The hazards of online existence

The case of Harry Fildes and an unfortunate forwarding and cc-ing of an e-mail serves as a 21st-century cautionary tale.

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At some point, many of us have sent a hastily written text message to an unintended recipient or mistakenly copied someone into an e-mail they were never supposed to see. For most people, it stops with a little local social awkwardness.

Not so for Harry Fildes.

Last week Fildes sent an e-mail to his friend Sebastian Marsh that contained some rather derogatory comments about an ex-girlfriend of his, Jenni Palmer, after Marsh expressed an interest in her. Unfortunately for him, he also managed unwittingly to copy the woman in question in on the message. Marsh wasted no time in forwarding the e-mail on to a number of colleagues and as a result, it's now been read by millions, most of whom have probably had a momentary chuckle over the story. The repercussions for those involved, however, have been serious. Marsh has been fired from his job, while Fildes has been suspended. (Both used their work e-mail accounts for the exchange). Meanwhile, Palmer suffered further humiliation after a number of embarrassing photographs of her began circulating on the internet. Her parents have had to leave their family home to escape press attention.

While millions of people have no hesitation about documenting everything from the minutiae of everyday existence to the most significant moments of their lives online, it's a reminder of how much power the internet has to wreak havoc in people's lives, and that one should always pause for thought before pressing send - or upload.

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