Thursday, April 16, 2009

This May Change What I’m Willing to Post On My Blog…

I started my blog as a way to memorialize how I deal with my personal finances – a kind of diary, if you will. My primary intent was to keep tabs on my spending, investments, savings and the progress on my debts. I also wanted a place I can store reference materials, such as interesting articles, great tips, etc.

But my blog has also evolved into an outlet where I air my thoughts, experiences and opinions (sometimes relating to PF matters only tangentially). It hasn’t all been pretty -- I’ve posted petty, elitist or mean-spirited rants that I can’t express in real-life to others. After all, what’s the purpose of a diary if you’re going to sugarcoat things?

Although many of my posts are personal in nature, I made the conscious choice to open my blog to the public because: (a) I write anonymously, (b) I don’t expect to have a wide-audience and (c) I enjoy receiving feedback (positive and negative) from my readers.

Consequently, I’ve been able to develop great relationships (albeit virtual) with people I would’ve otherwise never encountered. I’m grateful for all of the comments I’ve received. Even those that are critical have provided thoughtful, relevant, and civil opinions.

But a recent case decided by the California Appellate Court may change how and what I write in my blog in the future. The California Appellate Court recently held that a person who posts an article on the internet (e.g. blog or Myspace) does not have the right to state a cause of action for invasion of privacy when the post is republished. (Click here to read the opinion.)

In this case, a UC Berkeley student wrote a rather mean-spirited “ode” about her hometown and its residents in her Myspace journal. The student only identified herself by her first name and a picture. Six days later, the student removed the “ode” from her online journal. Before she took the “ode” down, the local high school principal submitted it to the local paper. The paper re-published the “ode” and attributed the authorship to the student, using her full name. (Note: Whatever point the editor wanted to make, couldn’t she have done it without identifying the author, especially since the offensive post was deleted? Or was the editor seeking retribution? Hmmm….)

The lunatic fringe of the student's hometown reacted violently by issuing death threats and shooting a gun at her family home. As a result, the student’s parents had to close their 20 year-old family business and move the heck out of Dodge. (Note: I wonder if the editor of the paper is proud of herself? And hasn’t this, ironically, lent credence to what the student wrote about the residents of the community? Hmmmm….)

I’m a firm believer that people need to accept the consequences for their actions and their words. But no one deserves to be threatened, physically or verbally, solely for their opinions, no matter how offensive. If the expressed opinion is libelous or slanderous, people should seek legal recourse.

I know of at least one blogger who shut down his blog after people tried to “out” him. (For what and to what end, I don’t know.) I know of other bloggers who’ve experienced something similar for expressing unpopular opinions about gift-giving etiquette or writing about her actions that some have deemed “morally reprehensible” (i.e., taking advantage of couponing rule loopholes). Seriously.

I guess what this means is that anything I write in this blog will be filtered and self-censored from hereon forward. Although it’s probably too late, I’m considering deleting prior posts that may be too revealing or potentially “offensive”.

But before I do, I just have to let out one dig: To all you nut-jobs who have nothing better to do than to “out” and seek retribution against an author for an “offensive” post, there is a better option -- You can stop reading the “offensive” blog and encourage others to do the same. There’s nothing worse to a blogger than having no audience.

So there. Bleh. [Note to self: Work on my filter…]


444 said...

I think the real problem is that the person who wrote the rant let her identity be known through a photo, reinforced by a first name.

I hate it that we have to keep our identities airtight-secret, but that really is the way it has to be if you want to speak freely. Or else you have to really watch what you say.


I've been on parent message boards for years, particularly revolving around a certain disability, but let me tell you, the parents there are like any sampling of the general population you could pick out, with a concentration reflecting that sub-set of losers who neglect real life for spending all day on the computer sparring verbally and posting pictures detailing the minutiae of their life ad nauseum. When there are too many hens in the henhouse, even the virtual one, occasionally things get ugly. I know of at least one occasion where some busybodies across the country from one another made phone calls to authorities to report a young mother in yet another part of the country for allegedly being an unfit parent (because she takes her babies to the doctor TOO MUCH?? as in possibly case of Munchausen's!?) I could go on and on with examples but I won't. I have drifted away from those groups and try now to just keep a more moderate level of internet life going on here with just my family's finances, with the occasional side rant that I think won't offend or upset too many people.

Moving on up! said...

I'll cheers to that! Free speech! Woo hoo!

Sandy said...

Oh man! I happened to me about a week ago. It was the FIRST time that I've had to censor myself. I had a wee bit of a rant about work and someone took offense to it. This person is the husband of a coworker who happened to glance over my shoulder as I was working on my laptop on my OWN time at lunch. She thought it was hilarious.

I blog anonymous..I event was as far as registering my domain anonymously. I never mention my company by name of even industry. I certainly don't mention individual people in my company. He in turn posted not only my company but had a nasty little comment.

Now, I know that it was him by an IP trace and a simple process of elimination, but really, if you're so offended, why the hell are you reading MY blog? I wanted to pop him a message letting him to butt the eff out and maybe if he wasn't such a LOSER he would pay attention to HIS job and not mine.

But alas, I instead took the high road and put that post on draft. I also blocked his IP and access to my blog from my jobs servers. It itn't meant for them, it's meant for ME.

So go ahead and "OUT" me. I don't say anything untrue or that I wouldn't repeat to any of my managers.

Ms. MoneyChat said...

are you serious! this is just ridiculous. how awful for that young lady and her family.

what's the obsession with trying to out people? i mean really, this makes no sense to me at all. i'm disgusted!!

mapgirl said...

I think the ode author did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy by using her real name on her Myspace page. Likely she also put which high school she attended, her graduation year, which college, etc.

What is horrifying is that people would resort to violent harassment of her parents and family remaining in her hometown.

Every kid has some bitterness when they leave a small town for the bigger city. What is completely insane is the school administrator giving the post to a journalist with full attribution rather than leaving it with just the girl's first name. I doubt they thought it was going to end up with shots fired, but that was really the school administrator's first mistake. I think they should pursue him and the city for a civil suit for putting the rest of the family in danger. Why did he wish to enflame the public with his actions? What good judgment was he exercising by endangering a minor still living in the home? (Presumably also one of his current students before they moved away.)

There are other ways to lock down a journal. Perhaps Myspace was the wrong tool for her dissent?

Miss M said...

What a sad story, insane that we have to live in fear for the crime of having an opinion (albeit an unpopular one). I've put up very little that could haunt me, I tend to keep my ranting limited to comments I read on other blogs. Any secrets that I've let out are my own, they wouldn't hurt anyone else. There are some other anon bloggers who now know my real name and where I live, since we all live under the same veil of secrecy I hope they don't out me.

Sorry you can't make the pet expo this weekend, it is quite fun. It's held around the same time every year so keep it in mind for next year.

jpkittie said...

that sucks that we can't speak freely. That is why I blog! It is horrible that there are people who are so immature that have to 'out'people... really!?!? have you nothing better to do? or do you take it as a compliment that you are the only thing they can think of?!?!

ChristianPF said...

hmm... thanks for sharing, this whole blogging thing seems to be opening up a whole bunch of cans of worms lately...

K-money said...

People are capable of the most mean-spirited, capricious and cruel things imaginable, the internet is just a new medium.

I am really glad that I am past my adolescence, when I made many mistakes. I am glad the internet did not exist back then!

Louise said...

wow thats scary! I know someone who got sacked for a comment about their workplace on facebook. It really wasn't anything too bad but they took offence.
I think it's becoming more of an issue lately.