In 2012, a woman named Lindsey Stone posted a picture she took as a joke to her Facebook page. A month later, she was under attack from all corners of the internet, out of a job, hounded by the press. The internet had targeted her for a public shaming. Jon Ronson, journalist and author of the new book "So You've Been Publicly Shamed", walks us through Lindsey's story and introduces us to the sometimes sketchy world of online reputation management.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This episode is brought to you by better for him a new podcast from eighty people. In each episode Francesca Ramsay talks to visionaries in business leaders about mistakes. They ve made how they work their way through them and came out better for it. Listen on Spotify
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a quick warning that this absurd has some pretty disturbing language in it? I want let's go
from him with this reply on show that the internet Wendy,
first see the John Round, since I am, but I accidently type, my name into Google and covered
Is that a genuine sin with my face and my name John Underscore roads and onto it
another stared in surprise at its timeline. Tweeted
going home got to get the recipe of huge plate of ground and muscle in a back with mayonnaise hashtag yummy,
so I was lie. Who I am is lie
I'm watching Seinfeld with loving, delicious sour cream kebab with chives hush tat food day.
Don't run through the journalist filmmaker
documents area in the a movie he's written a couple
books that were best sellers, he's not card dashing famous, but people know who he is, and people follow him on Twitter,
and now there is this twitter bought impersonating him saying things like
I'm dreaming something about time and cock, sir.
Being followed by lie,
I knew from real life whose unevenly, why
announcing becomes a candid about dreaming about cock. John was pissed, it was,
reasonable at someone might confuse this bought for the real John Ranten, so he
I need to find out what this thing was and who is behind it? Who were they? Academics
intellectuals. There was three of them and they decided
I'm academic, exercise to
this joint nonsense, Banba they could and infirm off
take down the spam bots, but they agreed to meet me. They said I could filming
count and put it on you too? I need the videos pretty awkward three,
guys in their twenty to thirty squeeze together on this tiny, couch and joy.
On the them questions from off camera, it starts over them complaining.
About the way the John has arranged them on the couch warrior concerned about about us about the set up of the sense in your concern about control
What do you mean? Control psychological, a lot of them
it was just John asking different versions of. Why are you
is doing this to me.
Just sort of avoiding the answer. Only pressing sugar battle.
Jobs. Will rooms was rated. Its sugar Wikipedia page has taken see something
We have written about you and with video and turn it into an anti said the other day. Thinking about time and cock everything that time, co yeah. Do it well
now, of course, I don't think about how the cock you're pretty
an unhappy with the yeah cause it.
tell me that wasn't taking my identity was reproducing social media data into an informal thick aesthetic,
the boy s you're using my name and my photograph
LE round about without begun. Dumplings are we not doing so? That's gonna. Give you type is a new.
And they said that they were not with me, because what right do I have
the only Johnson
they Sancho like assholes,
They were ass house, but then I posted
if a video on Youtube and to be met,
may because I've been so screeching bat, but, like every
it's on my side, everybody and they went from
You know this is outrageous. You know these people,
you know, a stealing dispersants identity and and laughing at the victims, hurt and anger within a few minutes that
gone to break them, destroy them that went to the fucking psychopaths went
gas the currents. So I went from Miller two hundred miles in my second that awful. I know
And I went from being that thrill to everyone's on my side
failing that we were just toddlers crawling towards a gun,
the reaction to the video John Post was so uniformly vicious that the three academics stopped. Updating the spam bots twitter feed, but John was so spooked by that very viciousness
viciousness that at first scanned as righteousness that it
sent him down a rabbit hole into the world of online public shaming, and he didn't have to look far
Fine public shame is that literally ruined lives. He actually write a book about it, which comes out this week called so you ve been publicly shamed
is full of case studies about online shaming, but none
so heartbreaking as Lindsey Stones, no better and faster.
That's Linsey Stone in an interview that
did for BBC television. So what is your job? And I worked here ago thumbs? You couldn't hope for better human.
Being works without doubts with learning difficulties when work for a cape cod based Nonprofit called leaving independently forever.
And people regularly told her that she had a special knack for working with its population. I was in China
the Friday night activities, so
you carry yogi dances. We would take them to basic
games when we could at Fenway just any
special that we can do for them. People ready liked her and Jamie where they were working Jamie whistling these best friend at work, and she played a small but important role in the story,
because you see she and Lindsey they had this running joke of light posing a
and doing the opposite of what is happening in the sign,
one of our dreams was assign outside of sea vs. It said no
a boarding, no ruler, bleeding no loitering, and it was all on this one sign and it was our dream to do
big picture, doing all of those things under that sign. It was just as dumb goofy thing they did occasionally. One day in twenty twelve Lindane Jamie took their clients on a trip to Washington DC to I want to do what did he do
we when we went everywhere if you like you into the J F K, museum weed,
where the National Mall
Smithsonian solely in
to National cemetery
We have just seen the tomb of the unknown soldier
We in the west, we first saw assignment, said, keep off the grass and but we,
We didn't want get in trouble, so you didn't take that picture. Instead,
She sees assignments in silence and respect, and we thought it might be.
Need to us to take a picture market
the sign in doing the opposite of appearing silent and respectful. The picture taken by Jamie is Lindsey.
Arching next to the silence and respects sign her hand cup to her mouth, like she's, yelling and she's flipping the bird
She has sunglasses on and she smiling clearly proud of herself. Now remember,
This is just one in a series of similar pictures that change Aimee had made so
it didn't, seem all significant just a dumb joke.
Jamie uploaded it Facebook tag Lindsey in it it just.
There are no one cared about a month later there in a restaurant
I on Monday night and we were celebrating Jamie Jamie's birthday and mine and where, a few days apart.
And so we are out for dinner,
The sudden, our both of our phone start vibrating like crazy. We just kind of what
phones and silent, and one about the dinner
I remember in the car on the way home I finally got a chance check my email, and there is an
well from the director of a programme. Saying, do you know anything about this, and it was the picture of me, someone
To this day she has no idea who took the photo from Jamie's Facebook page and sent it to a pro military website. It didn't take long for her life.
To unravel that same day. Someone set up a Facebook group called fire Lindsey Stone
seeing it grow from the time.
We gotten back from dinner until the time I finally went to bed was insane.
I think it was already like ten thousand people.
Did you read the comments.
You know, and I was up all night
until I five in the morning her
and phone number found their way online, as they have a habit of doing this. In areas like these,
he crew started showing up at her door and her phone rang nonsense.
Can you remember, like specific phrases of people? Use is not perfect.
Onto since we're not on television, John repeated them for me, but a warning
Even though we had a language disclaimer up top, this stuff is pretty
curbing well is always lie within minutes. It goes far beyond I'm so saddened by this disrespectful photograph to die. Cunt cut out her uterus, raper, oh yeah, soon there weren't just Facebook groups like
Fire Lindsey Stone. There were groups of names like set fire to Lindsey Stone Lindsey,
everyone had a social life and friends hopes dreams a job but to the world.
She'd been reduced to a single moment this photograph soon. After all, this blew up. She Jamie were fired,
when's was living with her parents and to stop leaving our house he's been days without sleeping and against her better judgment. All she wanted to do
we'll see what people are saying about, or on the internet for awhile
sucked into that routine of wanting to check up on myself and see what people are saying and it became sort of like
but yeah there were there were quite a few nights or as hard to sleep and
when I was an online checking up on myself. Just
yet you know worrying about what direction my life was gonna take if I would ever have a job opportunity,
if I would ever be able to move forward. You know.
It took a long time, but eventually she got a job. You on working with children with autism, but she didn't tell her new bosses about the photo
and then she worried all the time about being found out, especially when people said nice things to her like when the man
of one of the kids, told her she was made for this work. I never thought
but here those words over again. You know what I mean. I never thought I would work in that field ever again and to have someone say to me: wake
the EU are made for this. I can tell what, if what, if I ordered you see this picture,
You don't feel the same way about this girl in the picture. That is also me.
It was and is terrifying, whole time honestly. So when you,
heard her story. You reach out to her. How long did it take for it to get back to me
I said to this incredibly passionate letter, saying on
completely on his side. I think, must happen. She was terrible
and she completely ignored my letter and then a couple of
Slater. I wrote back to earth lucky and I'm really sorry for persevering, but I really want to do this know. I feel like I have to
The story and this book could be, could be able
changes in people, people take my book seriously and she ignored my my second letter.
So then another couple of months passed an amateur again, and I love you. Please don't think I'm stalking you but I've gotten in end
his bow and incentive is that this is company who want to offer you huh.
Thousands of dollars, a freeze
service to scrub that photograph of the internet when we come back
what it takes to clean up. Your online reputation after thousands of people have dragged through the mud
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And now back to the ship before the break.
Told us he finally got Lindy to talk by dangling this giant carrot he'd help her get her life back
by enlisting the services of a company that could disappear this whole terrible chapter, the companies.
Reputation, dot, com,
This is their seo MIKE offered.
John suddenly, a
so. The strictly argent messages on twitter, which I had come to understand, is pretty much. You know how he operates and he asked if we could demonstrate and every life example how someone could help TAT is her
digital, shaming. That's what reputation that come. Does they change their clients? Google search results that my team,
possible or it might seem sacrilegious because, of course, for a lot of people. Google,
this monolithic, public resource or maybe even like the definitive index. Reality itself, but Michael disagrees about Google or somehow the first amendment, if somehow the truth, and somehow, God that there is a natural water
things and how Google presence is inevitable. Inexorable incorrect, whatever first adaptable deserves to be Michael, thinks,
as a rule of thumb, Google can work great, but only when you're talking about
are subjects that have been discussed over a long period of time by many many people were rock of
item of the first pages, the Lindsey M stone, Dotcom, promoting autism awareness website, and I just want to read the first paragraph of this. It's.
So for Lindsey, someone with almost no online presence
one little mistake defined her Michael,
really drawn Lindsey story, civilian,
not a celebrity, and she said
It's silly, but it's the one was silliness. Probably every one of us has engaged in so
invitation to agree to take on Lindsays case pro bono, which is huge because
normally a case like this would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. It seems crazy, but it turn
that rewriting someone's online history is ridiculously complex process. I had an online reputation manager. I could contact him.
Any all hours a day and night, like he spent,
I'm interviewing me and getting stole my likes and dislikes
Lindsays reputation, manager headline everything about her all the thing?
you don't get from other will, search, because, when you're, trying to
Herr persons, online reputation. You aren't deleting bad stuff off the internet, your burying it
you're, a pile of neutral or even good information, for example, there's this at the bottom of the first
it is the Eu Lindsey Gemstone, Dotcom, promoting autism awareness website, and I
Just when I read the first paragraph of this, it's
It says Wendy,
website. Welcome on this website, you'll find a wide range of information on autism spectrum disorders. My goal is to promote
nearness of autism spectrum disorders and support the research and outreach efforts. This goes on for a while domestic and international organizations only by
This is a website that reputation to combat flimsy stone. She didn't
This up on around and it's not the only website that they bill for her there,
as the travel through North America, Blog Lindy stones, favorite books and movies blog
a website about music, her love for her gaze Alia harasser may
They would generate this content for me like they. They would create blogs and posts
social media to try to
bull, sir. My online province. Covenant really have one, you know and thus have love photographs. If you do that,
the normal nice things he I sent them a lot of photographs of like me and traps in just things. They doing normal things.
They take all these sites and link them to one another
An attempt to manipulate the Google algorithm because, with Google, the more
People who, linked to these pages, the higher they appear in the search returns and the idea
for them to get high pay drags on will push the negative judgments. Down till I paid to a page. Three have Google, which is already crazy people. Look right. I would. I can count myself among those created. I also consider myself
I people the fire Lindsey Stone Page, the other means stuff. It started dropping when you search your name,
So all these new bland innocuous Linsey Stone pages linked together, they started to create a smokescreen, a haze under which whimsies one stupid mistake began to disappear.
So how successful was
reputation, a common stone I'd, say
said to me. This is the hardest job we have ever taken on.
So so they knew that we note with tough
I'm gonna go ahead and do a Google search on on Wednesday stone rain. Our I heard
Little bit worse, because my books, this right
one of the things that I noticed was. There are still
is that relate to the photograph on the first page but
stories that are in her defence.
Get him to be up at the top, though there was discussions actually between reputation outcome.
Lindsey about that that they said to them,
Look. How would you feel if we try and leave up there those
faster goes. I think even Gorka wrote a pro Lindsey hours ago.
A happy now this good employee.
Been fired, every joke out of England,
we, like sure so the first.
Still there, but it's now into
burst, with lots and lots and lots of other photographs of law
is doing other things than fully
enough military cemeteries.
You search Linsey Stone on Google today the fire
please don't facebook page is nowhere to be found, but another facebook page call higher Lindsey Stone is the second result.
So after many months of work, Lindy got her life back, which is great. But what? If? It's not allow?
mobile caretaker of disabled children that once the reputation cleaned up,
John told me, the story of a guy named Phineas Upham, who is
stood along with his mother on tax evasion, charges and twenty ten. They try to hide it,
seven billion dollars for me.
Can government and and sneak the cash
I can to America this. This came, went very quickly and Venus
mother plaid guilty and she was fine five million dollars, and
phineas or the charges were dropped at night with it. It was over
and for a while that was the main thing on Google about Phineas Upham. But then something odd started have
and John learned about all this from a fellow journalist, a guy named gram would grammar
the school with any US, and so he'd been following the case pretty closely Graham, never bothered to come
So his Google news alert and that's how he began to notice that Phineas at him was
getting all these really weird accolades so like he was appointed head finance, curator, venture cap monthly, whatever that meant
and so the good shouting use foreign voted in philanthropist of the month.
The writing for magazine called philanthropy chronically published a collection of essays, so sadly, Phineas happened would become this.
Glorious Human, so grand family
suspicious and started. Looking at all of these accolades and so
That the websites where these accolades will pay more very flimsy, they look kind of amateurish and can a temporary and is that nothing passed. The first page
and so you he went to the address of the flag to be chronicle and discover the floods we gonna go didn't exist. Phineas had paid
This mysterious company called metal rabbit. Some, presumably
a sum of money to make up, chatterbox him online to be clear.
Michael Fur, taken reputation, dot com will not make stuff up in order to improve Klein standing on the internet and also
Unlike a lot of shady reputation, management companies, they don't work with convicted felons or fraudsters or sex offenders. But all this
aim out of their two million clients, two million you gotta figure. There may be a handful as wholesome his
stone- and maybe this is like asking a defence- were how many of their clients they think are guilty. But do you feel as personally
for most of your clients, as you do for Lindy Stone
for a lot of them. Now for a lot of you, I mean I understand why there is an instinctive scepticism says: hey if something really nasty things about you there
now it must be true, as an all things did usually grain of truth right when you stone did take the photograph ahead. She paused for an idea, but the response was just so overboard. It was just so destructive to human being, with real,
blood right. I have not had the fortune of reviewing our individual customers for some years, but I used to look at a lot of stuff and I was always amazed at how underneath the void
nobody's Voldemort, even though the internet might think that they are so that's the world
and now if the internet thinks you're Voldemort across a ton of money to fix it
and, unfortunately, the internet is on a perpetual hunt for New Voldemort and a lot of time.
The people cast in the role of all the more don't have that money. One
to think of the internet, is as a great flattening every
as part of the media in everyone's a potential celebrity
I had a big lesson when I was young and just starting out in journalism. I always written a weekly call of the time out magazine in London, and it was
my son? I was like desperate to.
at the trained visit, my family and I was right in the column, and I was like this like a sentence short there's like us,
they saw needs, is right. One more sentence
so I wrote that this was the other poor Mccartney's route that bad and the frog
The sun was everywhere
yeah. I remember that same now, snug rates of any
So I wrote on my god that poor can't you for their sound in I'm so
They cover Mark Chapman, shot the wrong beetle
the current letter, governor weeks later from
in MECCA me saying: are you
you're telling me that my husband and father of my children should be-
murdered by the man who killed his best friend, so I wrote back, you know, apologetically him and said
and I thought you lived in- icon, land and sugar,
a united stand, no no worries, and I was it, but ever since then that's always hovered over may dislike. You know everybody human
generals, who is the other, so you ve been publicly. She comes out this week. The files
by Pga Vote and me out school. If you wanna check out
written version of the story which features, among other things, the notorious photograph of Linsey Stone. Gotta dig
our com, slash tags. Last reply dash. All we are produced
Week by TIM Howard,
minimum and edited by Alex Buber.
Matt Labour is a catharsis that you only reach after years of therapy active.
Given up on yourselves our show
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Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.