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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Beware the Internet

Do employers have a duty to investigate employee MySpace pages?

Are those drunken party pictures and private jokes on Facebook grounds for firing?

And how stupid do you have to be to create incriminating or embarrassing evidence against yourself?

I do love the Internet.

In case you missed the news item the other day, some parents in Nebraska sued a local school district after their daughter was molested by a teacher. Said the suit: "In at least his MySpace publication, Hoffman named himself 'John Pecker Hoffman' and charged his self description on his MySpace page with sexual allusions, innuendo and references."

How dare they rely on resumes and references!

OK, I do realize keeping sexual predators out of schools is probably a good thing, but is imposing an Internet research requirement really a good idea?

First off, you'd never get anyone in human resources off the computer. There are just too many pictures to look at (and too many games to play). After all, if a prospective employee once had a career as a stripper, you're looking at months of research.

No work would get done.

And what if Mr. Pecker actually had a brain and, instead of those allusions, he posted pictures of himself in his former home in a monastery ministering to the poor and the fully-clothed? What if he modestly displayed his fake Ph.D. and mentioned something about preferring to teach the scientists of the future?

If there's bad stuff you can't necessarily rely on on the Internet, there must be good stuff you can't necessarily rely on.

Which brings us to an important point for you lawyers out there and your clients: the Internet today is your resume. Pad it. People are going to look whether you want them to or not.

The only way to stop people from believing what they see on the Internet and investing with Nigerians is to put as much fiction as possible out there.

There's absolutely no reason why your Facebook profile can't mention your degrees from Harvard, Oxford and Caltech, your meeting with Mother Theresa ("I met a woman named Theresa. She was a mother....), and your Nobel Prize for leadership.

It's not like you're trying to fool anyone - you're just posting stuff on your personal page. How can that be fraudulent? It's not aimed at anyone (heh, heh).

Is it really all that different from putting your best friends down as your references?

We'll all be much happier as soon as we can be sure that we can't trust anything we see online. Then we won't have to worry about this stuff.

FUN WITH CELEBRITIES. By the way, if you don't do something stupid on the Internet, you may end up on the Internet anyway for doing something stupid off the Internet.

Case in point: the suit filed the other day on behalf of actress Vanessa Hudgens against a website operator for using some photos of her.

What sort of photos?

Apparently "Hudgens is the creator and owner of a number of self portrait photographs which depict her in a private residence."

She took photos of herself?

Unfortunately, the complaint doesn't include the pictures - but it does include the copyright registration forms for them.

Yes, she took pictures of herself and then copyrighted them.

Their titles were: "Photograph of a Girl in Mirror Kneeling" and "Photograph of Girl in Mirror."

You have to carefully protect works of art like that.

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