4.26.2005

how safe are you?

blogging... that's what you with with a blog, isn't it?

A weblog, web log or simply a blog, is a web application which contains periodic time-stamped posts on a common webpage.

the full definition's at the wikipedia page, but basically.. no matter what the contents may contain.. a blog is a personal website from what i gathered by googling blogging definition. now, this personal website is an online diary of sorts and usually contains posts arranged in chronological order. subject content can range from personal thoughts and musings to " updated headlines and news articles of other sites that are of interest to the user" according to the dictionary.com definition.

an old friend of mine had to take shut down his blog because he couldn't maintain it anymore. it wasn't because of money either. someone threatened to sue him for defamation. he stated on his blog that this was his personal blog showcasing his own opinion, mind you. now this is what confuzzles me... a blog's a collection of thoughts and things that are of interest to the author. it's my personal rant-space. one would assume that readers are smart enough to distinguish fact from opinion and when in doubt, there are always other resources to turn to for clarification. obviously, one reader couldn't and took it too seriously. or maybe he just had too much time and money and doesn't know how to google.

why should someone need to shut down his private plot of cyberspace where he chronicles his everyday musings, activities and shares tidbits that might be of interest to his friends? since when did one sue someone else for stating their opinion?? that kinda reeks of immaturity really... to not be able to take in the good with the bad. if that's the case, why aren't more people suing rival fansites online for digging out the latest piece of embarrasing gossip for their favorite teenybopper? why aren't china and japan suing each other for defamation? gawd, even kids have it down pat better than that!

kid: eeeew, you've got cooooties!
kid2: do not!
kid: do too! jimmy's got the coooooties, jimmy's got the coooties ~
kid2: i'm telling!!

now THAT is defamation.

according to a link to the communications law center provided by the state library of nsw, defamation can be proven if 3 things are fulfilled.
  • the material must have been published, which in this context means that it has been communicated to someone other than the aggrieved person.
  • the person aggrieved by the publication must have been identified by that publication.
  • the material published must be defamatory. In terms of a legal test material is defamatory if it does one of four things - expose a person to ridicule; lower their reputation in the eyes of members of the community; cause people to shun; or avoid them or injure their professional reputation.
now, with my friend's case.. i'm not sure what the offending piece of material was but making a haphazard guess, i'd say it had to do with a certain bond-breaking blogstorm recently. making the assumption that this was the issue in question (be it the actual issue or not is irrelevant. this is an assumption made for the sake of providing an example! gawd, need..to..cover...butt..)

anyway.. ok. let's pretend we're gonna sue my friend for defamation.
well, he's published his material in the form of his weblog.
he's also identified the person aggrieved by the publication. (Identification need not be by naming the person. It can arise from the inclusion of a number of characteristics that enable a person to be identified. Where a group of people have been collectively defamed, provided the group is limited in size, each member of that group may be a potential plaintiff. from the communications law center).
that leaves the last criteria to fulfill ~ defamation proper.

  • his material did not expose a person to ridicule. he certainly did not post with that purpose in mind; he posted to share his feelings and possibly get some validation or maybe a dose of reality from friends to steer him back on track.
  • his material did not lower their reputation in the eyes of members of the community. first of all, what community are u talking about... the general public or the student community? as far as the general public is concerned, i'd like to see the reader give me the statistics of what percent of the singapore population lowered their opinions of the Organization. as for the student community, i'd like to see the stats on whose opinions were affected. now, do these people constitute "the community"? if yes, you've just upset a lot of people by excluding them from their own segment of society.
  • his material did not cause people to shun or avoid the reader and/or Organization. the broken policy was about furthering oneself by leaving the country. a lot of factors go into play and to base such a huge decision on a stranger's blog... put it this way. the people offered the chance have plenty of opinions and thinking capabilities of their own, whether skewed or otherwise. they don't need someone else's opinion in their blog to sway them.
  • his material did not injure their professional reputation. this doesn't even stand... first of all, where's the professionalism to start with and secondly, what reputation? go ask anyone who's "served" with the Organization, be it as staff or client. give me a satisfied work force and client base as the status quo and i'll shut up.

reputation is a subjective thing and really, if you speak of reputations... who has heard of the reader and/or the Organization if one isn't from singapore? who knows where singapore is? go ask the average american kid. my friends knew i was moving to singapore at the end of eigth grade. it was the land of michael fay. "i don't want to see you on tv spraying mickey mouse on cars!" and "have fun in china! will miss you!" were some of the things i got in my yearbook that year. does that say anything about the general public outside of singapore knowing anything about the reputation of that particular reader who wants to sue my friend??

as a blogger, how safe do you feel about blogging now..
as a reader, do you feel empowered to slap lawsuits left right and center now..

4 comments:

sy said...

Jiahao, you have my empathies...

Anson said...

I recall reading an article (on MSN?) about employees posting work-related rantings on their blogs. What they thought was content only friends and families read somehow made its way to their boss' eyes and they got fired. Apparently you can never be safe with what you post online; the very nature of the Internet allows anyone and everyone to read your e-ruminations. And they will. :S

Anson said...

As a blogger, I do believe in freedom of speech online, to a certain extent. But moreso than not.

æmii ~ said...

*sigh* you'd hope that the real world didn't operate like the tibian world a la "you stole mein 5 ham, i pj you!!1" even though the ham was in your doorway...

there are literally a million individual websites out there or more. i'd be surprised if every one of those sites agreed with everyone reading them. most people frequent sites that "click" with them (no pun intended, hehe) and avoid sites that irk them. to read and take action at an offending site means that 1) the reader believes the information to be correct and true and 2) the reader threw away his every right to click on the little "X" in the corner of the browser window to subsequently annoy him/herself.

really.. walk away. dump the ego. why's that such a hard thing to do in a virtual world?