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Death By Blog?

Death By Blog?

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.”

Easier said than done.

Recently, Paul Tilley, an advertising executive partially responsible for the McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign, killed himself amidst a trouncing on several industry-specific blogs.

It’s impossible to say whether or not public humiliation played a role in Tilley’s suicide, but it certainly brings an important issue to the surface:

Should people be allowed to anonymously defame private citizens?

The question isn’t a new one, but as blogs continue to wield greater societal influence, constitutional amendments will continue to battle one another. In this case, Freedom of Speech vs. The Pursuit of Happiness.

Movie stars, athletes and politicians knowingly cast themselves into the public domain, and are compensated for taking the job. But think of yourself for a minute. How would you feel if your corner of the world suddenly had a bright spotlight drawing attention to every pockmark and scar?

As bloggers, many of us put ourselves out there more than we’d probably like. Call me out for faulty semi-colons or broken links, but keep my private life out of it!

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In the case if the late Paul Tilley, employees were anonymously posting his internal e-mails to staff, and spewing very personal attacks against the ad exec.

I’m not suggesting we blame the blogs that allowed these posts, but I am questioning if a better sourcing policy needs to be implemented.


Read more at the New York Times.

View Comments (3)
  • For my blog at we’ve had several people express interest writing reviews for us. But when we inform that they have to put their real name with their reviews, they’ve backed out. They offered to use a pen name, but after talking with the faculty at my wife’s journalism school we felt it wasn’t ethical to publish critiques under a false name.

  • I don’t think that this is just a free speech versus privacy issue – there’s also a moral issue involved. Attacking someone (publicly or privately) is a serious matter. The phrase sticks and stones may break may bones, but names will never hurt me is a naive, foolish phrase. Names do hurt, attacks do bruise. People do not want their private lives exposed to the public and that should be respected.

    The exception is when there is a public need – if someone is running for office it’s important to understand a bit about his character, honesty, etc (although even then there are limits).

    The fact is that gossip sells and it feels good to lash out at someone you don’t like. But money and vengeful emotions are no means by which to judge the morality of an action.

    In terms of the question responsibility – I imagine there was more to his suicide then some blog posts, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t contribute (even in a small way). A small contribution to a suicide is still an awful thing.

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