Since the advent of the internet, news travels fast. What’s more, the ability for companies and institutions to keep bad practices and poor service under wraps has been close to obliterated. Anyone with a bad word about any institution can now let the world know in just a few seconds thanks to endless review platforms available on the web. Review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor have grown into huge businesses. Ironically even online reputation companies have a review site. This is a double edged sword. Reviewers are not vetted; a wide range of psychological factors can influence why something is reviewed. Thus, reputation management was born. For a set amount of money, parties can have their internet reputation scrubbed clean and formed anew. However, in some case this isn’t always justifiable.
A strange case for online reputation management, the Chancellor of the University of California, Davis has been forced to go on leave after reports circulated regarding student protestors being sprayed by campus police. The ORM industry is not regulated in any way. In fact, they claim it is possible to do anything for a set price. In this case, a very crucial social issue is being swept under the rug for the sake of the University’s name. The ethical implications of this concerned students who had heard that the Chancellor paid $175,000 to improve its online image. While the chancellor was asked to take leave, it is debatable that any wrong was committed.
However, ORM does not work by “erasing” any content on the web. It does however, dilute it through the addition of positive content. This content will theoretically outrank the negative content that is spread throughout the web. Many businesses have used online reputation management services to gurantee that their company is presented in a balanced manner. Unless a business has committed an serious crime or readily takes questional stances on ethical issues, it is likely that a few detractors will not actually present an authentic picture of the business’s operations.
Negativity isn’t always a bad things; statistics state that negative results can sometimes drive up the rank of a website in google search results. This is because of the way rankings work. There is another side of the coin where another business or person objectively targets an individual or a business due to a personal objective or simply out of competition. This can lead to unjustified negative reviews for business. So in the case of UC Davis chancellor, it is an understatement that there was some concern over the ethics of covering up an unfair action committed by campus police, however, it is unlikely that the news could have been taken down and covered up forever.