In Christopher Buckley's novel "Boomsday," a very Larry Ellison-like character creates the software "Spider Repellant," which can completely erase every mention of an incident from the Internet. Of course, he uses it to erase all evidence of his own misdeeds.
According to a piece in The New York Times, problems that just won't go away have given rise to a new speciality: online reputation managers. It explains:
In an age when a person's reputation is increasingly defined by Google, Facebook and Twitter, these services offer what is essentially an online makeover, improving how someone appears on the Internet, usually by spotlighting flattering features and concealing negative ones.
The story tells of a Philadelphia physiologist whose business began to dry up because he was unwittingly linked to a consumer advocacy site that listed him as a graduate of a distance learning school that was shut down. He says of hiring an online reputation manager:
It took a couple of months, but now when you Google my name, the negative sites are buried about six or seven pages in. My clientele has dramatically improved, and when people call to make inquires, they always say they got my name from the Internet.
Personal branding specialist Dan Schawbel has predicted that your online presence will replace the resume within 10 years. And it's certainly not news that people try to "manage" their reputations online, though doing it yourself isn't all that easy-so far. But as Buckley's "Spider Repellant" becomes closer to reality, are we reaching a point where you can't believe anything you read on the Internet?