DigitalNews Today: January 2017

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5 Smart Ways to Handle Negative Online Comments

Posted on Friday, January 20, 2017 No comments

Friday, January 20, 2017

Whether you’re a writer, YouTuber, or a business owner, negative online comments are probably one of your biggest sources of stress. Not only do negative comments put a serious damper on your mood, they can also damage your reputation. But you are not powerless against angry people on the internet. Here are five strategies for handling negative online comments:

Know the difference between constructive criticism and hate

There are different kinds of negative comments. Some come from generally respectful people saying why they disagree with your views, or why they were dissatisfied with your service. As a freelance writer, I quickly learned that constructive criticism is a part of the job. Others are from people who just spew anger and hate without offering anything constructive.

These types of comments need to be handled differently. The former you should respond to and learn from, while the latter you should refuse to acknowledge and do your best to eliminate or neutralize.

Moderate comments

Set up your website so that comments don’t appear until you approve them. This system will naturally discourage people from writing hateful, unconstructive things, because they won’t get the instant gratification of having them published right away. But if someone does submit a comment that contains hate speech and vulgar language, just reject it.

Comments that are negative but also constructive you should approve, because it lets your audience know that you are willing to receive feedback. You can respond to these comments appropriately, as I’ll discuss in the next point.

Write informative, respectful responses

If you are a blogger or columnist responding to someone who disagrees with your point of view, you can either simply tell the person you respect their difference of opinion, or tell them you respect their difference of opinion and offer a well-reasoned rebuttal. Getting angry, lashing out, and engaging in name-calling will make you look worse. But giving a polite reply that is based in fact will reflect positively on your character.

If you are a business-owner responding to a negative message on your website, on social media, or on a review site, always start with an apology. You might inform the person of your customer service phone number, or let them know about another service you offer that could help improve their experience. At the very least, say you appreciate their feedback and will work to address the issue.

Utilize good social media management

Many negative comments come in the form of social media posts or replies, usually on Facebook or Twitter. You should moderate these comments to the best of your ability, using the principles of good social media management. Remember number one on this list: some comments you should eliminate, but others you should use an opportunity to engage with social media users.

You can easily delete hateful comments from your Facebook posts. You also have the ability to block Twitter accounts that spew hate, but be careful about getting “block happy.” Blocking someone might encourage them to write more negative things about you, which anyone can see, so simply not acknowledging them might be a more effective strategy.

Finally, referring back to number 3 on this list, respond to social media users who are giving negative feedback. You just might turn a negative experience into a positive one.

If negative comments on social media become overwhelming, you might want to consider hiring a social media manager to handle those, along with all your other social media needs.

Encourage positive comments

If you are a business owner trying to deal with negative comments on review sites such as Yelp, the best strategy at your disposal is encouraging people to write positive reviews to counteract the negative ones. Sites like Yelp won’t take down reviews unless they violate the sites TOS (Terms of Service), so you have to fight fire with fire, so to speak.

Oftentimes, people are more inclined to write reviews if they had a bad experience, which can skew your rating downward. To reverse that trend, regularly ask your customers to write reviews of your business. This will inspire the folks who had positive experiences to share them on the internet, and counteract the negative reviews.

The most important thing to remember when handling online comments is to stay calm, and not let negative words get under your skin. Getting defensive and emotional can lead to poor decisions, so take a deep breath, and show that you’re a tough cookie who can learn, grow, and bounce back. Oh, and don't drink when replying. It seems obvious but we've had to clean up quite a few messes based on alcoholic diatribes.

Stay positive!

Published here by permission.

Dark PR and Agents of Reputation Destruction

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There exists a type of PR agency that specializes in destruction rather than enhancement of reputation. Some of these agencies work for governments or politcal parties, others are private contractors, all have a similar agenda: Lay false trails, generate fake news, and use social media to weaken or decimate rivals by manipulating public opinion for nefarious purpose. It isn't just fringe groups, but the appartus of large governmental institutions like the National Security Administration (NSA). The NSA has apparently used negative online reputation management to discredit some peoples search results. 

Have you ever been the target of online criticism from a former customer, employee or associate? If you have, you know how it can hurt. Especially when it's untrue. For most people our critics are anywhere from a little worked up to seriously unhinged. But seldom do they have an agenda and the resources at hand to cause wholesale destruction. The campaigns these agencies design are diabolical in nature. It starts with a rumor told here, a half-truth there. Then documents magically show up that are seemingly innocuous at first, but when combined with bombshells to come become the lynch pins in a string of false logic bombs. With a little belief, and enough circumstantial evidence, people with even the smallest affinity for the message of the lie will swallow it hook line and sinker.

Western spy agencies like Britain’s GCHQ and the NSA apparently devote significant manpower and resources to online “intelligence” operations that consist of negative SEO tactics aimed at enemies of the state. They use fake names, hidden IP addresses, planted news stories, and other smoke-and-mirrors tactics to publish damning or unflattering content about their targets. Sometimes fake evidence is planted which is later "discovered" by an anonymous source and fed to the press an an opportune time. A few Google searches will verify it as "true" and since people hold what Google presents in such high esteem it is all the more easy to believe. 

From Destroying a Person to Fomenting Revolution

During DefCon 2016 in Las Vegas, a gentleman by the name of Chris Rock (not the comedian) demonstrated to a room full of about 1000 hackers how to take over a government. Sitting in that room made it extremely clear to me that the use of negative reputation attacks, hacking, social engineering, and even weaponizable drones available on can be used to destroy one person, or an entire government. In his talk Mr. Rock discussed inserting fake news into hacked government websites, moving money between bank accounts not to steal, but to create an apparent (fake) paper trail of corruption. Then, at just the right moment, triggering the populace to revolution by starting an online conversation based on lies his team had planted. He demonstrated that with the right resources on hand it was frighteningly easy. 

Who’s Targeted by Negative Online Reputation Management?

No matter whether its someone working at a dark PR agency, a clandestine government PR lab, or a member of Anonymous, targeting people with negative public relations programs has never been easier. Recently Google announced they are taking aim at fake news sites. But doing so may prove very difficult because the problem isn't the sites, its the people publishing on them. By the time Google cracks down on a publisher the damage will already have been done and the perpetrators long gone. 

Spys Do It for a Living But Almost Anyone Can Do It

A great Glenn Greenwald piece introduced spy agencies’ sophisticated brand of negative SEO and touched on its implications for online reputation management. As Greenwald pointed out, the principal targets of these tactics aren’t heads of state, military commanders or international criminals. They’re far more likely to be:

· “Hacktivists” who publicly sympathize with groups like Anonymous and LulzSec

· People suspected of—but perhaps not charged with—online financial crimes

· Radical political activists

· Potential whistleblowers and leakers, like Edward Snowden (though he didn’t appear to be targeted by this program)

Although heads of state are just as vulnerable if the attacker has access to the right resources. As Greenwald noted, it’s a tad worrying that people who haven’t been charged with a crime—regardless of their politics or motivations—could face overwhelming reputational damage at the hands of the NSA and other agencies.

How Does Negative Reputation Manipulation Work?

Online reputation spy craft comes in several flavors, some juicier than others. Here’s a sampling:

· Honey traps. In a classic honey trap, an agent seduces the target (or hires someone to do so). This places them in a compromising position, preferably with photographic or video evidence (insert porn music here). The agent or an associate then posts the material online, either on the target’s own accounts and social media platforms (after obtaining his or her passwords) or on high-authority websites. The agent may also create written content detailing the experience or send evidence of the encounter to the target’s colleagues, friends, neighbors—anyone in the position to influence the victim’s web reputation.

· False content. An agent might make up (or use exaggerated real-life details) to create false or misleading blog posts, social media posts and websites that portray the target in a negative light.

· Social media and email manipulation. By stealing the target’s passwords and other personal information, the agent can infiltrate that person’s social media and email accounts, posting or sending offensive or unflattering comments, photographs and other material.

· Unauthorized leaks. Agents may leak damning information about an individual or company to news publications, competitors and others potentially in a position to harm the target’s internet reputation. In many cases, this just takes a little research using publicly available information.

· Sustained negative content campaigns. Using surrogates and cloaking techniques, agents may post negative reviews, exposées and other unflattering pieces of content on online review sites like Yelp, consumer alert sites like RipOffReport, social media outlets and standalone websites. Often ‘straw man’ figures are used, fake names and identities online. All these venues can influence search results and create highly visible web reputation problems for targets.

Are You a Target?

Are you a...:

· Leader of a terrorist organization

· Hacktivist

· Political leader who doesn’t align with the US government

· Person the NSA spies on

If you are none of the above, you may not be a target. But if you aren't a target then you're probably a participant in the fake news cycle to some extent. 

But just because you don’t fit into the classic target category doesn’t mean you can afford not to learn how negative online reputation management works or respect the power of the dark side. Spy agencies don’t have a monopoly on these tactics: Anyone with the resources to buy up Internet domains and create negative content can do serious harm to you or your business for less than $100. It’s critical to monitor your social media channels, search results and other online points of contact to identify potential threats to your reputation before they become serious. And if you do think your online image could use a touch-up, you should learn more about how online reputation management works.

Further reading: Glenn Greenwalds awesome article
Re-published by permission. 


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Dr. Dakuku Peterside - NIMASA DG

The Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside has charged the media on fair and balance reportage of economic activities, noting that they play a vital role to the growth and development of the economy.

The DG who stated this when the Management of Bond FM Lagos led by Engineer Bamidele Dada paid a courtesy visit to the Agency also enjoined them to use their medium to embark on an enlightenment campaign on the benefits accruable to the nation through a virile maritime industry.

"Lately, we are working on the possibility of rebranding NIMASA and part of the findings is that very few Nigerians understand the role we play as a regulatory Agency, and so we enjoin you to use your medium to educate Nigerians about the things we do in NIMASA.

By the little things we do, we contribute so much to the growth of the maritime industry and by extension, the economy of Nigeria where we are major players. Every day we are looking for avenues to ensure that more Nigerians get involved in the maritime industry", Dr. Peterside stated.

While pledging support for the media, Dr. Peterside appealed to practitioners to always engage in constructive reportage of the maritime sector. In his words, "the media shapes peoples understanding of events; let's not use the media for negative influence on the masses, let's use the media to serve as the facilitator of economic re-engineering in our country." 

Earlier in his remarks, the leader of the delegation, Engineer Bamidele Dada lauded the rebranding initiatives of the Agency in repositioning the maritime industry for greater efficiency.

He also expressed willingness of Bond FM to partner the Agency on a major enlightenment campaign on maritime activities in making Nigeria a hub in Africa's maritime industry.

It will be recalled that the DG in a New Year message to Stakeholders in the industry assured of a more robust and business friendly maritime environment in 2017 and beyond.
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