Monday, May 20, 2019

Toral: Dirty online attacks

THREE months ago, I set up an SEO lead generation network with the intent of enabling bloggers, social media specialists, and SEO professionals to become lead generators.

Profriends was the first to adopt the concept and used it to promote its township property – Lancaster New City Cavite. As the campaign progressed, various reading material popped up online. Most kept their identities anonymous, claiming to be victims, airing problems such as flooding, hinting at a scandal and some claims were exaggerated.

Two past clients in the real estate field contacted me in the past month asking me how to handle anonymous attacks and hate campaigns. How do they find out if these are valid complaints or initiated by competition or former employees, especially if issues raised were old, repetitive, and some already resolved? What do they do if these anonymous identities are reaching out to customers, scaring them about the investment they have made?

Handling anonymous attacks

Definitely, it is hard for a company to comment or react if the blogs and social media identities are anonymous. It doesn’t give means for a company to know the person, check their transaction, and find out how things were handled.

Every complaint has a proper channel. Government offices would usually facilitate mediation. If parties fail to agree, both can pursue legal action and have it authoritatively decided on. To influence an issue, media (online and offline) can be used to create awareness and these are usually targeted at people who can help in its immediate resolution.

These channels are effective if parties are putting a face and a name behind their words. The moment anonymity is used and strong language is used to attack, suspicion is raised if there are third parties (competitors or individuals) riding on the issue.

When these situations are brought to me, I ask questions like, “Can competition benefit from the attacks? Why is there an effort to reach out to existing customers who are contented? Will it decrease the market value of the product or the company attacked? Is the effort or campaign to destroy intensive, persistent or sustained?”

The above situation is not unique to real estate. It happens in politics, health, beauty, energy, food, fashion, and other sectors. But being online intensifies this further and is more damaging.

Consumer vigilance is important. Double-check everything you have read online, whether it comes from anonymous or valid identities. Write to government agencies and check if complaints were received and follow up on their status. If anonymous identities are interacting with you, validate their identity and their claims to ensure you are not being used to support another entity’s hidden agenda.

Companies and personalities being flooded by anonymous attacks can also seek help from law enforcement agencies or the Justice Department and alert government agencies where your business is under if you have a suspicion that a competitor is involved. There are laws in place today like the Cybercrime Law, Data Privacy Law, Intellectual Property Law (if your trademarks were vandalized), Revised Penal Code, and other special laws that you can use against those who are riding on the issue for their personal or corporate gain.

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