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
    Edward, 7 Mar 2007 @ 5:19pm

    Re: Re: Yeah, it's long.

    You gotta be kidding me, man. First of all don't try to establish credibility by pointing out what you call flaws in my post. Obviously I took into account the fact that I was cursing up a storm and did so purposefully. Secondly, who the (watch out, I'm going to use profanity) fuck are you to call me out on something as meaningless in a web post as structure? But then again, you did insert that line-skip between your paragraphs, so maybe I'll take something positive away from this after all. Thirdly stop posting just to discredit people who have already posted. You took from my post that I think "a person who is a student of law, is in some way better than a construction worker". Well, if you weren't already trying to be so condescending, you might have interpreted that I merely believe that law students have to commit much more time and effort to a job they want but do not yet have, than do aspiring construction workers. However, in light of your intent to defame my post, I can see you had no intention on discerning any meaning other than me thinking highly of myself and lawyers, and lowly of people who go straight into the workforce. If I were to take your unnecessary, overcritical approach to responding to a post, I'd explain that by the methods of Standard United States English, the comma you placed after the word law in the sentence I quoted you in is incorrect. Oh, right, you were also so busy taking note of how badly I fucked up my post that you seemed to have missed my point. Listen up, now: my point, Sir Genius, is that it sickens me that the world has become a place such that a hardworking, qualified law student is denied a job he would have undoubtedly if we (A) had some privacy or (B) went through this whole ordeal 10 years ago. So there ya go, skippy. I hope this wasn't too offensive for your virgin ears.

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