Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Threats to the freedom to blog

In this blog entry, I would like to focus on the issues concerning the growing threats to the freedom to blog. My reasons for posting my views on the matter comes as a result of two particular developments within this month that I see as representing threats to the blogosphere. Specifically, one of the incidents is the case of Edwin Mellen Press suing a university librarian for libel (New, 2013).  Another incident is the issue of employees getting fired for user-generated content as reflected in the Applebee's waitress who posted a receipt with a customer's complaint regarding tipping (Stableford, 2013).

Both stories indicate the dangers of the growing powers of organizations and institutions to take away the freedom to create user-generated content via social media. Organisations and institutions today are able to take away the freedom of people to blog and share content via social media through
  1. law suit for libel or defamation and
  2. the threat of termination of employment. 
I note that today all human beings are affected by organisations and institutions. We are not only citizens governed by governmental institutions that regulate who are citizens and who are not, but we are also either employees of organisations or can be sued by them for rants or exchanges that we make via social media. As such, I note that the freedom of persons to blog, especially blogs critical of organisations or institutions including religious ones and businesses are in threat of being curtailed by:
  1. threats of law suit
  2. threats of disciplinary action from an employer
In light of this, I saw an interesting event by Harvard Business Review on Wednesday, 23 January 2013, the #HBRchat Topic, January 24: It’s My Job and I’ll Tweet If I Want To . While I did not participate, I noted the important questions the public chat raised:
Q1: How much freedom should employees have to discuss work problems online?
Q2: Are you comfortable using social media to complain about work?
Q3: Does your company have a policy about employee conduct on social media?
These are important questions that are increasingly relevant as our freedom to blog and share content via social media is now one that employers and other institutions are now monitoring or are planning to monitor in the future. We must note then that the freedom to blog cannot protect us from losing our jobs or from law suits from organisations and may indeed impact on what information we will be able to share and access on blogs in the future.

This brings me to the issue that such pressures will change forever the information sources that blogs are. Blogs will no longer become authentic and real sources of personal information. People instead will be censored and provide only information that they know they cannot get in trouble for. Imagine the world that this creates, where I want to find authentic and real information online about a company or an institution, and all I can find are positive stories and comments about the company and institution? No complaints? No criticism? No person's real thoughts or beliefs about that company or institution? Is that the online world that we want to live in and create?

Where are the values of freedom and freedom of information? Librarians and the information professional community need to speak out against this new online world order, where organisations and institutions are robbing individuals of the freedom to make authentic contributions to the blogosphere and user-generated content that gives us expanded realities about our world and the institutions and organizations that inhabit them.


New, J. (2013, Feb 8). Edwin Mellen Press sues university librarian for libel. The Chronicle of Higher Education Retrieved from

Stableford,  D. (2013, Jan 31). Applebee’s fires waitress who posted receipt from pastor complaining about auto-tip. Yahoo! News Retrieved from

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