The ability to express public
opinion freely is an obvious source of Internet rumors. When these rumors
appear online in print, they are often considered truth. The overall audience
increases beyond the Internet when the mainstream media receives these
Discussion groups and news groups provide a type of forum where the sender
can express their message to an individual and consequently broadcast
their opinion to a mass audience. This is an interactive means of communication
that only adds to the opportunity to post information (true or not).
Crises for the organization such as credibility and confidence issues
arise when the rumor reaches the news and mainstream media. Responding
immediately to the claim can hinder development of the crisis and is a
crucial step in managing Internet rumors.
One example of a rumor-related crisis occurred during the introduction
of Intel’s new Pentium computer processor. A message posted on a
CompuServe forum from a math professor indicated that the Pentium chip
produced flawed mathematical information. Pentium neglected to acknowledge
this publicly, taking for granted the small audience affected. The public
deemed Pentium untrustworthy due to this “secret,” and the
company paid over $450 million replacing the flawed chip. Intel now posts
all flaws on the Internet.
A specific program to deal with these rumors is essential for an organization.
This process includes monitoring web sites, especially sites of disgruntled
employees or advocacy and special interest groups, on-line news services
and renegade newsletters.
Investment and stock information is also manipulated frequently. Short-sellers’
use of forums to suggest price movement is a particularly damaging issue.
Internet investors seek out tips on these forums and often add speculations
of their own.
To handle such concerns, respond quickly and provide factual information
about the rumor publicly and on the organization’s web site. It
is important for employees to be clear and informed about the issue as
well. Using an organization’s allies can help challenge the rumors
with more reinforcement.
Management International and the Internet
USENET public network
newsletter- Drudge Report