Friday, August 11, 2006

Censorship, freedom of expression, truth, proof and all that malarkey

I was just browsing blogs: one was lamenting the fact that she had to remove a blog because her employers gave her a formal reprimand after she made comments about them on it.

OK, blogging is a little like writing a diary, but it isn't. It may feel like a private space, but it's open to public view, so you should have to be responsible about what you write. I don't think you should have free rein to slag off employers, companies, or individuals. You may think/know you're just being honest, but it's all subjective and readers have only your word for it. Unless you back your claims up.

There can be comeback on what you write, and I think rightly so. There's freedom of speech/expression and there's truth & proof. Somewhere these things should meet.

Most of us have the sometimes unfounded belief that we're in the right in certain situations, when perhaps we're not. We're all fallible and we all have personal biases. Except for me, obviously! :P

Surely it's common sense not to name (or describe so as to be identifiable) people or organisations that you have a grievance with, if you're just having a rant about them? If you can back up your claims and are ready/willing for a formal confrontation, that's one thing, but if you're simply mouthing off it'd be better to keep it vague. Or better yet, keep it to a phonecall or private IM conversation with someone you know. I think if you have a beef with someone, but couldn't say it to their face, you'd be better not putting it on-line either. Countless times on my ex-forum, people had to change user names or got upset because someone they knew started reading their posts and weren't too happy with what they saw. It's a smaller world than we think. :D

So how does this mesh with my take on Gina Ford's little d├ębacle? (Glad you asked. 8) :P)

I think it's the nature of the format.

Think of it this way, say, I posted an entirely innocuous and fair entry about ZXrr'pptt (hopefully an entirely imaginary name :D. Especially given its ease of pronunciation! :P), and someone posted something highly offensive: a malicious lie or derogatory statement about ZXrr'pptt in the comments part of my blog. I think it would be legitimate & reasonable for ZXrr'pptt to ask me to remove such a comment from my blog, (if I didn't do so off my own bat), and I would happily oblige.

I wouldn't like to be asked to remove my own entry on the subject as well, if inoffensive, or indeed my whole blog on the basis of the offensive comment.

Of course, as a blogger I can pre-moderate comments, if I like, with ease and I can check comments regularly since I get so few! (Not that I'm bitter! ;) :D) On a much larger scale, it just isn't manageable without a constant monitoring presence.

The BBC message boards engage pre-moderation on some of their boards, or certain posters, but it is quite a slow & clumsy tool and it interferes with the flow of discussion. After all, if you post something in answer to a post but there are several responses queuing for moderation before yours, you may find that by the time your reply gets through, the debate has changed course, or you seem to be merely repeating someone else.


Abby said...

It does take a lot of practice to remember that a weblog IS a public space, and you never know who's reading. I get around it by writing a blog and then deleting it five minutes later. :) And I reserve the right to delete the whole damn thing and go to ground at no moment's notice if need be. I know that annoys people who comment and read but I do worry about how much is "out there" about me.

It makes writing my diary so much more fun, because I can say whatever I like and even swear if need be. I had lots of choice words for George Bush yesterday. But on the other hand it means my weblog is moribund for days on end as I try and wait for something notworthy and non-litigous to write about and I hardly ever think of anything.

I think the law needs to catch up with messageboards and websites. I think the tools at the lawyer's disposal are too crude for what this is about. I mean, who really knows on a website what constitutes a libel or a slander? Most of them don't know the difference between debating ideas and ad-hominem personal attacks. The amount of people I've met who think that if I say something about God and they come back calling me a b**** then that's fair comment. Sigh! Having said that I'm really bored with most of my websites at the moment and am tempted to go back to the movie one. Argh, I'm melting! I'm melting! It's true that the BBC website is crude and if you're on pre-mod it's really not worth posting at all. It happened to me on the Christian board. Irony of ironies. Posters there can call Jesus gay, or God evil, left right and centre, when I fought back, *I* got put on pre-mod for being "argumentative" - sigh! Lunatics taking over the asylum. I did argue with the moderators and they did take me off pre-mod but I'd lost heart by then anyway.

If you're posting somewhere and the moderation is too strong, it's not worth posting because there is no comeback and no reasoning with moderators so it's a recipe for frustration. Better to take a deep breath and walk away.

Splee said...

Hello - (sp)Lee here. Interesting post - there was a thing in the news a while ago about a bookshop employee who was sacked for writing derogatory comments about his boss in his blog, and the same has happened to an air hostess in America, to name but a few. Surely it's common sense to bear this in mind? My contract of employment says that I'm not permitted to reveal sensitive information about my work to the press, and as an extension of that, I don't write anything incriminating about my work in my blog. Apart from anything else, I don't particularly want my work colleagues reading it. Some people just don't seem to understand how public the internet is - Livejournal entries are almost immediately picked up by Google and archived by several sites, so nothing you write really ever goes away, even if you delete it. And then they whine when their words come back to bite them on the bum!

Personally I like Livejournal a lot, as it has a lot of controls for making limited-circulation entries, visible only to logged-in users of your choice. Even so, I take care about what I write, and have recently deleted some older entries I suddenly felt a bit uncomfortable about.

Hippernicus said...

Thanks for your comments. :D