A Virtual “Corrections” Page – Can it Really Protect One’s Reputation Forever?

This morning, my colleague forwarded me a New York Times article about a new web site called ICorrect, which, according to the site “protects one’s reputation in cyberspace forever.”  Hmm, bold claim; I read on.

The site goes on to say that “So far, the likes of Wikipedia and Google searches consist entirely of hearsays. ICorrect uniquely provides “words from the horse’s mouth.” 

While numerous companies claim to “erase” the incorrect or harmful information about an individual or company from cyberspace – just Google “Reputation” and you’ll find them – ICorrect instead serves as a forum for those who feel libled or misquoted to set the record straight.  (Note: in reality, there is no quick fix or above-board way to erase information from the Internet.  It takes a lot of work that entails creating good or truthful information to push down negative or false information.) 

It’s an interesting concept.  Even the most well-trained executive or careful public figure may have their words  taken out of context or become the brunt of downright lies.  It’s a natural response to want to correct the misinformation.   But as a reputation communications specialist, I agree with Stephen Pritchard, the ombudsman at The Observer of London, which has an actual corrections column, and often counsel my clients that sometimes responding does more harm than good.  In an interview, he stated that people who joined ICorrect risked drawing unnecessary attention to the very items they wished would go away.

So how many people are actually reading these posts?  The founder claims they had 255,000 visitors in the first weekend, but how do we know all those folks aren’t there to “correct” vs. look for corrections?  Second, the entire premise of the web site assumes that the general public is going to go looking for the other side of the story. 

What are the chances that I’ll read the Evening Standard’s piece on HSBC’s purchase of America’s Household International Group, then go look to see what Sir John Bond has to say about it?  Minimal, I assure you.  What would be truly helpful is if in the future, the site was optimized for Google searches and the response came up along with the other news.  Right now it does not.  There are other, searchable ways to respond to accusations that still give the user control over the content, such as Facebook, Twitter, personal or company web sites, etc. 

While currently used mostly by stars and celebrities, the founder, businessman and socialite Sir David Tang, says he has high hopes that someday ICorrect will be the world clearinghouse for corrections. “It’s my fervent desire to have NGO’s and big corporations like BP,” he said.

Bottom line; I will not soon be using ICorrect for any of my clients; however, it is an interesting site to watch.  And as a bonus for me, I’ve added a book to my reading list after reviewing the site and stumbling upon Niall Ferguson’s response to a review of us upcoming book “Civilization: The West and The Rest”.  Ferguson’s response – “This critique would be more impressive if von Tunzelmann had bothered to read the book.”   At the very least, I’m sure it felt good to set the record straight.

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