Could Facebook Kill Your Good Reputation?
High net worth individuals need to be aware of the reputational dangers that come with holding private social media accounts, according to a media consultant.
Reputation specialist Jonathan Hartley claims the rich are increasingly targeted by journalists and private investigators who have become experts at accessing supposedly ‘private’ Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
Social media accounts have not only become the source of unwanted news articles for the rich and famous but are used to supplement further damaging articles after a story has broken.
Mr Hartley, of Jonathan Hartley Associates, says that while many businessmen and women are canny enough not to post anything that others may deem inappropriate, they are often left red-faced by postings of their children.
He said: ‘You wouldn’t dream of letting a journalist or business rival into a room full of your documents, photos and memberships but a Facebook and Instagram account gives them the equivalent access.
‘Even if you think you’ve shut them out by setting the page to private the chances are that there will be another way of them accessing the information. It’s like locking the front door but leaving a window open. Many social media accounts are inter-linked which makes them even more vulnerable.
‘The problem also lies with so-called “friends” being less discreet and re-posting sensitive information or even granting journalists access to private accounts in return for money.
‘Once a story breaks photos and comments on social media become fair game. A seemingly innocent photo of a family holiday in Switzerland is suddenly portrayed as example of excess while a drunken night out documented on twitter is taken out of context.
‘There is also the danger that clients can be dragged into a story merely by association by being in a photo with an under-fire friend or colleague on a social media account.’
It is well known that many younger people document their lives on a daily basis through posting pictures and Twitter updates but this can come back to haunt them or their families years later.
Mr Hartley cites the example of Chloe Madeley, the daughter of TV couple Richard and Judy, who was exposed in a tabloid newspaper for smoking drugs.
He said: ‘This was a photo taken form Chloe’s Facebook account that had been posted on a friend’s Facebook page.
‘All the settings were private but a friend of the friend took the photos and sold them to the newspaper. There was no privacy issue to prevent the publication because it was an illegal act.
‘The younger Royals use false names on their social media accounts but this information quickly gets sold on to the media. Really, there are no good safeguards when it comes to social media, except not having it.’
Once a story breaks the reputation specialists at Jonathan Hartley Associates immediately task clients to shut down all social media websites but Mr Hartley says even this doesn’t instantly erase the information.
There are now online programmes that allow journalists to access previous social media postings so the damage may already be done.
Mr Hartley said: ‘There is a real trend in the media at the moment that wealthy individuals warrant extra scrutiny and should be held to account. My job is to screen clients from those dangers and helping them to be aware of the dangers of social media is an important first step.
‘We carry out “reputational health checks” for clients and very often social media proves to be an area of vulnerability.’
FIVE DANGERS OF SOCIAL MEDIA
1. Social media sites that are linked up and are particularly easy to access even if they are set to private.
2. Even after social media websites have been shut down they don’t instantly disappear as they have been cached.
3. If there is any illegal activity on a social media account the media has a right to publish the information or pictures.
4. Rogue journalists use false Facebook accounts to befriend targets which act as a Trojan horse to syphon off information.
5. Many media outlets deem any social media account with more than 400 to 500 agreed followers to effectively be public.