2 min read

How to avoid a media circus when you party with your friends

Everyone should be able to show off their dance moves at a private party.

I'm fully aware that double standards are affecting female leaders, and that the media campaign against Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin looks a lot like a Russian-backed information operation.

Still, I assume many business leaders or public figures realise they could end up in a similar situation – having recent crayfish parties and summer weddings in mind.

I would argue that the problem with the information campaign against Sanna Marin is not the current media attention. With all the support she has received worldwide, I think it might even boost her short-term approval ratings.

My concern is the long-term effect on her public image. Because a year from now, most people will for sure remember the media circus – but they won't be able to recall the reason.

Our brains love to take shortcuts when interpreting and retrieving information, and this limitation is making information warfare terribly effective.

While I don't think Sanna Marin should have behaved any differently when partying with her friends, there are things we can do to make it harder for anyone wanting to discredit us online.

1. Always expect content to be altered.

This goes for both images, video and sound. If it is possible to cut a video or sound bite unfavourably, expect that someone will.

Think twice about what you say and at what angles you are shot. Expect your facial expressions to be turned into memes (I can recommend searching for "Mark Zuckerberg drinking water" ...) and that people might record even when they shouldn't.

2. Keep private events even more private

Create an agreement in your friend group that you do not take photos, shoot videos or record sound when you meet. Not even for "private use". You never know what ends up in the background of an innocent image or if other people's IT security is as good as yours.

Also, making these decisions proactively and in solidarity with any friends at increased risk for media attention – will be greatly appreciated. No one wants to come across as the friend who doesn't trust the rest of you to leak your private party photos.

3. Be aware of what's already out there

It is possible to pro-actively review your online footprint and remove content to reduce the risk of it resurfacing out of context. If you don't know how to do it yourself, ask for help from your security department or external experts.

Make sure (don't just assume) you have relevant and updated privacy settings on your social media accounts, and take passwords seriously.

Do we need to be this paranoid?

Well, I wish we didn't have to. Unfortunately, I think anyone in a position of power - politicians, business leaders and celebrities - needs to understand that information campaigns against individuals will increase.

And at the end of the day, it will always be your responsibility to do what you can to reduce the risk.