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PR 475 -- Dangers of Blogging for PR Professionals
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PR 475 -- Dangers of Blogging for PR Professionals


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This lecture explores the negative side of blogging from a PR perspective.

This lecture explores the negative side of blogging from a PR perspective.

Published in: Business, Technology

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  • 1. Blogging Dangers PR 475 Brett Atwood
  • 2. Dangers of Blogging
    • Two recommendations for companies/agencies using public blogs:
      • Moderate all comments
        • One compromise: Have an e-mail address for feedback and selectively post responses
      • Policies should be established in each company on how blogs are used
        • Written policy offers some legal protection
  • 3. Litigation Risks
    • Copyright Infringement
    • Invasion of Privacy
    • Defamation
    • Sexual Harassment
    • Hostile Work Environment Claims
    • Other Legal Risks
  • 4. Copyright Infringement
    • Copyrighted content on your blog can result in legal action
      • Example:
        • ABC vs. “Spocko’s Brain”
  • 5. “Deep Linking”
    • The legality is in debate
      • Most courts have found that you can “deep link” into another person’s content
        • Shetland Times vs. Shetland News
        • Ticketmaster vs. Microsoft
        • Ticketmaster vs.
      • Breaking News:
        • In Dec. 2006, a new court ruling in Texas found the opposite
          • SFX Motorsports vs.
  • 6. Invasion of Privacy
    • Disclosure of personal facts that were not previously known to public
      • A public figure has less recourse than a private citizen
    • Can I be sued?
      • Perhaps. If it is not deemed “newsworthy” and it causes harm to the individual’s reputation and well-being
  • 7. Invasion of Privacy
    • Example:
        • A woman in Washington D.C. posts details of her “affairs” with prominent political figures
        • One politician sued for $20 million claiming “invasion of privacy”
        • Court case is pending
  • 8. Defamation Defined
    • A false and unprivileged statement of fact that is harmful to someone's reputation, and published "with fault," meaning as a result of negligence or malice.
    • State laws often define defamation in specific ways.
      • Libel is a written defamation
      • Slander is a spoken defamation.
  • 9. Defamation Online
    • The US Supreme Court has said that blogs have the same protections as traditional media:
      • "in the context of defamation law, the rights of the institutional media are no greater and no less than those enjoyed by other individuals and organizations engaged in the same activities."
  • 10. Opinion
    • The labeling of a blog published statement as “opinion” does not guarantee that it won’t be found to be libelous
      • Courts ask: “Would a ‘reasonable’ person confuse your statement for fact?”
      • The context of the statement is also examined
        • Chat rooms and blog “comments” are usually seen as “opinion” by design and are more likely to be exempt from “libel”
  • 11. Examples of Actual Cases
    • Considered Libelous (when false):
      • Calling an attorney a "crook"
      • Describing a woman as a call girl
      • Accusing a minister of unethical conduct
      • Accusing a father of violating the confidence of son
  • 12. Examples of Actual Cases
    • NOT Libelous:
      • Calling a TV show participant a "local loser," "chicken butt" and "big skank"
      • Calling someone a "bitch" or a "son of a bitch"
      • Changing product code name from "Carl Sagan" to "Butt Head Astronomer"
  • 13. Trade Libel
    • Trade libel is defamation against the goods or services of a company or business.
      • For example, saying that you found a severed finger in you're a particular company's chili (if it isn't true).
  • 14. Defamation in Blogs
    • If you repeat someone else's defamatory statement in your blog, can you be found to be held at the same standard as the original speaker?
      • This would have great implications for “guestbooks” and “comments” that are left online and/or unmoderated
  • 15. Defamation Online
    • Recognizing the difficulty this would pose in the online world, Congress enacted Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act
      • Provides a strong protection against liability for Internet "intermediaries" who provide or republish speech by others.
  • 16. Section 230 of the CDA
    • Protects bloggers in most circumstances
      • Bloggers are not liable for defamatory content written by “third parties”
        • Comments
        • RSS Feeds
        • Chat rooms
      • This protection does not necessarily apply to you if you hand select and publish the above content
  • 17. Defamation
    • $11.1 million awarded in Oct. 2006 in a widely observed suit
      • Largest fine of its kind
      • A woman posted negative comments about a business owner after their transaction went bad
        • Used terms “crook,” “con artist” and “fraud”
  • 18. Sexual Harassment
    • 27 workers fired for sexually-charged blogs and postings on MySpace
      • The Auto Club of Southern California employees made comments about weight and sexual orientation of other workers through their postings and “Friends” comments
  • 19. Security Breaches
    • Loss of Trade Secrets
    • Confidential Information
    • Intellectual Property
  • 20. Apple vs. Does
    • Apple Computer sued various blog and indie news sites to reveal the source of leaked “trade secrets” relating to a music project
      • The “Does” are “John Does”
        • They are the unknown parties that leaked the documents
  • 21. Apple vs. Does
    • Apple attempted to subpoena the ISP to give up the e-mail records of those involved
    • A court ruled that the bloggers/sites were allowed to the same constitutional protections as traditional journalists
  • 22. Regulatory Violations
    • Mismanagement of Electronic Business Records
      • There may be a legal obligation to archive all postings related to the company
        • Blogs can be used for against the company if a legal matter arises
  • 23. Loss of Control
    • Once you cede control of the message to outsiders, there is no guarantee that they will stay “on message”
      • Comments should be moderated
      • Some sites do not allow any comments
  • 24. Spam + Blog = “Splog”
    • Online marketers are taking advantage of the “community” aspect of blogs to deliver spam via “comments” section and other posting opportunities
  • 25. In-Class Exercise/Homework
    • Pick a major corporation or organization and monitor the Internet for potentially damaging content
      • A list of areas to examine is on the blog
    • Write a 500-word report that summarizes your findings
      • Assume your reader is the organization’s management
      • Post on your blog
  • 26. Homework
    • Read Chapters 2 & 3 “Blog Rules”
    • Next week:
      • We will explore online media tracking tools
        • Bacon’s MediaSource