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August 2, 2008

Why you've got to disclose

Newspapers have made much of corporate Twitter accounts such as Jetblue and ComcastCares. Today there's news that someone apparently squatted the ExxonMobilCorp name, and passed themselves off as a nameless corporate drone. That's novel: impersonation of a support/service representative. I picked the news off Techmeme and haven't confirmed the details, but Jeremiah Owyang has a summary.

Check out Jeremiah's "Key Takeaways" at the end: "(a) Lack of identity confirmation continues to plague the web; (b) Companies must monitor their brand; (c) An opportunity for the real Exxon to step forward; (d) The community (myself included) need to first validate identities." I'm not sure what Exxon or other companies "should" do... Adobe has a lot of customer/influencer conversation on Twitter, and a gas company probably doesn't... their choice. But I really like the focus on openness of identity and source evidence in his first and fourth lines.

Let me boil them down to two:

  1. Corporations are best protected from impersonation, astroturfing, sockpuppetry and other online identity problems by consistently having all employees clearly identify their name and corporate affiliation on each page, each snippet in which they speak on corporate matters. Make it verifiable.
  2. Readers do need to Question Authority. Quit being such a goober, believing anything you're told. There are not just two little boxes of "I believe" and "I disbelieve", but a spectrum of how much you have to take on faith. Verify.

If you're a "corporate blogger" or other representative of a group, make sure your realworld name and corporate affiliation clearly appear whenever you discuss issues related to the group. It not only avoids questions regarding your own integrity, but the practice of consistent disclosure within the group protects against such outside impersonation.

(And bloggers, you've got to get rid of that "anonymous sources say" kind of revenue-generating linkbait. Provide links to source information, so that any reader can confirm what you say. Please do opensource your data, and ditch the "faith-based reporting".)

Posted by JohnDowdell at August 2, 2008 8:22 AM