Freedom of Speech… bloggers beware

I read of yet another blogger prosecuted and landing herself a criminal record and fine recently for what was deemed to be a scathing restaurant review which was too prominent in Google searches Read All About it Here. It’s not the first I’ve read and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last.

I know someone who used to review fashion on a blog who worked as a shop assistant for a fashion retail chain, she offered fair and honest reviews of everything she bought on her blog even if that was from the company she worked for and she lost her job for saying that the store’s jeans were an inconsistent fit and they should perhaps work at putting that right on her blog… a criticism amongst thousands of positive, gushing with praise posts which had been evidenced to have prompted people to buy from the store. 4 years of impeccable service, a trusted member of the team and all gone for saying the black jeans fitted better than the white… brand damage, gross misconduct evidently.

I’ve fallen foul of blogging myself, I blog in a professional capacity as part of a network and I voiced my thoughts once on the need for good teachers to be selected because they are good teachers and not because they fit in with the staff room crowd. I was prompted to write this after being engaged in a debate with fellow trainees and at the end the lecturer said that it was more likely you would be successful securing a permanent job if you fitted in with the team rather than you were a good teacher so a poor teacher who made staff room friends would be selected over an outstanding teacher who shyed away from staff room gaggles. I was outraged by this and blogged my thoughts. Those thoughts were then taken out of context and presented by someone (I can only imagine who… let’s just say one word… competition) as a scathing review of my placement hosts which it never was and never would have been and it caused upset to them and I was hauled over hot coals for it but fortunately I was able to explain that it had been maliciously shared out of context and was vindicated BUT that could have put a dampener on my career.

So how free are we to ‘speak’ as bloggers? Not very it would seem, unless we are saying nice, easily digestible things. Even if you are blogging anonymously (the top two examples above were blogged under pen names, my professional blog is not) you are not safe from identification and prosecution or action being taken against you.

I understand maliciousness and how that could manifest itself on blogging or any social media sites but seriously what is the world coming to if we are not allowed to give our frank and honest opinions on the products and services we use? We’re using our hard earned cash to experience these things and we have a right to say it was crap if it was. It’s up to the company in my opinion to allow customers the opportunity to read a mixed bag of reviews and make their own mind up, not to pick out negative comments and prosecute a customer for having an opinon, indeed giving them some pointers for free on how to improve their offering.

1984 – thought police and the history changers are at work. These blogs are ordered to be shut down or change their practice, the offensive comments removed, history changed, sharing of opinion denied. We’re not talking offensive here either, we’re not talking tirades of abuse or name calling, singling out or bullying, we’re talking a pair of jeans having inconsistent sizing among colour ways and someone not being happy with the service they paid for in a restaurant and someone being annoyed that kids are not being provided with the best teachers because they don’t want to be part of the in crowd. Thoughts you might share with friends or colleagues but which are not allowed if they are going to darken the reputation of a business which professes to be customer centric or a service which professes to have the needs of the end user at its core.

Be careful bloggers, the thought police are out there ready to pounce. 

 

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10 thoughts on “Freedom of Speech… bloggers beware”

  1. When I taught, we weren’t allowed to have a personal blog or use any social media. I’m seven years out of teaching and I still avoid saying anything negative about my former career. Though the majority of my time was positive, I could actually write a pretty scathing book about some of the injustices that I saw and endured while teaching.

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    1. It’s very shaky ground as we are encouraged as part of our reflective practice to have a blog and to include our colleagues in our network, so all of us have to submit a blog address and it’s put onto a list and circulated to all of our colleagues. I don’t know if it’s to force us to think only positive thoughts. It does come in handy to share positivity but I’ve actually quoted academic theorists who say that a truly reflective blog has to be a candid warts and all account of events experienced to be able to truly learn from them.

      There are things I would love to mention like the negativity towards the students by so many staff who are jaded and past their sell by dates or out of touch with modern life but I could never do that. I have to keep those thoughts to myself.

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    1. It’s scary really, you could be innocently venting some disappointment and next you’re in court.

      The other day I was reading about intellectual property and how someone explained how he felt when a funny Tweet he’d made went viral and people started to use it as their own and to change and adapt it and how he felt violated by people using his words as their own… personally I’d have thought it cool that my words were that good. But it got me thinking that some people are really upset by others using the things they say or do on the internet without permission (crazy really as we know when we stick something on here there is always that chance) and I thought about the photos I lift via Google images to use on my blog.

      I decided to credit the originator every time I used a Google image but tracing them back to the original photographer/owner is impossible.

      I guess if I found that someone had copies my blog, given it a different name, changed a few things and was making money out of it I’d be a bit peeved but then I’d probably have to ask myself if I was that bothered, i don’t want to make money out of it and if someone else is entrepreneurial enough to do so then let them.

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      1. There is a Google Chrome add-on or whatever they are called that goes by the name Tin-Eye. You can use it to check for matching images. It works beautifully. I have it at the top of my menu bar and its just a simple click to check.

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  2. The world is changing into a dark and cold place. The free thinkers are not so free, and thought is being replaced by ideology. So sad. Makes me reminisce about the lyrics to Apeman by The Kinks.

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  3. I think I’m pretty naive. I still, at my age and experience, don’t consider there might be evil-wishers out there when it comes to blogging. But I’m also not surprised, I just don’t think of it. I will now. I would think there could be some recourse for those bloggers. Some sort of freedom of speech lawsuit or such. Especially the one who lost their job.

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    1. I think companies are having knee jerk reactions to deal with this sort of thing with it being so ‘new’. I don’t think they get that it’s just the same as telling your group of friends about a bad experience over dinner and them going and repeating your woeful tale to other groups of friends, it’s just that it’s done publicly, it never disappears and people’s groups of friends have multiplied through use of the internet. I think the should man up and accept their bad reviews or pay bloggers for their good ones, they can’t have it both ways.

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