Posted April 14, 2008 6:09 pm by with 29 comments

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If you watched the news over the weekend, you probably couldn’t escape news of eight teenagers accused of viciously beating a 16-year-old girl, with the intention of posting a video on YouTube.

What was planned as a cyber-bullying stunt to shame their victim on YouTube has turned into an online reputation management scar that will live with the eight defendants for the rest of their lives.

Take a look at these names:

…Cara Murphy, 16; Britney Mayes, 17; Kayla Hassell, 15; Zachary Ashley, 17; Brittini Hardcastle, 17; Mercades Nichols, 17; April Cooper, 14; and Stephen Schumaker, 18.

Conduct a search for any of these names and you’ll find many news articles and blog posts–all telling the story of how each are facing kidnapping and battery charges.

Now, fast forward 10 years. Whether these teens are convicted or not, it’s likely that a Google search for each name will cast a bright light on this dark episode in their lives. An episode each would rather forget.

But, the web never forgets….ever!

Sure, they might be able to build some positive content–a blog, social networking profile, etc–and try to suppress any mention of the incident, but it’s likely a future employer, potential mate, bank, or investor, will one day ask the dreaded question:

“Tell me about the 2008 incident where you were accused of kidnapping and battery?”

I remember being a teenager. Life is fun, pranks are played, and your “future” self is a million years away. Yet, whether via parents, teachers, or blog posts on this site, I hope that today’s teens realize that they live in a Radically Transparent world. A world where today’s transgressions are bookmarked and held against them for the rest of their lives.

Maybe a court won’t punish them for their actions, but that doesn’t stop them from punishing themselves, by scarring their future reputation.

  • Good points, Andy. I hope that other teens will wake up and learn a lesson that fame for posting what they think are a clever or cool videos or photos can be a very, very stupid move that will go on to haunt them for a very long time.

  • Brings a whole new meaning to the “permanent record”.

  • Oddly enough, this has become a serious reality.

    I was about to twitter something, arguing a point with someone, but before posing it, realized it really wouldn’t have had any benefit to neither me nor them.

    Permanent online records are real. Bottom line? Be careful.

    Be careful how you present yourself.

  • Of course, the girls can change their name via marriage & all the involved parties can change their name legally.

    Speaking of which, changing one’s name as an online reputation management solution should work pretty well so long as the person stays under the radar with their new name.

  • @Todd – nice idea. We actually discuss that option in the book, but history has a habit of catching up with you–new name and all.

  • PS3

    There is an issue of fame here but the more worrying trend is the total lack of respect that is being shown for other human beings.

    Teenagers bear the brunt of that but the problem is much deeper.

    Presumably MySpace or YouTube would censor such an video anyway? (or am I naive?)

  • So true Andy. I have been contacted by parents before for reputation management help for situations like this and even worse in some times.

  • Andy, a very, very good point. These people, although animals is a better term, should face the consequences. However, how do you punish them? If they are doing this at 16, there really is little hope.

    This kind of thing sickens me and is one of the few HUGE downsides of video online.

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  • It is a sad fact that our youth are generally oblivious to the fact that there can be serious long term repercussions for abberant behaviour. Not only is the filming of violence perpetrated against fellow students popular, but also sexual clips, often with unwitting participants, are even more prevalent.

  • Nice post…I agree that teens should learn more. We cannot deny that the future is in their hands.

  • The difference between ‘famous’ and ‘infamous’ is way more than two letters. These teens will never be famous, but they’ll always be infamous and the reputation legacy they’ve created for themselves will be weighty indeed in years to come.

    Many online social networking sites have terms and conditions that state ‘not for business or professional use’ yet many potential employers do search these sites as they ‘research’ prospective candidates. Whether they use the information they find to discard a potential candidate would be hard to prove. Best that there’s nothing damaging there in the first place. The internet never forgets.

  • I’m sure you didn’t mean it to sound even semi-sympathetic Andy, but this post almost makes it sound like these young women (and a man, apparently – or is Zachary in vogue for women now, too) *aren’t* criminals.

    They *did* kidnap someone.

    They *did* beat someone.

    They *should* be convicted.

    And the fact that they *wanted* their crimes videotaped and posted online for posterity makes that fact that they will be that much more appropriate.

    This isn’t a teen-aged prank gone wrong; this isn’t even a crime of passion that’s made it onto the public record – this is a premeditated criminal act that needs to be punished – harshly and publicly.

  • @ AndyBeal were you in the UK when the phenomenon of happy slapping went crazy? Just search for it on youtube etc – bullying has really made some advances. No censorship nor does the community flag those videos up.

    Sometimes its funny to see the tables turned though

  • Those girls will reap what they’ve sowed. And it’s what they deserve.

  • @Jeff – I totally agree with you. Two things led to my tone. 1. As this is a serious matter, I don’t want to end up in a law suit–hence taking more of a “innocent until proven guilty” stance (even though it’s clear to me they are guilty). 2. I do feel sorry for these kids. Not for what they’ve done, but for the events in their lives that led them down this dark path. 8 lives wasted.

    @rishil – no, I had left, but I have seen it on TV. Everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame, but some are willing to risk 15 months of prison time to get it. 🙁

  • It is crazy how with the birth of the internet comes a whole new set of consequences when someone does something wrong and it goes public. Newspapers used to be the only way to truly discover news and who kept those around for too long? Perhaps it’s better in the long run as people may think twice about doing their deed but you’re right – these kids messed up their futures in more ways than one!

  • I hope that nobody thinks this is an isolated case. Don’t think for one minute that this doesn’t happen in school bathrooms, gym lockers, etc. The only difference is that THIS was recorded. I am glad that this WAS recorded, so that there IS evidence of a horrible beating. My heart goes out to the girl that was on the receiving end, but I hope justice is served for this.

  • @Tommy – so true. In fact, this stuff has been going on since before the internet–I for one can say that as a kid I endured my fair share of group ass-whoopings.

    Perhaps this new desire for fame, will do some good and help parents, teachers, and the world, know that bullying needs to be stopped.

  • That’s a great point Andy. I did the search on their names and they have pages on each of them! I’m glad that when we were kids (because you know we all did something silly)… that it was not caught on video during the era of YouTube. Regardless they really should be ashamed that they would even think about doing such a thing.

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    I am tired of hearing stories like this, bullying is getting worse by the day.

    VOTED for you at:

  • @Geoserv – I do not know if it is getting worse, per say. I think it might be getting more awareness. My Aunt, in her sixties, went to Catholic school as a child, and was repeatedly “corrected” because she was left-handed. A lady I work with, also in her sixties, told me she had nightmares for YEARS with what she had to go through while in Catholic school, including a scar on her left hand that she still has this day, due to her also writing with her left hand. Bullying comes in all forms.

    I went to a school district that was and still is, one of the top districts int he state of Texas. But it was also had a high rate of violence. I had a classmate get attacked at lunch, from two other kids, FROM ANOTHER SCHOOL!!! He ended up having major knee surgery from getting stomped repeatedly on it.

    This happened in 1989. Twenty years ago.

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  • John

    When enough of these kids go to jail, get [edited], the rest of our clueless teens will slowly learn the message which earlier generations knew.
    I only wish that the media will post the faces of theses rough teens on Youtube; after they get [edited] in prison.
    After enough of these young thugs get theirs, the rest will learn. This is the Only way for kids to learn reality, our society has forgotten this. The days of the stocks had minimal crime.

    [comment edited by Andy]

  • PS3

    The days of the stocks were also the days of the rack and other lovely means of inflicting pain but I’m not sure that is the answer.

    What the videos fail to portray is the long term mental damage that an assault causes. The bruises heal, the memories might not.

  • I understand the reputation management angle, but this goes way beyond a simple prank. The lesson that should be learned from this is not so much that posting a video of yourself committing a crime might come back to haunt you, but rather that you shouldn’t form a mob to beat up someone in the first place.

    I realize that 10 years from now these girls might be completely different people and may have learned why what they did was wrong and they deserve a second chance. They shouldn’t only be judged by this one event, but shouldn’t their actions here still be part of that judgment?

    Steven Bradley’s last blog post..How Does $25,000 In Prizes Sound?

  • Didacticus

    The charges were dropped against the boys and Cara. From the start, law enforcement lied. Anyone who actually examined the released evidence knew this. Much of what the sheriff told the media is directly contradicted by sworn statements by the victim herself. Evidence and witnesses proving the boys were not there was ignored. And so on.

    People encouraging violence against these kids should be ashamed, you can get them permanently injured or worse.

    Trying 14 and 15 year-old girls “as adults” for MISDEMEANOR battery is simply child abuse and the reasons are purely political — the sheriff is running for re-election in the fall.

    There are still many more lies and a lot of misinformation about this case out there.

    The girls do deserve a fair punishment for their misdemeanor battery, but they do not deserve a deluge of death threats, massive encouragement of violence against them on the Internet (conveniently ignored by the media and bloggers), biased judicial system that cowes to public outrage (the bail amounts and house arrests were ludicrously harsh and absolutely without precedent in Florida), and being shut silent by the judge while law enforcement saturates the media with lies about them.

    Those girls went way too far trying to get back for whatever wrong, real or imagined, the victim did to them. Now people with power have gone way too far in exploiting this for their own benefit.

    It’s poetic justice, but it is NOT justice. And the difference is those people are adults and they are trying to outright destroy the children’s lives. And the entire world cheers. Hypocrisy is alive and well.

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