Por Sheng-Ming Huang
Internet has become the tremendous tools to reshape buying
patterns. Because it is transmitted in digital form, Internet can
easily be copied and retransmitted. When the impact of Internet
on people's life gradually becomes huge, many Internet companies
focus the feature of Internet. The advertising community was among
one of the first groups to foresee the utility of Internet. For
advertisers, Internet provides a great way of communicating with
the consumer and allows for the full range of advertising techniques
to be transmitted through a faster and more efficient means of reaching
a larger consumer (Godwin, 1998).
when the crises happen on companies, how can those companies use
the Internet to deal with the major crises with proper ways? Or
how can the companies deal with the Internet-based crises? In fact,
the role of internet has multiple functions in a crisis. Internet
can be the main communication channel for companies to manage the
crisis. Also, Internet can cause different crises that comapny will
not expect in the future. Needless to say, many comanies with a
strong Internet presence have failed to use their web sites and
other online resources to address crises, either those born on the
Net or those that had their genesis. For example, When TWA Flight
800 crash in 1996, the TWA Web site's home page was almost immediately
removed and replaced with a terse statemetn that vertify the crash
but noted that TWA had no additional information (Holtz, 1999).
The statement promised more information as soon as it became available.
That page did not change for weeks.
is incumbent upon organizations to have plans for addressing crises,
and now the Internet must be intergrated into those plans. This
paper address several issues relating to the internet in a crisis.
Part one will consider what kinds of the Internet crises that companies
can face. Part two illustrates several cases relating to the Internet
crises. Part three illsrtates the solutions companys can be used
to against Internet crises. The last part is conclusion.
Rogue Web sites are normally created by disguntles individuals or
irate customers with intention of bring attention to an issue or
serveal issues concering a corporation or organization (Fearn-Banks,
2002). The company attacked in the rogue site must consider whether
to respond and if it responds, how. Sometimes no response seems
appropriate because the site appears to be simply vicious. However,
the company have to determine whether readers will actually believe
the claims or not. According to Dr. Louis K. Falk, in his research
on rough Web sites, classifies such sites into five categories.
Some credit the company for positive moves; others dwell on negatively
alone. The five categories are the following:
Sites in which consumers are unhappy with the performance of the
A rogue Web site that targeted ealmarket featured complanits and
comments from customers and employees and claimed " a considerable
amount of content on this site is from other sites around the
Sites in which consumers are unhappy with the policies of the
company: a rogue site aimed at Pepsi-Cola featured complaints
that the company supported animal cruelty because it placed ads
Sites in which consumers or former employees hate the company:
a rogue site complanits that McDonald's was not environmentally
concerned because it killed animals, damaged the Earth, harmed
the health of consumers.
Sites in which consumers create humor pages also alled spoof sites:a
sited aimed at making fun of Taco Bell clearly says so. The Web
master says at the top of the homepage about spoofing the Taco
Sites in which an index is created for complaints of multiple
An index of companies with links to consumer protest sites, class
actions, and government investigations.
Those are the typical rogue sites that seem designed to destroy
a company's reputation.
E-mail rumors can spread to thousands of people in seconds and,
just like spoken rumor, they can change elements of the story with
each transmission. Because many people can write or speak about
anything freely in the Internet, and even a greater degree of e-mail
rumors, it is unavoidable that some competitors will use e-mail
rumors wit vicious intent to their target companies. Others use
it merely warn their friends. Those kinds of transmission of e-mail
rumors can be extremely damaging to businesses, organizations, and
people in public life.
Generally, disgruntled employees, irate customer and rumor-spreading
investor with real or perceived grievances against an organization
frequently use the Internet as a potent new tool to publicize their
discontent. Those kinds of action generally defined as Cybersmear
(Casarez, 2002). Whether it be through "gripe sites",
live chat rooms or Internet bulletin boards, these individuals can
instantly publish gossip, accusations, opinions, complaints or misinformation
to a global audience. Because posters commonly hide their real identities
behind fictional screen names, and because few of any gatekeepers
exist to filter online content, these postings can be not only quite
uncivilized, but also extremely difficult to counter.
A rough site case
The Webmaster of a rough site aimed at Dunkin' Donuts said he or
she had "way too much time on his hands" and posted some
thoughts about Dunkin' Donuts on a personal Web Site (Segal &
Mayer, 1999). In the few weeks, the site had unusual influx visitors.
The Webmaster learned through the referrer log yahoo. That all of
these visitors went through Yahoo to access the site. The Webmaster
also learned that Dunkin' Donuts did not have its own Web site,
so Yahoo indexed the rough site as a "consumer opinion"
Web site about Dunkin' Donuts.
The site started getting, it said,
"500 hits and a dozen e-mails a week." Then the Webmaster
requested and was granted the use of the domain name "dunkindonuts.org"
and moved the content previously posted on his personal Web site
to the new official Web site. Dunkin' Donuts started to respond
to the comments on the rogue site. A Dunkin' Donuts spokespersons,
on the top line of the rogue site is quoted as saying, "if
this was where customers were going to post their comments, we thought
it was important for us to go ahead and address them." Soon
after, Dunkin' Donuts made arrangement to acquire the site for its
E-mail rumors case
A rumor circulated both on the Internet and via e-mail claimed that
bananas from Costa Rica were infected with "necrotizing fasciitis,
" or flesh-eating bacteria, and that the entire Costa Rica
monkey population had been wiped out because of the bananas (Fearn-Banks,
2002). It warned the public to stop eating bananas and to seek medical
attention if they had eaten a banana and had come down with fever.
The bacteria, it said, could "eat" 2 to 3 centimeters
of flesh perhour, making amputation likely and death possible.
The message, like most e-mail rumors
involving food, said the message could be confirmed by the Centers
for Disease Control (CDC). When contacted, a spokesperson for the
CDC said, "This is a false report." APBNews.com reported
on the incident, saying a trade group was trying to squelch the
rumor. Tim Debus of the International Banana Association (IBA),
an organization directly affected by the rumor, called it"
just another case of Internet terrorism like the recent hacker attacks
on popular Web sites." In addition, Tim Debus also indicated
that the prank could disrupt the economy, made efforts to get the
word out that the allegations were false (Noack, 2000)
What does one do about a rough
If the company is the victim of an attack site, the best preparation
is to anticipation their creation (Holtz, 1999) Expecting they will
appear helps avoid the Knee-jerk reaction of sending in the layers.
You can communicate directly with the creators of such pages in
order to access their sources and issues and what it would take
to bring them to your side of the fence. Falk suggests the following
tactics if company has been attacked already (Fearn-Banks, 2002)
- Do not overact; the problem
may not be as bad as it seems
- Assess the problem. Consider
whether the information is true or false, whether many key stakeholders
have been the site.
- Analyze the attack site; do
not pretend you are a consumer; webmasters of rogue sites recognize
misleading communications. In addition, contacting the webmaster
of the attack site by telephone, face to face, or through e-mail.
- Drive the discussion by following
your employees to be interviewed on the Web site. Make your company
the expert on information about your company.
What does one do about e-mail
Like world-of-mouth rumors, e-mail rumors are difficult for companies
to fight. However, it is sometimes less difficult to determine the
source of an e-mail rumor. Janal(1998) advised three tactics for
fighting all cyber crises, including e-mail rumors: (1)pay attention
(2)read the rumor and think about it(3) put up a fight. Companies
and organization should be ever-vigilant watching for e-mail rumors.
Encourage employees to notify the public relations departments,
or another designated department, when they notice e-mail or world-of-mouth
rumors. If the source is unfounded and the source of the rumor is
known, respond to the rumor. If the rumor is not known, respond
to the listserv or Internet service provider (ISP) associated with
the e-mail messages that distributed the rumor. At times, a decision
must be made between fighting a rumor with public relations or with
layers. Public relations is the first step. If that does not work
or is not feasible, call the lawyers.
The widespread adoption of the Internet and the World Wide Web is
a new phenomenon for many companies. In order to protect the individuals
and organizations, the government authority need to pass the lawsuits
to against those Internet crises. Software and Internet piracy security,
and hacking will be the first laws developed and passed. In addition,
laws governing rumors and online attacks will be more difficult
to propose and pass because of the anonymity of the culprits and
freedom of speech.
Casarez, B. N. (2002). Dealing with
Cybersmear: How to Protect Your Organization from Online Defamation.
Public Relations Quarterly, 47(3), 40-45.
Fearn-Banks, K. (2002). Crisis Communication. New Jersey:
Lawrence Erlbaum Association.
Godwin, M. (1998). Cyber rights: Defending free speech in the
digital age. New York: Times Books.
Holtz, S. (1999). Public relations on Net: Winning strategies
to inform and influence the media, the investment community, the
government, the public, and the more. New York: American Management
Janal, D. S. (1998). Risky business. New York: Wiley.
Noack, D. (2000). Banana rumor called Internet terrorism.
Segal, D., & Mayer, C. (1999). Sites for sore consumers; Complaints
about companies multiple on the Web. The Washington Post,
Estudiante de Comunicación
de la Central Missouri State University,