by Michael Goldberg

When a Pseudonym Doesn’t Work

Jul 13, 20072 mins

Cloaking your identity in online bulletin board posts is a great idea. Just don’t talk about information that you wouldn’t want to be traced back to you at a later date.

The cautionary lesson that career counselors for college students routinely give about protecting their reputations online received an interesting jolt of reality this week. Court documents filed by the Federal Trade Commission reported that the CEO of Whole Foods Market, John P. Mackey, was using a pseudonym on a Yahoo message board to post glowing reviews of his company’s performance while disparaging that of a rival, Wild Oats Markets in comments posted over several years, The New York Times reports today.

Unfortunately, with Whole Foods now trying to acquire Wild Oats, and the Federal Trade Commission seeking to block the merger on the grounds that it is anti-competitive, Mackey’s bulletin board posts don’t make him look so good.

Mackey has posted a defense of his bulletin board posts, using his own name on the company’s website. He says “I posted on Yahoo! under a pseudonym because I had fun doing it. Many people post on bulletin boards using pseudonyms.” He also adds: “I never intended any of those postings to be identified with me.” You can read more of Mackey’s defense here.

Even though the CEO says his pseudononymous postings do not represent the official Whole Foods position, the appearance of a conflict could be a problem.

Also see:

How to Protect Your Reputation Online