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Beware – blogging can get you fired


In this outstanding article in the Philadelphia Enquirer we see that blogger are being fired in record numbers, mostly for publishing offensive content that is embarrassing to fellow employees and stockholders:


Earlier this month, a California automobile club fired 27 workers for posting messages on the Web that offended coworkers. Not long before, a Boston University instructor was fired for blogging about a distractingly attractive student; a blogging nanny was fired for telling too much about herself and her employers, and a New York beauty editor lost a new job because of blogs about the fashion industry.


The article also has safe blogging tips, especially that employees have no First Amendment protection while at work:


Safe-Blogging Tips


·        Don't write anything you wouldn't want your boss or your mother to read. Your words could last for years, so keep future jobs and relationships in mind.

·        Never divulge company secrets. That's grounds for firing.

·        Avoid saying anything that could hurt your employer's business or reputation.

·        Whistle-blogging - complaining about discrimination or illegal activity at work - may be protected activity, but you'll be on firmer ground if you go through company channels or contact the appropriate government agency first.

·        There is no First Amendment protection - right to free speech - in private employment. Think about that if you're tempted to express controversial opinions, use offensive language, or tell the world about your private life and fantasies.

·        You are more vulnerable if you blog on company equipment at work than if you use your own computer at home.



Bloggers are personally responsible for defamatory blog comments


Allowing blog comments is also asking for trouble.  Blog comments are now treated like "Letters to the Editor", that are published on your blog, at your peril. The "Read My Day" blog site in England has published a warning that suggests that British bloggers are responsible for all comments posted into their blogs:


According to the site, British bloggers may have more even more responsibility than USA bloggers to monitor blog comments:


"Posting comments on the internet is akin to writing the same comments to the letters page of every major national newspaper in the world. The international scope of blogs mean that claims in any country are possible - territorial limits are a thing of the past. . .


Any defamatory comments made in other posts on the blogger's website may result in the blogger being held responsible for those comments and being sued for libel.


Defamation legislation gives a defence where the 'publisher' (the blogging host) has no knowledge of the defamatory remarks or no reason to suspect the remarks have been made. This gives some protection to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) but very little comfort where the blogger has read and accepted comments on his/her blogging pages.


A prudent blogger must exercise editorial control over comments to avoid this liability as a publisher of libel."


Tough laws, but it's not just British statutes.  In some jurisdictions, publishing a libel, or even linking to a libelous web page can be a crime.  In Australia, it appears that defamation and libel laws are so strict that they can become criminal offenses:


"In South Australia, Victoria and the Northern Territory under common law any libel of sufficient seriousness can lead to criminal proceedings."


As another example, North Carolina has very strict laws making it a criminal offense to publish false or libelous information on the web (see North Carolina Code Chapter 14, § 14-47):


“If any person shall state, deliver or transmit by any means whatever, to the manager, editor, publisher or reporter of any newspaper or periodical for publication therein any false and libelous statement concerning any person or corporation, and thereby secure the publication of the same, he shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.”


It appears that blogging is just like any other publishing, you are responsible for your own words, and you may also be responsible for publishing the words of others on your blog, forum or web site. . . .


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