Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Trolls and other antisocial, disruptive and divisive social networkers – Part 2

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on December 8, 2010

Yesterday I posted part one to a short series on the dark side of social media, and the need for established policy in dealing with damaging and disruptive social media postings (see Trolls and other antisocial, disruptive and divisive social networkers – Part 1.) I touched on issues in that posting that are important when developing and following through on a policy for identifying and responding to malicious social networking. At the same time, however, I focused on what has to be the easier side of this complex of issues – where people post inappropriately on social media sites and other online channels that your organization in fact owns and manages (e.g. community oriented discussion and other social networking resources provided through your business’ web site.)

I turn with this posting to the more complex issues of managing your online and social media presence through third party interactive channels, when dealing with malicious postings. And I divide this into several general categories:

• When people with malicious intent post about your organization through online reviews, online group postings or comments, etc
• When people with malicious intent set up a false online presence claiming to represent your organization, and
• When these people make attempt to hack into and take over an online presence you have set up (e.g. a business-representing Facebook page or other social media outlet.)

All of these scenarios have important points in common:

• You need to monitor what is being said about you online and through the channels you would routinely turn to, and through channels that may be new to you. A resource such as Google Alerts can be of real help for the later, but actively monitoring for online content and postings that involve your organization is always important – and even if you do not proactively seek to social media market.
• You need to have a policy in place for responding to malicious and harmful postings and other online content that impugns your business or organization.
• You will need to effectively reach out to the organizations that own and host the channels that this malicious material is posted through, to voice your concerns and to prompt them into taking action to correct these problems.
• You also have to be prepared to add a positive and accurate message where this malicious disinformation was posted, and offer opportunity for conversation with anyone who may have seen and been swayed by the malicious content they had been finding.
• And I add that when third party social media service providers are involved it is important that you not treat them as if they were posting this questionable content. Treat them as having been harmed too, and in fact sites that find they have been used to post malicious and intentionally harming content are victims too. These postings damage their reputation as being fair and reliable forums for social media and for the communities that rely on social media – their customers.
• You are probably still going to need legal council in dealing with these issues and situations, at the very least as a resource you can turn to. And you should proactively make them aware that you do follow the social media and online conversation and that you have a policy for responding to malicious content posted about you; share a copy of your policy with your attorney and seek out their advice in refining it.
• Then prominently post your policy on your web site, just as you do your policy for safeguarding personal and personally identifying information from people who interactively connect and share information through your web site and other online channels.

If someone is posting inflammatory and damaging comments and disinformation about your organization as a troll, reach out to the site owners involved to have this material taken down. If the problem involves bogus online profiles, web pages or other content claiming to be coming from you work with the owners of those sites to take active ownership of those pages and other online resources. If someone has hacked one of your third party channels for social media or online marketing, they have probably changed logins for managing these resources. Work with the site owners to take them back.

• This may require your at least informing the third party site owners that if you cannot reach a mutually agreeable resolution to this with them, that you will turn this over to your corporate council and have them seek remedy.
• Needless to say, never say you might take that step unless you are prepared and ready to do it, and right away if necessary. And do not propose this resolution unless you have already hit a wall in dealing with them directly.
• And whether or not you turn to legal systems to find resolution to these problems, strive for a solution that brings you and the social media service provider to the same side of the table, as having been harmed by the trolls, hackers, malicious competitors or whoever launched these assaults. This can lead to a long term positive resolution that would serve your best interests.

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