A Cautionary Tale of Twenty-First Century Online Reputation Management Dangers And Three Lessons to Learn
Things appeared fine for Andrew and Neely Moldovan: a wedding set at an old-world Dallas spot, captured by their chosen photographer.
But according to a Washington Post article by Avi Selk, bliss quickly turned sour months later when the couple stood in front of local Dallas NBC TV affiliate showing a box of empty picture frames. The problem? Their photographer, Andrea Polito, was withholding their images for $150.
People then began to write negative comments on the photographer’s review pages, calling her a scam artist, or much, much worse.
As a result, her reputation was ruined, the business went from 100 clients to two and she was forced to close.
The story could have ended here, and could be chalked up as an example of another case of social media being a Twenty-First Century equalizer of justice.
But, there’s a twist: according to the article, the photographer, Polito, sued the Moldovans, claiming they just need to fill out a form, select their wedding album and pay a small charge they had long known about to get their photos.
Importantly, jurors in the Dallas case agreed with Polito. They found that the accusations by the couple amounted to malicious defamation.
The Moldovans should pay the photographer more than $1 million in damages.
What can we learn here?
First, “weaponizing” social media is never a good idea, especially when someone just doesn’t want fulfil their part of the agreement.
It can lead to a range of unexpected consequences and is dangerous.
Second, the same rules apply online as they would “off-line.” Lying about the truth and defaming someone through social media has definite, real-world results–in this case, a photographer’s online reputation was needlessly damaged.
Third, things online can turn ugly quickly, for both sides.
Initially, the photographer’s online reputation was damaged almost immediately. But after news of the truth emerged, the Moldovans’ own online reputation was hurt just as quickly: Neely Moldovan’s fashion blog has been shut down, and the Washington Post article quickly amassed more than seven hundred comments just hours after it was published, many of them extremely negative.
So, be mindful of using social media against someone else–it can cause real online damage to both parties.