Online content is volatile, out of control and sometimes harmful. We all know it and try hard to stay on the safe side and use common sense when posting our own writings on the Internet. Other than that, content is a great source of revenue, if played smart, and when it’s user generated, it can be turned into a money making resource with little to no creative effort.
But the tricky part with user generated content is responsibility. Technically, it’s enough to have a disclaimer on your website saying you are not responsible for what users post and then let all the ugliness of abuse, offense and gossip take over your online space.
The most recent successful recipe for online fame built on such negative concepts is College ABC, a gossip site for college students that encourages them to post anonymous messages about their colleagues. The amount of negative comments, going from simple gossip to insults and bullying is impressive. And the fact that it comes for people in college is even more disturbing, but not exactly surprising, as a degree does not guarantee intelligence, nor common sense.
The team behind College ABC is of course safe, as they cannot be held responsible for what their users publish. It is a great way to hide between current laws and freedom of speech. But they have a moral responsibility for all the of insults, trashing and bullying people who have nothing to do with the site have seen posted on the Internet, for everyone to see.
The amount of damage their image will take is hard to assess. Imagine a future hiring manager running a search for a candidate’s name and seeing all sorts of crap posted about them on a college students’ website! Even if they don’t take it into account, it still looks bad. It might look bad for future clients trying to discover who they are working with.
And what advice could one give to students whose name is tarnished in such awful manner? Don’t ever annoy anyone? Pray you somehow manage to make everyone like you and jealousy disappears from the face of the earth in no time?
Or maybe hope that Google will never give the College ABC website too much credit? That’s long gone, it’s a major, spicy trend on the search engine.
I do pray that one day the Internet, the companies and entities activating on it and the overwhelming number of online communities learn more about common sense, moral responsibility and the price not worth paying for some quick profits. As one of the students appalled by the website stated, “those are the type of things people commit suicide over.”