On the Between Lawyers group blog that I am a part of, we have had an ongoing discussion about corporate blogging policies and the related legal and other issues that arise when employees (and officers) blog. In part, our discussion has been a response to the “the sky will fall if you don’t have a blog policy” marketing some law firms are doing these days.
I mention this because Denise Howell has posted “Blogs: Least Risky of All?” It’s an an analysis of blogging as part of the overall communications channels that a business or organization might use. Denise concludes that blogging, properly understood, rather than being feared, might in fact be the least risky of all corporate communications channels. Her reasoning is compelling.
Let me quote a couple of key passages:
Specifically, of all the various communication tools available to employees, whether while on the job or off the job or both, blogging may actually be the least risky and most innocuous from a corporate risk management standpoint. Consider first that people commonly assume phone, email, cocktail party, and/or hallway discussions are invisible, transitory, and/or confidential. Any one of those situations is thus fairly likely to involve remarks that the speaker, rightly or wrongly, does not expect to come back to haunt them in a public way. Then consider the extent to which public blogs, podcasts, and similar tools are conceptually different from the get-go. The accessible nature of the information put out by these means is part of of the compact. Except in the limited case of behind-the-firewall blogging or podcasting, people using these tools are much more likely to comprehend that a broad audience is possible (usually, desired), and to tailor their communications accordingly.
Denise goes on to say:
Though there are a host of situations whereby an employee’s blog, podcast, photo, or video clip could conceivably subject an employer to third party liability — inadvertent disclosure of confidential or regulated information; harassment, discrimination, or other civil rights violations; false advertising or other unfair competition concerns; and much more — not only are none of them unique to online communications, but it seems to me those using such methods would be almost certain to appreciate that what they’re doing is not “private.” Picture a world in which it was a newsworthy event every time someone was fired due to something said in an email or a hallway. Or every time company secrets were clandestinely or inadvertently shared over the phone or over drinks. You’d never hear about the dangers and pitfalls of blogging, because it would constitute such a small part of the overall “problem.”
And, finally, to me, the key theme in all of these issues:
Unlike a great deal of the reporting I read about the dangers and pitfalls of blogging, I have a hard time isolating any primary legal problems that inevitably go along with employees using communication tools of any sort. Instead, the potential problems are a direct product of the extent to which clear expectations have been set, and the extent to which a particular employee is oblivious or doesn’t care.
I was interviewed yesterday for an article on Internet use policies and used the occasion to make my usual point when I talk about these issues: Policies are good things, but, without proper emphasis on training and enforcement, they may do more harm than good. Also, when I hear people talking about “blogging policies” in isolation from “communications policies” or “technology use policies,” I cringe.
When I discuss the “dangers” of blogging, I like to point out that under the standards people want to apply to new technologies, use of the telephone could never be adopted today – just think of the untold damage caused over the years by telephone calls.
So, check out Denise’s post, in its entirety. I believe this post is a very important contribution to this debate and deserves much more attention.
While you are there, check out the other recent posts at Between Lawyers and you’ll see why it’s one of my favorite law-related blogs (although I may be a little biased).
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]
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