Can you believe everything you read on the Internet? Well no, as the well-publicized trials at Wikipedia have made apparent.
The Internet's pervasive nature -- coupled with the incredible ease of disseminating information online and the difficulty in eradicating it -- means there is plenty of misinformation out there.
Yet companies are using the Internet more than ever before to find and hire job candidates. Getting references for prospective hires from previous employers is out; Googling the prospects is in.
According to a recent ExecuNet survey, a whopping 77 percent of job recruiters have used Internet search engines to research candidates for employment. Thirty-five percent of them have dropped job seekers from consideration based on what they found, up from 26 percent who did so in 2005.
This is worrisome in light of reports of an increase in so-called cyber-slamming, in which attackers use online forums to smear the reputations of others. Such behavior is becoming all too common on the Internet, where folks have few qualms about saying nasty things, especially if they can do it anonymously.
A recent SFGate.com article features the stories of several who have been victimized, including a Yale law student who fears that sexual innuendo about her that appeared on a discussion forum is hurting her chances of getting a job.
The administrator of the forum, who declined to remove the remarks, nonetheless admits that such situations are "part of a growing social problem on the Internet."
Thus far, the Internet's impact on professional reputation remains a big legal gray area. But that is likely to change, with lawsuits such as those filed by a graduate of a Pennsylvania university who was denied a teaching certificate because of photos of her that appeared on MySpace.
In another case, a government employee's claims that his former employer's use of Google to research his prior work history during a dispute that resulted in his dismissal violated his "right to fundamental fairness." A judicial panel disagreed with him, however, meaning that -- at least in some cases -- using the Internet to research employee activities is OK.