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, 8 Mar 2007 @ 8:05am

    Re: Re: Re: Yeah, it's long.

    So the content of a public web space is now private? Since when did posting on a public forum constitute private conversation? At what point was it decided that past public conduct was not admissible in the decisions of a prospective employer? If you can not answer the basic questions with your argument, then perhaps you are wrong.

    How does attending college constitute a larger investment of time or energy then someone working 60 hour weeks at a construction site? Is reading a book harder then manual labor for the equal amount of time? I'm sorry, but your point really is not valid. I work with computers, but I can still appreciate the hard work that people in other professions do. To say that a student deserves anything is absurd. You are going to school to benefit yourself.

    As for the condescending tone of my post, how is my condescending tone directed at you any different then the condescending nature of your post directed at everyone who does not go to college? You act as though you are above reproach, however, what experience do you bring to the table in this discussion that would indicate an equal level of competency or knowledge? You do not approve of my condescending tone, yet your response is profanity? I have no problem with swearing, but unlike you, I have other tools at my disposal and I understand the implications of such actions. Currently I am gainfully employed, but if I were not and an employer were reading these posts, who do you think he would be more likely to contact for potential employment? Does your conduct reflect an intelligent and articulate individual or a temperamental child?

    What all this boils down to is that you believe you (or law students) are working harder then everyone else and deserve to be treated better. The reality is that I do in fact believe I have a better grasp of reality and the business world then yourself, and that I do doubt your credibility to comment on the inequalities of life. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, but that does not make them right. You may not agree with me, but you also have not even slightly provided a case for your arguments.

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