Reputation Is Dead?

Well, this could get interesting:

Next week a startup is launching that’s effectively Yelp for people … If someone has something good or bad to say about you, they’ll be able to do it anonymously and with very little potential legal or social fallout.

Are there really that many people, though, wanting to go on a random Web site and trash someone anonymously?*

[*Probably; I learned through several conversations with friends this weekend that I am hopelessly out of touch with what "most people," including those in what I think Julian Sanchez called my "urban tribe," think.]

But the author, Michael Arrington, seems to think this (the site specifically, or one like it, as well as the general culture/technology that’s brought us to this point) will ultimately be a good thing:

We’re going to be forced to adjust as a society. I firmly believe that we will simply become much more accepting of indiscretions over time. Employers just won’t care that ridiculous drunk college pictures pop up about you when they do a HR background search on you.

Anyone who rises quickly in a corporate environment will have people complaining about you all the way up, and it will be easily findable via search. Basically, if someone doesn’t like you, even just for a moment, they’ll have the chance to hit you with an ambiguous but damaging anonymous statement. And it will be vague enough to stop any lawyer dead in her tracks from trying to get it removed, or from even learning the identity of the person who left the comment.

So what will matter? Hard proof of being a bad person. Criminal records. Non-anonymous and clear statements of wrong doing that need to be addressed. Perhaps a picture of you actually committing a violent felony. That kind of thing.

But the nonsense we’re all worried about today? I just don’t think it will carry the same weight in a few years.

I think Arrington’s predictions are probably correct. But I don’t think it will have anything to do with a centralized, anonymous libel Web site.

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