Case Study – Social Media Posts Can Be Permanent

Attention young people everywhere: that funny/tasteless jokey post you put up on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram can survive on the internet forever.

swear-badThere is a specific example happening this month that serves as an extremely effective warning, but I don’t want to give too much detail because the student in question is surely already suffering enough. You can Google it yourself if you’re so inclined. In this incident, a student in a leadership role in a sorority at a large Mid Atlantic college sent an email to her sorority sisters that contained so much vitriol and foul language that it went viral.

Gawker (Today’s Gossip is Tomorrow’s News) moved first by leaking the email in a blog post, and the rest is history. Several other online publications wrote posts about the tirade, some of which included the student’s real name and two actors posted videos of their reading of the message. The top brass of her sorority came out and posted a letter condemning the behavior. The student became internet-famous in a matter of days, but surely not in a way that she desired. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of it.

Internet detectives quickly went to work and discovered that her Twitter account contained a number of tasteless, racist posts and opinions. She has since taken down the Twitter account but those posts are going to live on the internet forever, having being copied into blog posts and optimized so that they are very easy to find using a search engine. If she were to request that each site that posted her tweets and her real name take them down, there is zero chance they would all agree. It’s on the internet so it must be true.

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Google Trends Chart for Student’s Name

Making matters worse, her name is not all that common. In the event a future employer or grad school admissions officer does a Google search for her, the whole incident will probably be on page one of the search results for a long while. The same is true for family members – don’t look, grandma!

Think you can just take down that ill-advised stuff you posted on the internet? Think again.

 

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