Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Job Posting - New York Times

LAST month, Nadine Haobsh, an associate beauty editor at Ladies' Home Journal, was about to resign and take a job at Seventeen, where she had been offered a similar position. Then the magazines discovered she was blogging about work, and her two jobs became none. Ladies' Home Journal asked her to leave immediately; Seventeen rescinded its offer.

"…when it comes to keeping your job - at least in the private sector - the law hardly protects anyone. You can be fired for being ugly, you can be fired for being left-handed, you can be fired for something you say to your secretary. And if you can be fired for something you say to your own secretary, it seems silly to say you shouldn't be able to be fired for something you post on the Internet for everyone else's secretary to read.

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Besides, there are good reasons employers might want to fire people with Weblogs. Surely it's not great for the work environment if your boss finds out that you are telling the world what a jerk he is. If you're revealing trade secrets or confidential information, clearly your employer has a right to be upset. Even if you are writing innocent content, the mere fact that there's an employee in the ranks who is communicating something to a larger audience can be legitimately scary to companies that are used to controlling the information that gets out.

But here's the problem: Weblogs are worth protecting. It used to be that if you wanted to know what it was like to work for a law firm or a beauty magazine, you had to have a friend on the inside. But now that everyone can publish online, we can get these incredible glimpses into worlds we might otherwise never get to see. People across the world can share stories, commiserate and connect with each other. Potential employees can see beyond the marketing pitches.

If no one was reading, employers wouldn't be concerned. There's a demand for the first-person narratives people are writing about their jobs. There's nowhere else to go to create honest conversation about the working world.

So maybe it does make sense that the law should provide special protection for bloggers, because of the social benefits Weblogs provide. The simplest place to start would be to put the burden on employers to show actual harm, if they are firing someone because of her Weblog.

This would protect the kind of innocent revelations that bloggers like Ms. Haobsh make on their sites, while still giving employers rights if their employees are revealing secrets, disclosing client and customer information or otherwise driving business away. In addition, companies should create Weblog policies that let employees know what management feels is off limits for public consumption.

In any case, blogs may not hurt companies as much as they fear.… "

I think it's time to reign in private sector assaults on freedom of speech.

Firing bloggers is just the latest way of silencing people who often aren't even critics.

There are law suits brought for no other reason than to silence, often totally without merit. What these methods all have in common is economic threat. You'll lose your job (and won't get another). The lawsuits eat up years and savings. You might not (in the United States) get your costs back even if you win.

If we don't stand up for free speech now, we'll find ourselves sitting still for worse abuse to come.
con·cept: Job Posting - New York Times