Number One Rule in Blogging: Play Nice or Pay

Filed as Editorial, Features on November 8, 2007 2:17 pm

What is slowly being understood by many is that this freedom to publish your words comes with a responsibility. As James Farmer said recently in The Age:

…if we stuff up, and let through a defamatory comment, then that’s potentially hundreds of thousands in damages or legal costs.

Freedom of speech does not mean you can say anything you want about anything or anyone. Our words, and the comments we make and allow on our blogs, have a responsibility that comes with publishing.

We are constantly at risk of plagiarism by blockquoting each other’s work. We love saying inflammatory things that brings a lot of traffic and attention, but sometimes lawsuits and laws.

There is a growing rash of lawsuits avalanching across the web, from copyright infringement to violation of accessibility for equal access. Crowded into the fray are suits for slander, defamation, libel, arrests for cyber crimes, and falsification.

When we started blogging, we just needed to understand how this blogging thing worked. Which button we pushed when to publish a post. SEO changed from making sure the code on our sites allowed search engines to index the whole site, into games with keywords, links, and trust that comes with trying to understand what’s really necessary to do to boost or manipulate your page ranking.

Above all, people learned quickly that in order to get the most attention, you have to do whatever it takes to be the center of attention. And with that came controversy.

When you stir the pot to attract attention, you are also taking a risk of stirring up something else.

As we exposed our thoughts and opinions to the world, we need to now learn responsibility. Responsibility and respect.

Responsibility for our content, and respect for others.

As so often says, “Play nice.”

I say, “Play nice, or pay the price.”

If you choose to not play nice, you had better be willing to pay the price. Are you?

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  1. By J. Lynne posted on November 8, 2007 at 4:12 pm
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    People so often play the “free speech” card and get outraged when it has a backlash, but I’ve said time and time again that the right to free speech means we can say what we want but it doesn’t protect us from the consequences of what we say. That’s why when you open your mouth, put your pen to your paper, or press that publish button, you better be ready for the reaction.

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  2. By pelf posted on November 8, 2007 at 10:48 pm
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    “Freedom of speech” is indeed one of those phrases that bloggers overuse (including political bloggers). When faced with an impending lawsuit, or when somebody mentions the word “sue”, bloggers get all defensive and question the democracy behind “freedom of speech”.

    What they do not understand is that, like any other things, “freedom of speech” DOES come with “terms and conditions” :)

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  3. By Zach posted on November 9, 2007 at 12:21 am
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    That Freedom of Speech is something that I thought a lot about before starting my blog. And since my topic has such potential to be the target of a lawsuit, I make sure that anything appearing there is either true or labeled as opinion and is an opinion that is reasonably arrived at based on fact.

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  4. Coen Jacobs » Blog Herald doet duit in zakje in zaak auteursrecht | Blogging & WordpressNovember 9, 2007 at 7:36 am
  5. By Brian Carnell posted on November 9, 2007 at 2:02 pm
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    Yeah, that darn freedom of speech. How dare people go around invoking it like its a fundamental right of a free people or something. The next thing you know, they’ll be claiming police can’t search their homes without a warrant. Sheesh.

    And then you get just nonsense like James Farmer’s rant. I understand why people turn comments off, but I think they’re essential.

    Anyway, this sort of generic advice here is not very helpful since a lot of this is *very* different depending on your location. In the United States, for example, we have very liberal libel and slander laws which make it extremely difficult to successfully bring such lawsuits. We also have that First Amendment which means that stupid law Bush signed is pretty much guaranteed to be found unconstitutional.

    OTOH, in the UK we know you can get sued for calling a Holocaust Denier, well, a Holocaust Denier.

    Frankly, life’s too short to tiptoe around the truth. If you’re sitting there worried that you’re going to get sued for every inflammatory thing you say, maybe you should take up some other hobby like maybe knitting.

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  6. Weekly Digest: Lorelle Recovers From WordCamp Israel, Sicks, Tackles WordPress.com Marketplace, Content Thieves, and Kicks Blogging Ass « Lorelle on WordPressNovember 17, 2007 at 6:43 am

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