June 9, 2008
Ethics and Blogs:
Last week I was invited by the Central Pennsylvania chapter of PRSA in Harrisburg to speak about ethics and blogs. The session was video taped and will be posted on their website shortly.
My co-presenter Brian Shoff is a known blogger. It was encouraging to discover that he and many other bloggers are concerned about ethics.
Last year, the Pew Internet & American Life Project estimated that there are some 12 million bloggers in the U.S. Some bloggers have been debating whether the Weblog community should follow specific ethical guidelines. Responsible bloggers recognize that they are addressing the public and have some ethical obligations to society in general. CyberJournalist.net has created a model "Bloggers code of ethics." Although all bloggers are not journalists, many believe that they should follow more or less the ethics code followed by journalists.
Libel and defamation is a critical issue for bloggers. According to the Media Law Center, there are approximately 150 lawsuits in the US against bloggers. Most of the lawsuits claim defamation and libel. However, only six of these lawsuits have resulted in penalties for the bloggers. Most of the cases have been dismissed by the anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) laws. These laws protect from litigations whose only purpose is to intimidate a critic by the threat and cost of a lawsuit.
Last year, Andrew Left, a blogger, posted negative information on his blog, about GTX Global Corp .,a provider of IP multimedia technologies. GTX claimed that his intent was to depress the stock price of the company so that he could make a profit by short selling the stock. GTX Global sued Andrew Left for defamation and securities fraud but the court dismissed the lawsuit under the anti-SLAPP laws.
Neville Hobson, a leading influencer in social media communications gives good advice for corporate bloggers:
"If an organization isn't already in place where openness and transparency in communication exists and is practiced, then using tools like blogs will be unlikely to do anything positive for the organization. If your openness/transparency foundation isn't there, don't blog."
I believe we have those foundations at Ruder Finn!