On April Fool’s Day, The New York Times published an article called “Erasing the Digital Past.” I thought— is it possible? Reading the stories like the one below, I cringed:
“And then there is the Philadelphia physiologist who became unwittingly linked to a consumer advocacy site, when it listed him as a graduate of a distance learning school that was shut down. “I felt totally victimized because there was nothing I could do,” said the physiologist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want added attention. “My case load started to dry up.”
Luckily, I don’t have any digital skeletons in my closet, but I could definitely see how one misstep or unlucky accident could lead to embarrassing results. It turns out, if I did, I could hire an online reputation manager to help fix that. Sites like Reputation.com literally bury search engine results by “spotlighting flattering features and concealing negative ones.”
Much like celebrities, who the article cites as employing reputation companies, politicians could do the same.
While there are some “scandals” that are just plain funny (i.e., Scott Brown’s Cosmo photoshoot), other blasts from the pasts could certainly rear their ugly heads to hurt a candidates reputation. And as the article points out, even though something is on the 7th page of Google doesn’t mean that someone won’t find it— especially an angry voter or competitor.
As more and more people literally grow up online, it will be very interesting to see how that shapes the future of politics. Will one Facebook picture of underage drinking sink a candidacy? Will one Tweet about hating potatoes mean that Idaho voters would never support a campaign? Even if it’s years later?