.”  That should show you what people, who are part of the general public, can see about you.  Does it give out more information than you would want any perspective employer type person learning about you?  If you aren’t sure whether or not the information might be perceived poorly, ask a friend or family member.  If you (or your trusted friend) don’t like what you see, and you have control over the information*, start working on a social media clean up.  For a whole host of reasons, you will be glad that you did!  As my wise grandmother use to say, “it’s okay to maintain a little mystery.”

For those of you who read this and say “…but what about information that I don’t like that is outside of my control?” understand that topic is a whole other beast, reserved for a wholly separate set of blog postings, on a totally different day. 

 

Fighting Fair on the Internet: Part 3 | Opinions are Like…

OPINIONS ARE LIKE…

So we all know that old saying “Opinions are like a**holes, everybody has one.”  What they forgot to add to that sentence is “but that doesn’t mean that everyone wants to, or should, see it…or what comes from it.”  Let’s face it…we all have read something online and thought that whatever opinion was proffered was probably best reserved for the proverbial toilet and then flushed. Yes, everyone forms opinion about things, situations, people, etc.  I totally get that and I think that everyone is entitled to their opinions – positive or negative!  The thing is…no one really gets upset or annoyed by opinions that are positive (“I love this idea!  I’m going to try it!”) so let’s talk poop (“How can you think like that?!  You are such a moron and I hope people like you die!”).  If any of you read Part 2 of this blog series you will understand a portion of my theory on why people would even say something like that; they have lost the human connection and consequently manners and respect right with it.

NEGATIVE OPINIONS ARE LIKE POOP:  Where this introduction fits into the whole “Fighting Fair on the Internet” topic is the discussion on what one does after forming a negative opinion about something.  Do you flush it to the turd Gods where the stench of it can never be seen or smelt where only you really know about it (a courtesy flush, if you will) or do you pull that turd out of the can, place it on a silver platter on your front lawn, take pictures of it, and send it to all of your friends, and their friends, and their friends’ friends to see the massive heap of fly attracting dung pile that it is (i.e., post it somewhere on the internet)?  At this point you are wondering if I am talking about negative opinions or poop and the answer is both.  We can all use a little humor and relatability when discussing topics like this.  Surely there are some instances where they are both useful and serve a purpose, but generally speaking, when spread around too much and too thick…the usefulness is overshadowed by the stink and flies that are attracted to it.  Ewww!

POOP CAN BE USED AS FERTILIZER:  I’m not suggesting that a certain degree of conflict and disagreement is bad.  Not all negative/differing opinions are unuseful.  Like the benefits of applying fertilizer to growing plants and crops, a certain amount of negative/differing opinions, if used properly, can help create and contribute to the free flow of worthwhile ideas and debate.  There is no value in stifling free speech and I think the First Amendment definitely has its place.  People should have the freedom of expression without oppression from government BUT that does not mean that people should use that as a license to be a “Richard”.  No offense to anyone named Richard.  If you consider that each person’s opinions is formed based upon their personal education, their experiences, their beliefs/faith and feelings you will then begin to understand, and perhaps appreciate, why opinions can vary so much.  Consider the stark difference in view points between the different political parties.  I think we can all agree that people’s opinions are all over the place when it comes to politics.  Nevertheless, it might be helpful to the greater cause and world of debate when a humanitarian who has worked with troubled youth in low income developments debates topics on poverty with a business person who operates within the same community that is trying to solve employment problems.  If people can come and debate issues with education, facts (and I’m not talking about some meme on Facebook where no one knows who developed it) and legitimate personal experiences, and check one’s emotion at the door beforehand, then some real progress could be made.  This is the “fertilizer” that I am talking about.  This is the good kind of poop – differences of opinion that could be perceived by some as negative; used sparingly to cultivate discussion and movement towards a common good.  The problem begins when people start turning their turds into trophys for purposes other than promoting good discussion.

YOUR TURD IS NOT A TROPHY:  I see it everyday – in my personal life and at work.  Someone is upset about something for whatever reason and rather than flushing those turds of negative, unproductive, opinions down the toilet they chose to go run their virtual mouth on the internet proudly displaying to everyone their smelly, fly infested, turd.  What is even more fascinating is that some people seem to display these piles of crap like a trophy and wear the stench as if it were a badge of honor.  It might be on Facebook, or Yelp, some blog or news thread, or some other online review/complaint forum.  Unless you are just a “Richard,” those who engage in this kind of conduct can’t really feel good about what they are saying.  So why does this happen?  Well, there are many philosophies, but I’ll talk about the few that I tune into:

  • EMOTIONAL OUTBURSTS:  All humans have some very basic needs and when those needs are not being met they tend to act differently.  Perhaps some people react negatively online because they are looking for attention.  Some might even say that these types tend to be a bit narcissistic and fail to consider that other people have opinions…and feelings too.  Others just are a little bit of a hot-head.  We all know at least one person that flies off the handle and says things without really thinking about what they are saying or the repercussions that can come from it.  Sometimes people’s emotions get the better of them and they do or say things that aren’t exactly becoming.  Those people tend to be remorseful later…but what happens when those outbursts are not contained to the private setting?  What happens when they post it on the internet for all to see…and then maybe can’t get it taken down?
  • ENTERTAINMENT FACTOR:  As twisted as it sounds, yes, there are people who actually go around being negative and mean just for pure entertainment.  Indeed there are those that carry the turd trophy and engage in the frequent displaying of turds.  These individuals are labeled by other onlookers in the online community as an internet “troll.”  What is rather sad is that trolls literally post inflammatory remarks merely to provoke readers into an emotional response to disrupt regular conversation for their own amusement.  Who has that kind of time on their hands?  Why would anyone purposefully hurt someone else for entertainment?  Trolls I guess…  Again, even trolls eventually get caught, are shamed, and/or feel remorse once their moral compass straightens itself out…and then what?  And again, what happens when the posting you made cannot be taken down if and when you want to?

Regardless of how it happens, the fact is, these actions are not nice (often causing harm, and possible liability, that many don’t think about until it happens to them or someone they love and care about and/or you get slapped with a defamation lawsuit) and when you do it in an online forum you are doing nothing more than displaying your turd trophy that no one wants to see.

FLIES ON TURDS:  It only takes one really stinky turd (negative opinion) to get the flies swarming.  Online, it seems that as soon as someone starts in with negative talk and opinions others feel comfortable in joining in the same bad behavior.  There are a lot of articles out on the internet about today’s “mob mentality”.  Anne Trafton, in a 2014 article titled “When good people do bad things” and posted to the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT‘s website, reported on the mob mentality topic and eluded to how people in groups will do things that are against their morals and standards due to, among other things, a “diminished sense of personal responsibility” for the actions of the group.  Its amazing how bad people can get when they perceive some level of protection by the group…and this takes place all over, including the internet.  I’ve personally seen one person post a comment regarding finding a dog a home and you had all kinds of opinions back and forth, including name calling, defending one side or another.  All I could think of was a crowd chanting “Jerry, Jerry, Jerry” on the  Jerry Springer television show.  Again, this was about finding a dog a home!  Seriously?  When did this sort of actions become the norm and quasi accepted in society?  Why is it that everyone feels the need to turn EVERYTHING into a Jerry Springer show?  If you do any reading online you know exactly what I am talking about; and some of it has become so bad that it’s like a train wreck…even the most conservative of people can’t look away.  It’s distracting…and moreover just wrong.

LEARN TO COURTESY FLUSH:  I’m all for people having opinions.  I even form my own turds on occasion but rather than being a “Richard” I do my best to stop and ask myself if my turd of an opinion is going to advance valuable commentary or not.  I get it, sometimes it is really hard to bite your tongue…especially in the “keyboard warrior” environment, however, if what you are going to say (your opinion) is mean, harmful,  amounts to bullying or harassing, and/or fails to promote legitimate truth (you know, a turd on a shiny platter) perhaps consider giving it a courtesy flush. We could all benefit from checking our negativity at the door.  Nothing good comes from being mean and harassing.  Nothing good comes from saying harmful things.  Nothing good comes from the publication of half-truths and false information.  If anything, in the long run, what you say could come back to haunt you days, weeks, years later…and you may be met with regret, social problems, and/or legal problems…all of which will be discussed later in this blog series.  It’s time to break the cycle…and through discussion, education, and tools perhaps we can start making a change one “post” at a time.

Fighting Fair on the Internet: Part 1 | The Internet Sucks!

Okay, so I know that the title “The Internet Sucks!” is rather harsh, but lately that is how I feel.  There was once a time where the internet was used as an actual tool and not a weapon.  I recognize that to a great degree it still a tool because we can share thoughts, ideas, and solid information and we are all the wiser for it.  No longer do we have to go to the library to look things up or wait a year for something to be published.  Now, everything is at our fingertips within seconds and from an educational perspective, this is an awesome thing!  Even from the perspective of being able to share meaningful thoughts and ideas in a collaborative environment makes the internet awesome, especially when it is used for good and positive.  Of course it has also helped us reconnect and stay connected with friends and family who live across the globe…and for me I am thankful to have such opportunity.  Yes, there are countless reasons why the internet is still good – but that’s not what I am talking about – otherwise this would be a short posting about puppies, baby goats, and kittens.  What I am referring to is the other side of that coin…

As I scroll through all of the social media pages that are out there, reading the different postings regarding…well, just about anything someone happens to write about, I find myself being ever thankful that I grew up in a time when the internet wasn’t so poplar.  It seems that the information highways has become the “misinformation highway” and so many have become quick to believe and consequently “like” and “share” just about anything that is posted…no matter how ridiculous it would seem to anyone who actually stopped and thought about what they were reading for a minute.  Mainstream media wants so badly to draw attention that they will highlight situations that really shouldn’t be highlighted, and then often skew them, because it does nothing more than “stir the pot” and generate ratings.  I have often said those that “stir the post” should have to lick the spoon.  Top that off with the keyboard warriors of today who seem to thrive on being malicious turds and you come to realize that the internet has really become a hostile environment and people are legitimately suffering from it in many different forms.  Someone can’t even post a picture of a puppy without someone saying “that is the ugliest puppy I have ever seen” and go on to get into it with someone else over that comment.  who gives a crap if you think the puppy is ugly?  Why does your opinion on that matter?   Don’t get me wrong, I am all for the freedom of speech (and as a lawyer in my line of work I help advocate for it), however, just because something is legal doesn’t mean that you should push the boundaries just to say you could do it!  Freedom of speech shouldn’t be used as a license to be a dick!  At what point did people bypass the Golden Rule?  Further, and on point, not everything that you say (or write) is protected speech…but so many people forget that or have apparently never been taught that lesson in school.  In my best Mr. Mackey voice from South Park “Bullying is bad…mmmmkay.  Harassing someone is bad…mmmmkay.  Lying and making up stories is bad…mmmmkay. Sure there are exceptions – satire and the like…and that seems all pretty self explanatory to me…but perhaps what I consider common sense isn’t so common?

While the shift has been going on for some time it has only been in the last five years that I have really noticed the change.  Perhaps because I now deal with on a daily basis whether it be for work or I have it thrown in my face every time I read any thread, on any post, on pretty much any topic.  True, I could not read…but the inquisitive social scientist mind I have won’t allow me to simply just dismiss it.  As I see it, there seems to be a drastic increase of people who literally take offense to everything.  At the same time there is an equally drastic increase of people who think being a keyboard warrior troll is somehow productive and funny; and somewhere in the gap between the two extremes are those who can find a bit of humor in some good old fashioned ribbing but know when things have gone too far and won’t engage in those activities.  You know they types that I am I am talking about.  I'm just here for the commentsThey are the ones who literally post the “I’m just here for the comments” meme to a thread to show some level of participation without taking a side…  Why is that?  How has all of this come to be?  Why does everyone want websites that allow third-party content to be the “moral police”?  Even if sites were to start being the “moral police” where does one draw the line in the sand?  Shouldn’t society, as a whole, have a duty to raise awareness and police their own conduct?  Is it a fruitless endeavor to try and get people to police their own conduct or do people generally desire to behave in a positive manner but are just lacking in some basic knowledge and tools for real dispute resolution in today’s technological world?  I mean, let’s face it…it’s not like many of us growing up had parents in this particular environment to draw upon for examples of how to handle these kinds of situations; heck, the game Oregon Trail was considered cool technology I was young let alone the internet.

Through this series of blogs under my self titled topic “Fighting Fair on the Internet” I will discuss my personal viewpoints on these questions in a balanced approach in hopes to help raise awareness on these issues; offer discussion points and/or, at least, some food for thought on the related issues; and provide some general legal commentary and tips for what I call “fighting fair on the internet” along the way.  Of course, while I have some level of education in the social sciences, I certainly do not claim to be an expert…but I am fascinated by human nature and it seems to be such a very relevant and current issue in which I have had some level of experience with.  Stick around friends…I anticipate this is going to be an interesting ride!

Cheers!

Anette