Inappropriate Internet Posts an All Too Common Problem

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I'm no Emily Post, but I am thinking of writing a book called "Online Etiquette: Rule for Folks Who (Theoretically) Should Know Better." With the number of people who need to read it on a steep growth curve, I think I've got a potential bestseller.


Little more than a month after the well-publicized revelation of Whole Foods CEO John Mackey's unprofessional (and embarrassing) behavior as an anonymous poster on Yahoo financial forums, a substitute judge in Las Vegas got canned after posting highly inappropriate comments about prosecutors on his MySpace posting.


I've blogged previously about these kinds of professional missteps, from the false sense of "privacy" that leads folks to post inappropriate content online to actually inviting coworkers and other professional acquaintances to view it. These incidents are becoming so common that they no longer qualify as anomalies.


Online as well as off, folks inclined to say inappropriate things in public always seem surprised by the reaction to their remarks. "It's obvious to the casual reader this is an overstatement just for the effect," says the ex-substitute judge in an Associated Press report. Here's a hint: If you have to tell people it's "obvious," chances are it isn't.


At least the incident prompted the clueless attorney to make his MySpace page private, where only friends who already appreciate his "provocative" (his word) sense of humor have to read it.


He says the incident won't prevent him from running for judicial office in 2009. Chances are his opponents will be pleased to hear about his MySpace exploits.


True, the Web has aided candidates such as Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor whose Internet campaign helped make him an early front runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 -- and more recently boosted Republican Texan Ron Paul to a surprising fifth place finish in the Iowa Straw Poll (not the New Hampshire primary, as I incorrectly wrote, with news stories about the state's desire to move its primary to January fresh in my mind -- thanks to a Ron Paul supporter for pointing this out).


But what the Internet giveth, it can easily taketh away. The fourth result returned for a Google search for Dean is the YouTube clip of his famously scary scream.