What you say doesn’t stay online

There were plenty of lessons to be learned in the Eliot Spitzer/Client 9 mess earlier this month.
But the one most underreported was the very “what-not-to-do” that serves the media the best.
The minute the identity of the former governor’s alleged call girl slipped into a reporter’s hands, I’d bet he did what we all do – plugged it into Google.
What came back, of course, was the MySpace page of one Ashley Alexandra Dupre.
It proved a veritable gold mine of information – with her sob story in her own words and sexy songs in her own voice.
The pictures that would go on to appear in every major news outlet were picked right off Myspace and distributed to the masses.
Good old-fashioned investigative reporting is alive and well, and it’s being spoon-fed by the almighty Google and its partners at MySpace, Facebook, the Internet Movie Database and hundreds of thousands of others.
I’m as guilty as the reporters at the New York Times, Newsweek and the lot.
If I need to know something, I go online. It’s not always easy to find, but more than half the time, what I want is there.
When online social networking became soccer moms’ new foe, I sided with free speech over the fear mongering. The greater part of my argument was rooted in the need to give kids an outlet, with the proviso that parents keep an eye – and an ear – out for trouble.
The mining of Ms. Dupre’s MySpace page for dirt by the media only cements my point.
Everything you say online can – and will – be used.
Against you.
If it can be.
Considering Ms. Dupre’s site is still online several weeks after it became the go-to spot for the ultra curious and a long list of folks who felt they could pass judgment on the situation – I’d say she’s taking advantage of just how it’s being used.
I doubt the same would be said of the nasty comments left behind on a blog by a 40-something-year-old businessman who thought the vastness of the World Wide Web was protecting him in ways that the regular letters to the editor section of the local paper would not.
What about the lady who logged on to make a list of her favorite books?
Their ho hum, every day news could suddenly become front-page fodder given the right circumstances.
So before you type, just imagine the same words coming out of Katie Couric’s mouth tomorrow night on the evening news.
If it sounds OK, go ahead. If not, well, you might want to rephrase.

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