Law Students Say Message Board Postings Are Costing Them Job Offers

from the if-it's-online-it-must-be-true dept

As people increasingly live and document their lives online, stories about potential employers doing web searches on job candidates and turning up information candidates would rather not have them see -- information that often costs them a shot at the job -- are becoming more common. The Washington Post has a front-page story on this topic today, focusing on some law-school students who aren't having a lot of luck finding jobs, and blaming it on message board postings. What makes this story a little bit different is that the students didn't make the postings themselves, they're just the subject of certain threads and messages -- some which could possibly be viewed as defamatory, while others are simply unbecoming (such as a discussion of a female student's breasts). The employers weren't finding the students' MySpace pages or blogs, or other sites documenting their personal lives, but rather their inadvertent digital resumés were being created by other people. The article seems to put the blame on the owner of a particular site that's popular among law students, but that's misplaced -- perhaps the more questionable activity is on the part of employers who are using this information. If they're going to search the web, they need to have the understanding that people can't control what other people say or post about them (similar to the idea of hearsay in a courtroom), and that not every mention that casts a student in a poor light is true, or an indication of their character. It's also not entirely clear why potential employers should consider many of these comments relevant to their hiring decisions, though one person says law firms are afraid of candidates who could attract controversy. Of course, it's also possible that comments a person labels as "defamatory" may be unflattering, but true. While site owners have no legal liability for what third parties post on their sites, thanks to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, at least one company senses an opportunity here, and searches for potentially damaging content online and "destroy it on behalf of clients", which we'll assume to mean they drown site owners with cease and desist orders and threats of lawsuits akin to legal bullying. All in all, this sounds like quite a bit of overreaction -- not just on the students' parts, but from their potential employers, too.

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  1. identicon
    Casper, 7 Mar 2007 @ 2:42pm

    Re: Yeah, it's long.

    It's not intended to be easy. You talk about this as if it is in some way unfair that school is difficult and jobs should be handed to them. Do you really think that it is that much more difficult to study law then say chemical or electrical engineering? Your coming from the point of view of a business student, which isn't exactly on the same page as a lawyer, surgeon, or biochemist. I bet you have never worked a real job, have you?

    An immature tirade such as your post is the exact reason employers want to look into their candidates. Your posting included unnecessary profanity, poor structure, and no valid point. When in that long mess of a paragraph did you explain why companies shouldn't look at forum posts? You offered up the fact that a person who is a student of law, is in some way better then a construction worker. So, because someone chose to go to work rather then school, the person who chose school is better? I hate to tell you but a lot of contractors and machine operators make six figures and many are way far more intelligent then you my friend. I am a software developer, does that mean I should look down on someone who chose to go to work in another field that pays less? Does less pay mean they have not or do not work as hard?

    Please think before you speak, even rants should have a point.

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