FINDING A LITERARY AGENT, PART II
If you are looking for a literary agent, do not trust information on the Internet. Always check any company’s Better Business Bureau rating, which is the only reliable source for business ratings.
Recently, the American publishing industry has come under attack by anonymous posters, competitors, and pseudonymous bloggers disparaging hundreds of literary agents, publishers, producers, freelance editors, promoters, distributors, authors, and others involved in the field.
The St. Paul Travelers Insurance Company performed an investigation into the googlebombing attacks on the Barbara Bauer Literary Agency, Inc., along with twenty-five other USA companies, and has found that the attacks are being carried out by a competitor with highly trained computer programmers and bloggers who manipulate the internet using sophisticated search engines linking strategies in order to present misinformation to consumers, the purpose being to eliminate competition and thus reap the rewards.
It is foolish to follow the saying, “If it is on the Internet, it must be true.” Wise consumers choose with care and use judgment when taking recommendations from anonymous bloggers with hidden agendas. Decision-making should be based on qualifications, experience, and years in business, not on someone else’s biased opinion.
Companies that claim to be non-fee-based and are recommended by such blogs often pass on hidden charges to consumers, calling them something else, such as management fees, office costs, and so forth. The resulting costs for services and value received could turn out to be much higher than if the consumer had chosen a fee-based agency that discloses its pricing up front.
WHAT IS A BLOG?
Blog is an acronym for weblogs. Blogs have been around for a number of years but have gained what appears to be overnight mass popularity in 2005. Why?
Because Blogs are an easy, fast, and inexpensive way for people to post anything they want to the internet.
With this online technology, if you have an ex-someone or a person upset or a competitor who wants you out of the game, they can set up an “anti-you” blog in 15 minutes, free, with little technical know-how and post anything about you making their venom available to 900 million internet readers.
The online attackers have just about no accountability or liability. Why?
Since blogging crimes are so new, laws are just starting to make it onto the books that deal with the unfair and deceptive trade practice of blog attacks. These attacks are happening in many, many industries. Some refer to it as criminal.
This has become such a problem in business, spreading from industry to industry, that Forbes Magazine did a front-cover feature story, ATTACK OF THE BLOGS, released November 14, 2005. Forbes Magazine also did a feature article on this problem, WHY THERE IS NO ESCAPING THE BLOG.
According to the Forbes article, Bruce Fischman, a lawyer in Miami for people who are targets of online abuse, says, “Some companies now use blogs as a weapon, unleashing swarms of critics on their rivals. I’d say 50% to 60% of the attacks are sponsored by competitors.”
For example, Mr. Fischman represents a high-tech firm bashed by bloggers. The high-tech firm’s competition was secretly paying the bloggers.
Peter Blackshaw, chief marketing officer at Intelliseek, a firm that monitors millions of blogs for Proctor & Gamble, For, and others, says, “Bloggers are more of a threat than people realize. They are only going to get more toxic. This is the new reality.”
Frank Shaw, executive vice president at Microsoft’s main public relations firm, Waggener Edstrom, says, “The potential for brand damage is really high. There is bad (untruthful) information out there in the blog space. You have only hours to get ahead of it and cut it off, especially if it’s juicy.”
DOESN’T SOMEONE MONITOR THE INTERNET TO ASSURE ONLY TRUE INFORMATION GOES UP AND STAYS UP?
That would be nice, but it isn’t reality.
No one reviews content for truthfulness before it is placed on the Internet. And right now there is no Internet agency reviewing and taking down false or deceptive online information.
Anyone can post anything at anytime on the Internet and even do it anonymously with no liability.
How do search engines and blog services handle false, defamatory content?
Google is the largest player with its website Blogger.com. Blogger offers free blogs that can be set up in minutes with no technical abilities, attracts 15 million visitors a month, and does ZERO CONTENT MONITORING.
The number of people who go to Blogger is more than those who visit New York Times, USA Today, and the Washington Post combined.
An upstart company called Six Apart owns three blogging services – TypePad, LiveJournal, and Movable Type. They also offer free easy-to-set-up, unmonitored blogs and run a strong second to Google.
These blogging services make money from visitors who go to blogs they host. How? They sell advertising on these blogs including those with false content about you and others. The reality is the juicer the content, the more visitors.
Ads on blog sites are sold at a rate for every thousand visitors or a pay-per-click for each person who clicks on the ad to find out more information. The more visitors, the more ad revenues…and the more Google’s, and other’s income, increases and stock value rises.
And here’s the real kicker….
IF YOU DISCOVER WHO IS POSTING FALSE INFORMATION ABOUT YOU, COULDN’T YOU JUST CONTACT THEIR INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER OR HOSTING COMPANY AND ASK THEM TO TAKE IT DOWN?
Google and other services receive total immunity from the United States government. They cannot be held liable. The major online search engines and hosting providers have lobbied and received laws that protect them from any liability for anything posted on the blogs or sites they host. This means that, by law, you can’t sue them or even send them a cease-and-desist or force them to remove false content about you.
These big players host vicious false content without bearing any legal responsibility for ensuring its truthfulness, fairness, or accuracy – and they are making significant income selling ads alongside it.
What do they have to say?
As quoted in the Forbes article, Jason Goldman, a manger at Google’s blogging division, said, “We don’t get involved in adjudicating whether something is libel or slander.”
In squabbles between anonymous attack bloggers and victims, Google sides with the anonymous attackers. No matter how vile or hateful the postings, Google refuses to reveal the real names of anonymous blogs’ owners.
The combination of a massive reach to 900 million online readers, no accountability, and no liability makes character assassinations easy and lucrative for online attackers to carry out and creates ad traffic for hosts.
Small business owner and technical consultant Sara Radicati published a consumer report for her prospects and clients, who depend on her direction and advice, talking about areas needing improvement in an e-mail software product.
Other consultants, who make money selling, training, and using the product, launched a blog attack. Sara said her firm was inundated with obscene e-mails and phone calls, a common strategy of online attackers.
Sara said in the Forbes article, “They were trying to disable my business. It was obscene, vile, abusive, offensive stuff. These are a bunch of sickos.”
Within days, attack bloggers posted “investigative” articles “exposing” her as corrupt and unethical. One attack blogger said Sara was doing something shady by operating a group that helps small companies find venture funding.
Another strategy of attack bloggers is to link to one another’s blogs with a sophisticated linking strategy. This strategy, we have discovered dominates search engines with their lies. It also creates an echo chamber in which, through repetition, their lies began to seem genuine to millions of online readers.
The attackers use another strategy of reporting they simply found the information at a “very credible site” or “very reputable source.” The reputable sources are the other online attackers, who are often paid.
Six days after the attacks began, an attacker gloated on a blog, “Sara’s Group? Their analysis is now meaningless. Their name has been blackened. Their reputation is in tatters.”
Sara tried to fight back by responding on her own Web site, but the smear job hovers online, appearing when you Google her name.
WHAT ABOUT SLANDER AND LIBEL LAWS?
The slander and libel laws were created before the Internet and back when it was easy to see who said or published what and where they did it.
With the Internet, people worldwide can create blogs and post anonymously. So how do you sue someone you can’t find?
And once a post is made on a blog it can be across the entire Internet in days, even hours. So how many people are you going to sue?
And since the Internet is posted to and read worldwide, what jurisdiction do you sue in?
There are so many online loopholes in the defamation, slander, and libel laws, because they were created before any lawmakers could even prediction the Internet.
When a small group of sinister competitors launched a false online attack of over 100 website owners in the publishing industry, it was a move that could have paralyzed the victims’ businesses. This underlines the shocking fact that what people see out on the Internet, even if it is UNTRUE, has become so “believable’ that any one of your competitors, ex-employees, or even people with mental problems, could post something negative and FALSE about you and cost you a lot of heartbreak, time, and money.