free beach First communication, April 2023
Reputation has always been a moral license to function in a civilized society. First local in communities, then global with digital. Whoever loses its reputation, whether it is a person or a company, loses the possibility of operating. Think of Credit Suisse, or banks in general, at a time when the perception is spreading that capital flight and financial speculation are at risk. And here the prophecy is fulfilled. Or the case of Johnny Depp: as soon as his wife Amber Heard accuses him of violence, he loses all contracts and future prospects in an instant. It becomes really unprepared. His lengthy media court trial was not to win compensation but to clear his reputation, to regain his moral license. And for this it was necessary to have media.
Having said that, today we are facing a new development: from a moral license (therefore ideological) it is becoming a physical license (structural). What does all this mean in practice? Systems were born that register online content and report any reputational problems for the benefit of banks and companies. Anyone who ends up there, individual or company, can see the potential for closure in a relationship. For years One should read the sentence again calmly to understand its implications in the real world. I think it sounds absurd or you haven’t heard of any of this. This is for a very simple reason, it is the typical phenomenon that you only notice when you get under its radar. And when it does, the results are devastating.
Why were these systems born? Because it is society that has changed and with it its sensibility, think about paying attention to ESG values, for example. The rules have become more stringent and so have the rules. This leads to a paradigm shift: the materiality of reputation. Profiling and risk intelligence databases were thus created to respond to these new levels of ethical sensitivity. There are dozens of them around the world. Their goal is to map and track all the information released about companies, politicians, officials, public figures, anyone who has access to the media. However, these systems operate automatically and without appeal. Reputation therefore becomes a physical license and is no longer merely a moral one.
One of the most famous worldwide spread is World-Check. It is the world’s largest database, born after the attack on the Twin Towers, and contains information on more than 2 million people. World-Check extrapolates and aggregates content from over 100,000 sources in 240 countries around the world and in 65 different languages. All of this information, which can range from news to sensitive financial information, constitutes the data source for developing a risk index, which is provided to banks, companies, private agencies but also governments and intelligence services. World-Check is not the only tool of this type: LexisNexis, Aida, Lextenso, Experian to name a few, each with geographic or thematic specialization. LexisNexis supports government agencies in creating fraud, healthcare and identity theft dossiers. Sanction scanner instead deals with anti-money laundering. The fields are different, the result is the same: the mere presence of one’s name in these databases can end any relationship. This represents a significant risk factor. Now the bank accounts of businessmen can be frozen any day. Important companies for articles on the net cannot operate abroad. To complicate things there are two major problems associated with these new systems. First: The data is not verified and not updated. Those are articles. News of an investigation or allegation remains for many years and nothing can be done. Second: The databases are based in different countries, each with their own rules. For example, the GDPR does not apply to Swiss companies. To this day, even though the requirements for the right to be forgotten are in place, it is difficult for World-Check to accept the removal of content. And the right to be forgotten applies only to individuals, not companies. The communicator is therefore called upon for new challenges to manage these complex realities in which a crisis is always looming and spending the night is not enough. This system does not forget. What to do? Analyze the net as it is the source, investigate the suppliers, estimate the problem with a clear picture and isolate whatever can be isolated before it becomes a block. Welcome to the fourth dimension of communication.