Responsibility, the internet’s condom

If you have the clap and somebody wants to get in your pants, whose job is it to tell that person that you have the clap?

That’s the question I posed this morning as my mouth hung agape.

A television news web site I regularly visit was infected with a virus for several hours this morning. My virus blocker caught it and I managed to not ignore the warning. Other people did not and proceeded on to the troubled site. Those people are now wondering whether their computer is infected with a virus.

This station posted nothing on its web site, Twitter account, Facebook page, or, for that matter, on TV.

Finally, around 9:30 am, after word of the virus was making the rounds on the social media circuit, the station posted on its Facebook page: “We are aware there is an issue with our website. Please stay tuned for more information.”

Which, if you’re anybody with a curious mind, is an invitation to go check out what the issue is. Which is what other people did.

One of my favorite southern phrases is “I’m not going to call any names.” It means, essentially, “if the shoe fits…” or “you know who I’m talking to here.” In this case, I’m not going to call any names, primarily because I don’t have the full story. I wasn’t there and can only report what happened from the user-end of the debacle. Regardless of which company I’m talking about, this can serve as a lesson.

A few minutes later (after I got all high and mighty and posted word of the virus) the station’s Facebook page was updated to reflect the following: “It’s a virus that is affecting lots of websites. We are working on the problem and will update you when we have a “fix”.”

And that’s when I started wondering about the clap.

See, like a virus that affects a lot of web sites, the clap affects a lot of people. That serves as no excuse for people who are infected with the clap to let as many people as possible in their pants. It’s simply irresponsible.

A little while later, the station updated its Facebook page to read: ” It’s been determined that an internal account was compromised and malicious code was injected onto the site. The code has been removed and the site is now unaffected. A solution is being worked on for those whose computers were affected by the virus.”

This TV station should feel lucky. If I had responded the same way to a similar issue on web sites I’ve worked on in the past, there would’ve been an internet uprising, a six-month scandal, and potentially millions of dollars in lost revenue.

So, what should this TV station have done? Seems clear to me. You tell me if I’m wrong.

1) Immediately take the website offline and redirect it to a safe static page explaining the problem.
2) Run an on-air crawl explaining to people why the website is down.
3) Post the warning to its Twitter account and Facebook page.

Instead, users were not warned, had unfettered access, and now have potentially damaged computers. Why?

I wish I knew.

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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3 Responses

  1. Jennifer says:

    It’s all Dale Gilbert’s fault!

  2. Grange95 says:

    Just in case you were planning any trips to the Midwest, in Iowa if you transmit an STD when you knew about it or suspected it but never confirmed it, you could wind up paying $1.5 million to the person who catches your STD.

    The case came down from the Iowa Court of Appeals on 12/30/09. Look for Rossiter v. Evans, about halfway down the list of opinions issued that date on this page of the court website:

  3. Kevin says:

    I completly agree with you. I am frequent vistor to the site and probably would have that day but happen to see your status on FB first. I watched the six o’clock newscast for an update but as you know nothing was reported.