Commentary
6/19/2007
04:34 PM

YouTube, You Screwed?

More businesses want to get involved with YouTube. It's young, it's hip, it's "Web 2.0." But don't mistake YouTube for child's play. As a Pittsburgh law firm is learning, there can be ugly repercussions to posting video for the whole world to see.



More businesses want to get involved with YouTube. It's young, it's hip, it's "Web 2.0." But don't mistake YouTube for child's play. As a Pittsburgh law firm is learning, there can be ugly repercussions to posting video for the whole world to see.The firm, Cohen & Grigsby, recorded its immigration law conference in May and posted it to YouTube. In one segment of the hours-long video, two attorneys are seen telling the audience how to minimally advertise job postings to best avoid hearing from "qualified and interested" U.S. workers if they have a foreign worker in mind for the job. Federal law requires that an employer make a permanent job posting available to qualified U.S. citizens before hiring a noncitizen.

An anti-outsourcing/anti-H-1B organization of IT pros called the Programmers Guild got hold of the video, and that's all she wrote. The organization copied the video and continues to play it at the site, adorning it with accusations such as advertising fake jobs is an act of fraud.

When I called Cohen & Grigsby yesterday afternoon I could tell damage control had been launched (and no comment yet from the firm). Within two hours of that call, it pulled its video from YouTube. The Programmers Guild gleefully noted it still had a copy for anyone to view online, and there's nothing the firm could do about that. (Here's yesterday's news story.)

Let's set aside the question of these attorney's ethics and the whole is-it-xenophobia-or-corporate-greed? debate. That topic gets discussed a lot on our Web site in readers' comments to blogs and news articles. What's really fascinating, I think, is the power of YouTube to enlighten, and to destroy.

Cohen & Grigsby obviously saw an opportunity to offer its conference attendees a back-up; they could go to YouTube and view any segments they might have missed. The firm probably saw it as some extra PR, too. But my guess is it didn't turn out to be the kind they hoped for.

The law firm conference video reminds me of another incident, reported back in August by the Washington Post, in which a Lockheed Martin engineer ratted on his company for producing what he claimed were poorly designed Coast Guard patrol boats. The engineer complained to his bosses, government investigators, and congress people. Unsatisfied with the lack of responses, he posted a 10-minute video about the allegedly faulty boats on YouTube.

These should be wake-up calls to businesses everywhere. With YouTube, the whole world is watching. Don't brush it off as a cutesy Web 2.0 technology. This is powerful stuff.

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