Internet scrubbing is becoming an even bigger business as politicians turn to online reputation managers to delete past indiscretions, from sexual affairs to embarrassing tweets.
One online reputation management company, Integrity Defenders, tells Politico that politicians now account for 15 percent of its business. And business is apparently booming for companies such as Reputation.com and Metal Rabbit Media.
"Political campaigns are getting used to the idea this is something they need to care about, and they're getting less ashamed about it," Michael Fertik, CEO of Reputation.com explains to Politco reporter Jennifer Martinez.
However, Martinez notes, "Rewriting the digital past can be a political minefield." She says, "Eagle-eyed bloggers and Web surfers have caught some candidates red-handed deleting content from Facebook, Twitter or Wikipedia in attempts to sanitize their online histories."
Some examples cited by Martinez:
- Utah Senator Orrin Hatch posted a revamped website, leaving off bills he introduced before 2006, including a 2003 measure that would have allowed naturalized foreign nationals to run for U.S. President or vice president.
- Rep. David Rivera of Florida took flak when Politico discovered his press secretary tried to delete the "controversies" section of his Wikipedia page.
- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, according to Vanity Fair, scrubbed his Twitter account of tweets prior to July 22, 2010, excising, among others, "entertaining musings about his professed love of Hershey's chocolate Easter bunnies." Also gone, the magazine reports, is Gingrich's "excoriating tweet about Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in which he called the then-nominee a 'Latina woman racist.'" Gingrich formally announced his presidential candidacy on his Twitter feed and Facebook page.
Bottom line: What you say and do is part of your permanent history. You cannot scrub away the past. What you should do is respond in the future with maturity, good sense and, when appropriate, a sense of humor. A lot of people love chocolate Easter bunnies.