As more of everything ends up online, a new industry has cropped up: online reputation management. These companies claim to be able to scour the internet for every single little thing that’s been said about you and help you ditch the negative stuff like that photo of you from that party or, if you’re a company, that negative review or nasty blog post by an ex-employee.
Unfortunately, it appears that many that offer these services are doing it backwards; they are saying the nasty things, then offering to remove them – for a hefty fee, of course.
Apparently, a rather notorious blogger is doing just that. We wrote about blogger Crystal Cox last year when she was fined $2.5 Million dollars by a judge; apparently there is a lot more to the story. One of the services Ms. Cox offers is “reputation management,” and a Forbes writer is claiming she’s doing it via blackmail.
In the original judgement against Cox the judge stated that bloggers were not permitted the same protections as journalists; as a result, many first amendment loving lawyers offered Ms. Cox their services to not only assist her but protect bloggers at large. (She has since been denied a retrial and the judge has clarified his judgement, saying in his brief, “In my discussion, I did not state that a person who ‘blogs’ could never be considered ‘media.’ I also did not state that to be considered ‘media,’ one had to possess all or most of the characteristics I recited.”)
In an odd move, Ms. Cox apparently purchased a domain in the name of one of the lawyers who she considered working with. She then claimed to “need money” and offered to manage his reputation for him (screenshot of the email is here). In a post from a couple of days ago, Kashmir Hill of Forbes states:
“She bought the domain name for Marc’s wife, Jennifer Randazza (and has already started dominating her first page of Google results with her hyperbolic posts). When Randazza still wouldn’t buy her services, Cox moved on to a younger member of the family: … three-year-old Natalia Randazza.”
Apparently, this is common practice for Ms. Cox. In the brief denying her a retrial, the judge stated:
“[T]he uncontroverted evidence at trial was that after receiving a demand to stop posting what plaintiffs believed to be false and defamatory materials on several websites, including allegations that Padrick had committed tax fraud, defendant offered ‘PR,’ ‘search engine management,’ and online reputation repair services to Obsidian Finance, for a price of $2,500 per month,” Hernandez wrote.
I guess this just shows that you moms that bought your kid’s domain names are smarter than you knew, eh? The good news too is you don’t have to pay thousands to manage your reputation; Google, naturally, has a tool for that.