Do bloggers have a right to expect privacy and peace?

@ShawnDay (227)
June 26, 2007 4:14pm CST
I started a similar thread that went nowhere, so thought perhaps I could reword it. This is a topic I'm interested in. If someone blogs about controversial subjects, goes to other blogs and forums and posts, engages in flame wars, writes articles she posts all over the net, claims to be an author, gives talks in schools and interviews on the radio, does that person really deserve any more privacy than the typical, 15-minutes-of-fame celebrity who might have been on American Idol? The amount of attention of course, is in direct relation to the number of "viewers," but if it's fair to post things about game show contestants, people who made the news for winning lotteries, etc., then why do (some) bloggers think they areshould be immune to such attention? And lastly, aren't they doing all this stuff for attention? Does anyone really write 50 articles and make 1000s of forum posts who is NOT looking for attention?
2 people like this
8 responses
• United States
27 Jun 07
Actually, there are some legal precedents dealing with your subject. I'm no attorney, so please take my comments with a huge grain of salt and do a ton of research (and if you haven't already done so, join a writer's group). I also apologize for the length of this note, but with the amount of investigative reporting I've done, I could write for hours on this single subject. It's my understanding that once you've gone out of your way through PR efforts or even a high-profile job, your name/persona falls under the same classification as "public domain" as photographic rights. The Reader's Digest version won't do it justice, but if it's viewable to the public, readily, I can take a picture and publish it--if you've made yourself viewable to the public, methodically, I can write a snapshot of you. In other words, if a person is knocking themselves out to be an expert in some field (especially for financial gain), then writing about them is OK. If, however, an investigative reporter uncovers facts that are not pertinent to the person's "expert" writing/testimony, they can run afoul of libel/slander laws if any malice toward the "expert" can be proven. I have some very personal experience in that regard. No, I didn't get burned. It was close, even though I had multiple citations and notarized jury decisions in my hand. If, however, you don't know the person and have never said anything terse about them that can be uncovered in court, you're probably fine. The acid tests, according to what I was told by an attorney, is this: Can you prove what you've said is accurate (leaving your opinion completely out) and have you avoided malicious statements about the person or organization that would lead a jury to conclude you were malicious in your intent, or "out to get" that person or organization? Malicious intent is a huge factor in slander/libel cases, from what I understand (although it's been 10 years since I was embroiled in my mess, so that laws may have changed). To my knowledge though, the blog/web thing has not been tested in court, so I'd proceed with true journalistic caution. Yes, it sucks. You have to jump through two hoops to tell the public the truth, and as a journalist you can never, ever express your true feelings. "Give them the facts," and nothing more. That's a good thing. Let the readers, rightfully, draw their own conclusions. Sorry, that's the editor in me talking.
@ShawnDay (227)
27 Jun 07
As long as it's "newsworthy" it's fair. If I just decide to start posting photos of Joe Blow who lives next door and writing about his life and background, when he's done nothing more interesting that mow the lawn, then I'll get into trouble. If Joe Blow saves someone's life; wins the lottery; writes a series of letters to the editor; becomes outspoken at town meetings; writes a book or does anything that would cause people to be legitimately interested in him, he's going to be fair game and that includes background searches, etc.. Enquiring minds want to know!
• United States
27 Jun 07
I'd couch my comments with the fact that if a relatively unpublic figure saves a person's life, that it's unfair to look into his or her marital status or personal life, unless it paints him/her into even more of a hero or explains why they might have been compelled to step in. I'm sure you agree, but it's important in regard to the "spirit of the story." Otherwise, sans the legalspeak I sure do apologize for having been droned into me within the Beltway, you're right on.
@angel3 (49)
26 Jun 07
If a person writes articles all over the net,and posts blogs on different forums,doesnt necessarily mean the person would like lots of attention, but they are drawing attention to the subject matter? You are being a bit vague, is this person somebody you know? are they asking for privacy on the subject, or expecting too much attention? I write a blog and have a personal website and also have two other web type pages, I am glad of the feedback and the critique I get from people. the one experience I have to say is some lude responses, but it depends you can set some of your blogs and forums, to whoever has subscribed. You mention news of winning lotteries and such winners would normally ask for either privacy or publicity on any of those subjects, so I would say the public need to be aware this is part and parcel of the media. I hope that helps.
@wachit14 (3600)
• United States
27 Jun 07
I agree about the post being too vague. I have no idea what this person is talking about, but if I had to surmise, I would think that if a person blogs and posts about controversial topics, as they often do here on Mylot, then they should expect that people will either disagree or even flame them. This is the nature of the internet unfortunately and the anonymity of it can cause wars between people who have never even met each other. Are these people looking for attention? Probably, but I usually steer clear of people like that because of the drain they cause.
@pallidyne (858)
• United States
26 Jun 07
I am an American and as such, I am a product of my upbringing-- This just to clarify some of where this is about to come from. The freedom of speech guaranteed by the Bill Of Rights, has limits. One cannot run into a movie theatre and shout "Fire!" for no reason. There is a penalty for that false alarm because it endagers and can harm another. We also have an American tradition, that of the ability to confront one's accusers. As such, I don't believe controversial topic posting is a reason to keep someones identity secret. Shouldn't post their Social Security number, but their identity should be fair play. Why? If they are truely behaving as described, you could say that they could be potentially causing harm to another. As such they should not be able to throw stones at someone and then hide behind the anonymity. That being said, there are some levels of reasonable expectation of privacy, but not too much when you are an attention seeker.
@ShawnDay (227)
26 Jun 07
If you're talking about the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, that is to protect citizens from government censorship.
@cher913 (25884)
• Canada
27 Jun 07
no, i dont think you can expect privacy on the internet simply because of what the internet is...if you want privacy, start journalling lol
27 Jun 07
If a blogger doesn't want comments on their work, they can turn off the 'comment here' button on their blogs. I write because I want to share my work with others. One cannot remain private and public at the same time. However, the public should respect their desire for privacy. Even the 'celebs' are human too. Unfortunately life doesn't work that way. If you are in the public eye, then expect publicity. The days of seclusion as with Emily Dickenson are no longer possible.
• Canada
27 Jun 07
Wow, this is an interesting question. By default I think everyone has the same rights for privacy and peace. However, when you step into the public eye, you need to understand that as a practical matter, privacy and peace are going to be harder to maintain. It seems like a no-brainer (more exposure equals less privacy), but on the other hand everyone should be able to have their own private space where they won't be bothered.
• Canada
27 Jun 07
I honestly thought someone wrote that much for the money not attention! I for one am a person that writes for the money. I stay away from anything that would draw any attention to me as I hate the lime light! Mind you, you said this person like's to get into heated discussions so maybe they do want to be seen in that way. What do you mean when you say do they deserve privacy? What are you saying exactly? What kind of attention do you mean? Are you saying they want to be a public figure or something? That might not be true. Some people are very verbal but when you put them in public they clamp up. That would be me! LOL
@brokentia (10396)
• United States
26 Jun 07
OK, I don't know who you are talking about...but I do agree. If a person blogs and posts controversial topics, that person is inviting people to her/his personal life. Of course those that oppose a person's views will try to find something to use against that person. So, if he or she wants a private life, why did the person start a public blog to begin with? The term public should make that person comprehend. Schools and interviews on the radio...also very public. And if the person is flaming others...that one should also expect it back. It is called karma. If he or she doesn't like it, don't dish it out.