Think Before You Post

As many warnings and cautions as people are given about what not to put on the Internet, it seems a few are still living in a cave. Sometimes, when the only audience you can see is the computer screen staring back at you, your false sense of security kicks in. You might forget that people who don’t know you – or those who know you very well – are reading what you blog and tweet and put on Facebook and MySpace. The police are watching, your parents are watching, the FTC is watching, your friends and coworkers are watching and yes, even the IOC is watching.

Dong Fangxiao, a member of the Chinese Olympic gymnastic team at the 2000 Sydney games, recently blogged about being born in the Year of the Ox. Whoops. She presented documentation at the games of being born in 1983, the Year of the Pig. The Year of the Ox would be 1986, making her a few years too young to compete in Sydney. The International Olympic Committee found out and, as a result, eventually requested that the all-around bronze women’s gymnastic team medals be returned due to the ineligible age of Fangxiao. I’m sure it didn’t occur to her that blogging about the Year of the Ox would result in her team being stripped of its medals.

A 52-year-old California man allegedly posted on his website that if his insurance company, New York Life, did not return his $50,000 premium and include an extra $150,000 payment by March 8, he would charge them $3 million to keep him from running a false email campaign. Naturally, he publicly threatened to “make false public statements and transmit millions of spam e-mails in an effort to damage the reputation of New York Life and cost the company millions of dollars of revenue.” Whoops. While he was apparently unhappy they denied a recent insurance claim, he is probably more unhappy now that charges of extortion have been brought against him in New York. If convicted, he could face two years in prison.

Let’s not forget the high school girls caught hazing when they posted footage on their MySpace account. Or Chris Cooley of the Washington Redskins that published a very personal picture of himself on his blog by accident instead of a portion of his playbook, which he wasn’t supposed to be putting out to the public either. A usually well-behaved kind of guy, he caused a great deal of embarrassment for his team and his family and got himself into hot water with his coach.

It is sometimes hard to imagine that the things we take for granted as part of our everyday lives and blog about can become life-altering events. Let these people serve as your real-life warning. If you think for a moment that what you post won’t really matter, think again.

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