Last week, I read a disturbing article describing a situation where a news site was held responsible for negative comments left on its blog. From what I understand, the negative comments involved hate speech and threats regarding one particular story. The article was written a couple of years ago, though.
(NOTE: Any following statements made below should not be considered legal advice. I leave that to properly qualified legal professionals.)
The article made me wonder: Will there come a time in the future where I might be held responsible for the readers’ comments on my personal blog? Right now, I doubt it, because comments come in from all over the world and determining jurisdiction would be a nightmare. Enforcing millions of comments on millions of blogs would be impossible.
It’s an ominous road. Some social media users have already gotten into trouble for using copyrighted pictures without authorization, while bloggers have been sued for defamation, invasion of privacy and copyright infringement.
I wouldn’t want to deal with that, anyway. I have quite enough to do, thank you very much. Part of the fun of blogging is to see what people say. I feel privileged when someone takes the time to share their wisdom or life stories with me, or contributes a new viewpoint to a topic under discussion. Talking with other people in this way is what makes blogging so marvelous.
But at the same time, I feel an ethical obligation to protect my readers. Akismet weeds out quite a bit, thank goodness, plus I’ve deleted a comment or two that were in clear violation of WordPress policies. I consider that an act of moderating the blog, not censorship.
I strive for accuracy, since I feel my readers count on me for that so I’m a credible source. I’ve goofed a time or two, but I fixed it.
With social media, I’m facing situations that I never envisioned before. If I’m in a tweetchat and I disagree with someone’s comment, for example, I have to clearly indicate that I’m just expressing a different view and respectfully disagreeing with them. I have to stop and consider before I post comments on Facebook or anywhere else, wondering how others will consider my comment in both the short term and the long term.
At the very least, it’s a good idea for us bloggers to keep an eye on legal developments concerning blogging and social media. It couldn’t hurt, at least.
What do you think? Let’s start a discussion, bloggers.