Social media: control your identity.

# Bully

A couple of comments started me thinking about our identity in social media circles. Firstly, Robin Cannon commented on another post at this blog saying:

register your name, even if your online presence is largely as a brand. So register your name as a URL, create a Twitter account, etc. Even if you’re not going to use them, better to have them in your possession so that they can’t be used in the future in ways that can harm your reputation

Then I happened to notice a tweet by Michael Martine of Remarkablogger advising:

to prevent "twitter-squatting" you might want to snag any names that should be associated with you

We all know about cybersquatting - registering URLs that could be associated with, or used by, large companies to profit from its resale - but what about social media?

Potential for abuse

There is a huge potential to abuse social media in order to ruin a persons reputation. It is easy to sign up an account and there are no checks. There is nothing to stop anyone from creating an account in someone else's name and using it to cause havok.

I asked "Who has grabbed various social media names to avoid identity squatting?" on FriendFeed and had a response from Jon Erickson stating that several of his clients have found their brand names being used by others. Now he doesn't say that it has been done maliciously but it does lead to a potentially big problem and, as social media becomes more mainstream, is this going to be something we will see more of?

Business has a degree of protection where trademarks are involved but for a normal individual things could be a lot harder to resolve. Personal vendettas could lead to reputation trashing or even blackmail leaving the affected party the difficult task of first getting the offender stopped and then trying to repair the damage.


There has been at least once instance on Twitter of someone trying to trash anothers reputation but fortunately, that seemed to backfire and gave the 'victim' a great deal of publicity. How long will it be, however, before this takes off as a means of cyber-bullying?

We are advised to sometimes register different names to keep work and personal streams separate but perhaps it is time to start doing so in order to prevent abuse. The law around this issue will no doubt need updating to reflect the changes in technology but there is always a period when the legal system is slow to catch up with the rest of the world.

Your take

Is this something you can see developing? What steps have you taken to prevent your identity from being abused on social media web sites?

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Image by Jana Christy.

  1. Robin Cannon says: #
    In some ways I think social media dangers are potentially more damaging than traditional cybersquatting. Most cybersquatting is done largely through the desire to make a quick buck, rather than actively to damage someone's reputation. But certainly as social media sites become more mainstream there's opportunities for them to be used in an actively malicious manner. And in some ways the less educated to the workings of the network the more gullible people are likely to be in terms of believing it. To be honest it's something that's already reared its head most obviously at MySpace. Given that that *is* considered a reasonable forum for artists to have profiles, it's quite open (and has been abused) in terms of fake profiles being developed. Last blog post..Ruining ‘nofollow’ With Abuse

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