This post started off as another cautionary note about considering the consequences of what you say in your blogs and on your site. It was based on the recent incident involving a model and a [formerly] anonymous blogger who created Skanks in NYC on Blogspot. The model launched a defamation suit, and the courts ordered Google, which provides the Blogspot service, to reveal the blogger’s identity. But events moved so fast—the model dropped her original suit and the blogger may sue Google for revealing her identity—that the buzz around the incident has morphed in a number of directions, including: whether anonymous postings fall under the category of protected speech, when and if anonymous postings are acceptable, the general state of discourse on the Net, and related topics.
You’ll find a good summation of the issues by Randy Cohen, who pens The New York Times Magazine column, “The Ethicist.” Equally interesting are the comments to Cohen’s article—you’ll find some good points, pro and con, regarding Cohen’s ideas. One comment in particular has implications for authors, as it concerns Internet libel and what to do about it if you’re on the receiving end. The commenter, Michael Roberts , a victim of Internet libel himself, turned his situation to an advantage by starting a service that helps other victims of Internet defamation. This is not an endorsement of Mr. Roberts’ company – I have no basis for making such a judgment, and there are competing firms in the reputation management field. But you’ll find a lot of information on his site (Rexxfield.com) that may be helpful if you ever find yourself in the crosshairs of someone whose primary mission in life appears to be destroying your credibility.
Back to the model and the blogger, regardless of the outcome of the case, here are a few other takeaways:
- As I’ve said before, err on the side of caution. If you’re not sure about something that you’re about to put in writing, stop. If you can’t get a legal opinion, write something else. Or recraft the post.
- Consider your primary job—writing books. Unless your strategy is to attract a lawsuit for publicity purposes, your primary goal should be to STAY OUT OF COURT. Even if you win, you’ll likely still lose in terms of time, cost, and disruption to your life. Going to court can be an enormous time suck and an emotional drain. A Pyrrhic victory will not help you meet your next deadline. Leverage the Net for the good things it can do for you; shun anything online that creates heat, but little or no light.
As the case unfolds, there will no doubt be other takeaways. In the meantime, court is in recess.