There are a number of people who fall under the heading of fired for blogging across multiple industries, dating back to near the start of the blogging online journal era. People who have been fired for blogging reach across all industries, and job positions. Many of the people who have been fired for blogging could have been approached differently by the companies they were fired from, and a different conclusion could have been reached. Unfortunately people are still fired for blogging, with no foreseeable decrease in this process.
The first bloggers who were fired usually ended up being fired for something they posted on their personal blog. Since the blogosphere was still tiny in comparison to where it is today, the net result of the first firings was that there was little initial reaction from the blogosphere. The blogosphere had not learned the power of their collective voice or the pressure that they could bring about to effect change. The first firings were left to be fully covered by the traditional media networks.
The term “Crowd Sourcing ” had not been coined into the popular lexicon during the initial phase of blogging. No one had thought about the role of the amateur in helping drive what was on the internet or how the amateur would report on the events of the day. While many bloggers were discovering the collective voice of the blogosphere, the role of “citizen journalism ” had not even been discussed in the blogosphere at a level that would help influence the changes that were happening. It is possible that Heather B. Armstrong was the first person fired for blogging because of information that she was sharing at Dooce.com.
While many thought that the firing should not have happened, without a collective blogosphere voice ready to cover issues loudly or in concert, the Streisand effect did not happen, and there was no momentum to cover the issue as fully as other issues later on. Without a collective voice, the blogosphere is not a potent force for change. At the early stages of blogging, there were not enough people blogging who had power and followers to cause an issue for a company dealing with people who were blogging about the company.
People fired for blogging range from Ellen Simonetti who was fired from Delta for posting pictures of herself on her journal in uniform on a Delta plane . To Washingtonienne that was run by Jessica Cutler and covered her life in Washington DC; she was fired for unacceptable use of Senate computers . Other notable cases of being fired for blogging were CNN Producer, Chez Pazienza , and Joyce Park who was fired from Friendster for blogging .
Neither Google nor Microsoft are immune from firing people for blogging; Mark Jen was fired from Google for blogging and speculating about Google Financing , and Michael Hansom who posted a picture of Apple’s G5 on a loading dock at Microsoft. Nintendo fired Jessica Zenner for her blog , and this list goes on. Bloggers are fired from their day jobs on a regular basis, making this a common enough concern that some bloggers go to great lengths to hide their identities like Mini-Microsoft who blogs about Microsoft, and often not in a positive light.
There are so many people who have been fired for blogging, that the EFF has an entire section of their web site dedicated to bloggers, bloggers’ rights, intellectual property, icons and images for your web site, and other resources to help bloggers understand their rights better. Corporations have started coming out with blogging policies and social media policies in relationship to Facebook, MySpace, and other systems that can tie into the blogging process. These policies, procedures, and processes within a company shield both the blogger and the company from employees who blog. Corporations are seeing blogging as an important tool in helping bring customers and interested parties closer to the company, getting answers to questions that they might have . Companies are also aware that bloggers need to portray the company in a positive light, but this will not always happen. While the company or corporation usually sanctions professional blogging, there is also the personal blog, as well as information that is associated with that personal blog on MySpace, Facebook, and other social networking sites.
Many blogs are simply a viewpoint into someone’s life. However, there are times where social networking has enabled the boss to catch an employee in a lie or doing something that they said they were not doing . Companies are also increasingly looking at what people post in their profiles, or blog about, as a decision point for making or not making the hire . It was the personal blog that caused many companies problems, but as blogging went professional and people could see that it was a powerful tool for informing and engaging people, the idea of the corporate blog took over and became the next big thing. Companies took a while to see how blogging could be used to bring customers closer and started small experiments with bloggers inside the organization to see how it could be done . Over the last five years, blogging has become more acceptable in the corporate world. However, it is still a dangerous world to be blogging about the company you work for , the people you work with, and other things that could be taken in a negative light, even if it was not meant that way.
Employers will read your blog or your MySpace profile, and Google your name or e-mail address looking to see many of the things you have written on line . Most of us at some point will show up in a Google search result. If you are writing a blog or have associated your e-mail address to a blog, a forum, or comments, then odds are likely that when an employer Google’s your information, that they will discover your blog or other information that you have put in about yourself on line. Most states have “at will” employment, meaning you can be fired for just about any reason, including for your blog. The key to keeping your job and your blogging job are as follows:
- You must follow the corporation’s rules toward blogging.
- Never try to cover the blog up. You should be open with your employer and co-workers that you blog. Give them the URL if they ask for it, but do not feel like you have to bring it up after that. If they choose to follow you, that is their choice.
- Do not blog from work, do not print off blog entries at work, and do not access your blog at work.
The idea is that you are going to blog, but you have to be careful. If you already blog professionally, make sure that when you fill out the NDA and disclosure statements for your job that you get to keep your blog and the data that you generate in your personal blog. If you blog on company assets, talking about company products or projects, that is one thing that can get you into a lot of trouble at work. Part of the other issue with using work assets is that the employer can also insist then that because you are using company property, everything you do on the computer belongs to the company. It would be bad if you had to pull down months or years of content because the employer believed that they owned it, because you used corporate equipment to blog.
If you are already an established blogger, one that has any content that an employer might want, you need to ensure that the company does not attempt to take over and claim copyright or ownership of that information as well. You can easily write in the exceptions to that in your employment contract, and you should write an exception into your employee contract that states that anything you write belongs to you. There might be issues, and you might not get a job because
of that, but if your blog m
akes money on its own, you do not want an employer thinking that they own what you write on your own time and on your own equipment. You might want to float the idea and see if the employer will agree to that stipulation, or you can see the companies’ blogging policy to see what rights the employer wants before you take the job.
Some employers believe that they own everything that an employee creates when they are working for them. This includes ideas that are generated at home or blogging from home. If you professionally blog from work, using company resources to blog, the employer has a good case to make the argument that those ideas or that data is theirs because of where you blogged or worked from. This can cause a problem later on if you want to use the content of your blog for other purposes. As a blogger, you have to make sure you know what your employer wants or expects from a blogging effort. As companies start seeing the value of blogs, the company might try to lay claim to your non-company sponsored blog. You will have to make sure that this is covered in your employee contract or that you have a waiver for this kind of content seizure. You do not want to end up in court having to fight to retain the content you built on your own time, on your own equipment, because the employer thinks they own everything you do.
While many companies support blogging now, and in some cases actively seek bloggers for their corporation, there is still the risk that you could be fired for blogging or for saying something that the employer does not like. That is a hard and fast reality in the blogging industry. There are people out there who have very thin skin or who have very strong opinions about an issue. When you write, you can easily run into problems with people who will contact your employer because they do not like what you wrote. They will cause problems for you with your employer, because the person making the complaint does not see what you were driving at with your corporate sponsored blog. If you make an association between yourself and your employer on your non-company sponsored blog (which is generally something you should not do to keep yourself and your content semi-protected), your employer is going to be called at some point because of something the blogger posted on their blog. This is an event you should be prepared for, and be prepared to work out a way to solve the problem. Usually, this will require that the article be pulled down if it was truly offensive or in poor taste, according to local cultural norms.
The key to keeping your job and remain blogging is to make sure you understand the corporate polices, know the things you can and cannot blog about in regards to the place you work. Another very good point for not being fired for blogging is to keep your blog as professional as possible. The key between a professional blogger and a personal blogger is that professional bloggers are often talking about the things they do, and in ways that show unique ways of doing things. If you blog about your boss, your co-workers, and others in the company in a negative light, you are courting being fired. As long as you are open about it, keep the blog within your niche, and pay attention to the rules, you should do ok with your blog and your employer.
(Cross-posted @ IT Toolbox)