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When Assumptions Go Awry: Photographs on the Net

She stood there, pregnant belly with the words “welcome home daddy!” proudly painted across it and displayed for her husband to see. In her hands, the results of the testing that would tell the proud parents if their baby was a boy or a girl. Tearfully she waited for her husband to come home to her after his military deployment. Beautiful story with a beautiful picture, right? Not if you’re Kendra Kaplan.

Mrs. Kaplan finds herself the butt of reoccurring jokes across the internet. The news story accompanying this photograph stated that her husband was coming home after a year’s deployment. For those of us familiar with the military, perhaps our first thought was, “He got to come home on R-and-R, good for them!” which was what happened. However, right out of the starting gate people assumed the baby was not her husband’s. The photograph was hijacked and splattered around the internet with the words “pregnancy-fail” and other such smears against Mrs. Kaplan regarding her marital fidelity. How is that going to look to the child (which, by the way, turned out to be a little boy they named Tomas) let alone if a potential employer Googles her? She was so incensed that she and her husband take a DNA test should the child have any questions in the future. (Note:  her husband supported her the whole time 110%. Good man.)

Mrs. Kaplan is not the only one. Professional photographer Michael Yon risked his life in Iraq to capture a poignant moment; in 2005 Army Major Mark Bieger risked his life to reach a young Iraqi girl injured in a terrorist car bomb, only to realize that she had died. This copyrighted photograph has been hijacked and is often seen with the words “that moment when you realize you are the terrorist” (and other variations to that effect). This not only blatantly violates copyright laws but insults the integrity and ethics of both Yon and Major Bieger.

Moral of the story: what you post on the internet is subject to criticism and misinterpretation at the least, malicious slander and destruction of personal and professional reputation at the most. Be careful about what you post and where you post it. Make sure privacy settings are set to their highest level, and never post photos on unsecured sites. There are people out there willing to make a statement- funny, political, or otherwise- at your expense.

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