Free Speech in the Digital Age: Jefferson Keith Langley and Ima Sumac Watkins Share Their Experience with a Cyber Bully
This past March on Love Liberty & Lip Gloss, host Donna Lyons addressed a critical topic in the digital age: cyber bullying. While many of us tend to think of it as a problem that affects mostly teenagers, the truth is, anyone can be a victim.
Jefferson Keith Langley and Ima Sumac Watkins know from personal experience that this is true.
First, a little background.
I “met” Jefferson in cyberspace via Donna, when she mentioned his interest in being a host on the Writestream Radio Network. As with many other solid, genuine people I’ve met online, I developed an easy friendship with him. Having known Donna for several years (even though we’ve not yet met in person), I trusted her judgement and after several conversations with Jefferson, had no doubts about the depth of his character.
Soon after, we made plans for him to broadcast The Formula: What Is It? The show airs on the fourth Tuesday of the month, featuring entrepreneurs at various levels of experience, who reveal their unique “formula” for success.
However, as Ima stated in the interview, it’s natural in the Digital Age for people to conduct internet searches on others. I’ll admit I did that with Jefferson, mainly because I was impressed by the scope and depth of his career and wanted to know more. Intuitively, I knew I was dealing with a decent, honest person, which is why it was so disheartening to come across several slanderous posts about him.
As the owner of an internet-based business that collaborates with a variety of clients and personalities, I’m aware that anyone at any time could take to their keyboard with the intention to slander my character and harm my company’s reputation. For that reason, I save all email correspondence and document all communication with every client. I won’t pretend I don’t make mistakes; I’m human, after all. But I do my best to explain the self-publishing process, maintain a schedule, and deliver a quality product. When necessary, I own up to my errors and correct them asap.
But Jefferson and Ima’s harrowing story is definitely a wake-up call, whether or not you own a business. It’s too easy for an individual to destroy good people and companies just by taking to their computer keyboards and publishing outright lies. Because the burden of proof falls on the victim and not the cyber bully, it’s nearly impossible to remove the offensive posts — and sadly, most people are quick to believe the worst.
In Jefferson and Ima’s case, this meant a significant loss of income and clients as their business dried up. Worse, the damage to their reputations made it difficult to even find a “pay the bills” job to support their basic needs. To their credit, they persisted. I highly recommend listening to the interview by clicking below.
When I came discovered the negative internet posts about Jefferson, I recognized them as a desperate attempt to discredit a good man and his business partner. Yes, I thought about calling him up to discuss it. Then I figured he’d already dealt with enough garbage and let it go.
What was the point of dredging it up with him when I’d already concluded that this was the work of a deranged individual?
As I got to know Jefferson better over a period of several months, my faith in him was vindicated. Because I produced his monthly show, we maintained regular contact via phone conversations and text messages. I’ve also seen the multiple glowing testimonials on Facebook from happy clients who have experienced amazing results in their businesses, thanks to his expert coaching.
I support his efforts to change the laws to adjust to the Digital Age. I’m a huge proponent of free speech, but free speech should not condone personal and professional destruction by dishonest, amoral people who leverage the easy opportunity the internet provides for “revenge.” In Jefferson’s case, the perpetrator — a woman — became obsessed with him in a classic case of “fatal attraction” (though thankfully, he’s alive and well today…unlike the wife of a CEO he knows who was the target of a smear campaign, a story he shares in the interview with Donna).
Again, I highly recommend listening to Jefferson and Ima’s on-air account of their experience with a cyber bully who nearly destroyed them — personally and professionally. It’s a cautionary tale for everyone, especially business-owners who work closely with clients. Thankfully, they managed to turn things around and have gone on to achieve greater success. As a result of what they have endured, they are also determined to draft legislation and petition Congress to address this crucial issue.
I’m grateful to Jefferson and Ima for their courage, honesty, and willingness to take a stand for integrity. Circumstances reveal character, and in their case, their horrific experience at the hands of a sick individual has proven that they each possess a strong, solid, and inspiring one.
A final word of advice: question EVERYTHING you read online, do your homework, and, if necessary, confront the person with the information you find on the internet. Give them a chance to defend themselves. Don’t just blindly trust “anonymous” sources who may have nothing more than an ax to grind, simply because they can get away with it.
In the Digital Age, the Golden Rule applies more than ever.
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