We've all heard about gossip spreading by "word of mouth," but in the age of online blogging, message boards, and nonstop access to the Internet, there's a faster, more insidious way that anybody’s comments can reach millions of people within minutes. "Now it's about word of mouse," says Regina Lewis, an AOL Consumer Adviser who shares her tips for protecting yourself and others against cyber-slander. (Click on the video above to see how one mom and business owner fought back and won $11.3 million.)
Take it seriously. Cyber-slander can have far-reaching implications. For example, according to Regina, one in four employers will Google job candidates and "if they don't like what they see ... 'next!'"
Monitor your reputation. You should manage your online reputation in much the same way that you would monitor your credit report so that you can avoid being a victim. You can sign up for Google Alerts to be notified of any sites using your name or whatever search terms you request. Also, companies like ReputationDefender.com can supply you with a report and step in to help you if necessary.
Speak up. Most sites have their own terms of service and/or code of conduct. If someone has bad-mouthed you online, they are likely in violation of these conditions. So contact the site directly to voice your grievance. Regina suggests, "Use your language to say, 'This violates my privacy,' or 'I think this is defamation.'" Sites have a vested interested in keeping their users happy and their reputation in tact so don't hesitate to act.
Have a family discussion. Remind your family, "What happens in our house stays in our house." It's easy to leak personal information online that can later be used against you or your loved ones. For example, a child may simply hear a parent talking about how business hasn't been thriving, and that message could then have serious implications if it ends up online. It's also important for children to realize that the Internet can directly impact them when it comes time to apply for college and other future pursuits.
Empower your kids. "There's a line at the guidance counselor's office dealing with this," says Regina, commenting on how prevalent cyber-bullying has become. Miss Teen New Jersey International Krysten Moore knows firsthand how painful it can be when peers attack virally, and has now used her experience to help others. After vicious attacks were posted about her, Krysten explains, "The first thing I did is I educated myself. I visited an amazing website called Love Our Children USA and there I found so much helpful information." After talking to her parents and confronting the bullies, the offensive comments were taken down. Krysten went on to become the 2007 Bully-Prevention spokesperson for Love Our Children USA in hopes of preventing cyber-bullying for all kids.
Think before you post.
Ask yourself these questions before posting your own online comments:
Is what I'm saying constructive? Think about what your words are implying. Is it too personal? Is it potentially destructive?
Am I posting anonymously? If you aren't comfortable putting your name on it, don't say it at all.
Will I regret this later? If what you post could come back to haunt you, then don't post it.
Have you been a victim of Cyber-slander? Talk about it on our message boards.
- latest show clips
- celebrity friends
- cooking videos
- rachael between the scenes
- backstage pass
- tips and stories
- be on the show
- set tour
- audience tickets
- rachael's bio
- what's rach wearing
- rach on the radio
- follow us on twitter
- join us on facebook