Saturday, February 05, 2005

Blogs and Free Speech

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Blogs and Free Speech


Amy Gahran, in her Contentious blog, alerted her readers to the controversy regarding how free a blogger's speech can or should be...especially when they are employed by a company.

See the article "Circumspect Blogging" for her perspective:
http://blog.contentious.com/
archives/2005/04/circumspect-blogging

The question arises: "Can a blogger be fired for writing something the boss dislikes, on their personal blog, a blog not associated with the company for which they work?"

Or is a personal blog part of the blogger's private life, like his or her sex life or taste in music?

My opinion after thinking about it for a few minutes?

I think personal blogs are part of the public sphere. You have a right to say anything you want, but as with everything else in life, you also have to face the consequences of what you say.

I've probably lost business, when a prospect came to this blog and read something by Vaspers the Grate that really annoyed them, something they violently disagreed with, something that offended them, something that made them feel angry at me.

But that's the risk I'm willing to take.

I allow comments on this blog, to let people express disagreement if they so choose to do so. Maybe I'll learn something and change my mind. It happens. More often than you might think.

To whine about how "the company doesn't own my soul" is not realistic, nor does it seem relevant. The company you work for has a right to be upset if you prance naked downtown every Saturday afternoon waving a Nazi flag in the air.

I contributed comments regarding this interesting topic on a few blogs.

See "Who Owns Your Words, Blogger?" by Dave Taylor at his Intuitive Systems blog:
http://www.intuitive.com/blog/
who_owns_your_words_blogger.html

Also see "Walking the Fine Line When Blogging" by Thomas Duff at his Duffbert's Random Musings blog, which is focused primarily, but not exclusively, on IBM/Lotus Notes and Domino software:
http://hostit1.connectria.com/
twduff/home.nsf/plinks/TDUF-69A6SH

Here's what I posted to Duffy's blog (the first blog I've ever seen that featured a Manual Trackback form!):

[START COMMENT]

Think about how a ruthless competitor could find out which employees at a company have a personal blog (*not* an official corp-employee blogs where blogger blogs as representative of the company)....

...then, when ruthless competitor discovers an inflammatory, controversial, or weird statement, uses that against the company.

Call it "Blog Espionage".

E.g.,Ruthless Competitor to Undecided Potential Customer: "An employee over at XYZ Corporation has a personal blog, and it he repeatedly states that he hates red ants. That's insect racism. Thus, XYZ is full of wackos. You don't want to do business with wackos, do you?"

How about the reverse scenario: the CEO of the company at which you work has a personal, non-corporate blog. In his blog, he writes about how he hates Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, blacks, Hispanics, women, and birds.

You then decide, based on your CEOs personal blogging, that you no longer wish to work for his company and help his business succeed.

[END OF COMMENT]

1 comment:

Karla said...

Fell upon your blog somehow this morning. Please don't visit my blog - I wouldn't want to bore you! ;-)

About this subject of employer/employee relations mentioned on employee blogs, what if the employee doesn't have a blog personally, but his wife does, and she is relaying her perspective of her husband's dealings with his employer. My father (I've been wondering if he possibly reads your blog) and I have discussed briefly that I don't want to be a test case for whether "spouse's blogs" could be used against the employee in a court case, and I agree. We're not in a court case but as my husband has taken the steps to be a whistle-blower exposing corrupt government officials, I wouldn't doubt that we might end up in one. So what is your opinion on employee's SPOUSES commenting on work situations on their blog? Also, this is not an employer like a individual company or corporation but is a State employer, which I believe I would correctly term as "State Government". Any comments?