It's Julie Day. This week's question is multi-layered. What about free speech and blogging? Should there be consequences for what we blog? How about workplace blogging? How about the courts?
When it comes to free speech, I am a purist. That is to say.... any of us have the right to blog about anything we choose. With that comes responsibility. The first rule of blogging, in my opinion, is "do no harm".
The consequences can be varied. If you write drivel, people will probably think you're an idiot and not read what you have to say. If you defame someone, they have the right to sue. If you encourage others to commit an illegal act, or admit to committing an illegal act, there will probably be legal consequences. If you are the propaganda minister for Al Qaeda, you will have all the western intelligence services monitoring you. If you threaten someone's life, you'll end up in jail.
That said, you still have the right to say it as long as you are willing to deal with the blowback.
As for workplaces and blogging, I believe employers have no right to limit or restrict blogging, except during the workday on their systems. Unless someone has a classified position, in which case he or she will be monitored by security personnel, no employer has the right to butt into the personal lives of employees. Even someone with a classified position has the right to blog as long as he or she does not blog about sensitive material. If he or she blogs about Contingency of Government plans, it will mean some time at Leavenworth. Barring that, give the director of the CIA a WordPress template. Bring it on!
When I was still working, I was one of the few employees whose access to the Internet was not restricted. Most of us in the IT department spent large chunks of our day on the Internet because it was necessary for our jobs. No one particularly cared what we did when there wasn't something pressing and most people walking by would see "yahoo", "CNN", some sports site or eBay up on someone's screen. My guess is that some people probably blogged. At night, I used to listen to radio shows on the Internet.
Employers come up with a million excuses for restricting access but they're flimsy and transparent. I know this because I used to have to spit it out like pablum when people would ask to have their access unrestricted. Security, open ports, viruses, blah blah blah. It's all nonsense. Any company with decent computer security will not have that problem. (Just as an aside, AIM or any of the teleconferencing software [chat rooms] will create security problems but that's unrelated. Access to the web or the mail server will not cause that condition.)
Employers enjoy too much control already in our lives. In the sick recesses of their own foul dark little minds, they believe it's appropriate to control what an employee does at home. We're hearing more and more of these cases come up in court. Employees are property and therefore owe undying allegiance to the company store. Everything they do is considered to be a reflection on the company.
Baloney! It's not appropriate and they need a slapdown. In this respect, I am completely in line with the libertarians. What people do in the privacy of their own homes is their own business. No one else's. It seems that once they gained access to our body fluids, all bets were off and they assume unlimited access to every other facet of our lives.
There was a woman who got fired for blogging. I don't remember the specifics but I recall the general circumstances. Was it Dooce by chance? She was saying things her employer didn't like. She was writing about her coworkers and conditions at work.
She may have sued the pants off them and if she did, I hope she won.
Working people need to be talking about these things. We need to be sharing our experiences, our pay, and our conditions. It's a good idea to remember that a lot of these rules have nothing to do with the security of the companies. It has to do with the security of those in charge. They don't like it when we talk to each other. Blogs can serve as guerrilla journalism so they want to restrict it.
So.. as always in a workplace, keep your mouth shut, your butt down, your back to the wall and your powder dry.
In the privacy of your own home, outside the workplace at a restaurant or bar, at the gym or at your keyboard, let it rip! Blog until your fingers are numb. We want to hear what you have to say.