Well, Those “ReputationDefender” Guys Certainly Are Well Connected, Anyway

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I’ve already noted that for profit start up “ReputationDefender” management managed to get itself featured in stories in the Washington Post (here and here), and in basically an unpaid (I assume) commercial on NPR. The ReputationDefender homepage touts this media attention, bragging that the company is “As seen in …” and then listing NPR, the Washington Post, The New York Post, Good Morning America, and Fox News. The company has done an impressive job at getting major media outlets to shill its services; minor media outlets too.

In a move that will no doubt enhance its perceived legitimacy as well as visibility, a few days ago Harvard Law School seemed to convene an entire mini-conference around the for-profit company, with ReputationDefender CEO Michael Fertik as one of five featured panelists. Although AutoAdmit is specifically mentioned as a topic that the panel will address, no one representing AutoAdmit is listed as a speaker. As odious as they may be, this seems a little unfair, assuming that AutoAdmit representatives did not turn down an invitation to give their side of the issue, such as it is. [Update: I have been informed, and am attempting to confirm with HLS representatives, that Fertik refused to speak on the panel if anyone from AutoAdmit was included, and his demands were ceded to “because he is an alum with faculty ties.” Frankly, everything about this situation makes me want to take a long, cleansing shower.]

While the stated goals of the company are to “Stop Internet Sexual Harassment,” and to succeed with its “we save damsels in distress for a price” so-called CAMPAIGN TO DEFEND A WOMAN’S RIGHT TO PRIVACY & HER GOOD NAME!, both ReputationDefender’s Management Team and Advisory Board are all male. Why, I wonder. < Sarcasm > Because it is perfectly fine to exploit women who have been targeted for online abuse to gain favorable publicity for your start up company, but you wouldn’t actually want to employ any? Because men simply understand online sexual harassment better than the women who experience it? Because the the Harvard-affiliated ReputationDefenders are Larry Summers acolytes? Or are women viewed as just too emotional about the whole thing? < End sarcasm >.

In fairness, I must note that I spoke with one women victimized by AutoAdmit whom ReputationDefender has assisted, and she is quite complimentary about the work that has been done on her behalf. Oddly, however, it was her impression that most of the actual labor had been performed by volunteer law students. This is quite heartwarming and wonderful in many respects, but it makes the ReputationDefender for profit business model all the more confusing.

Related posts here, here, here and here.

–Ann Bartow

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