Anonymous Comments and Possible Lawsuits (Paranoid)
Prior to this morning, I had never censored a legitimate comment posted by a BC reader to this blog. Today, I received an Anonymous post from an individual with a bone to pick with a specific corporation. Immediately, I clicked the “publish” link and off it went for anyone and everyone to read.
About five minutes after I posted the comment, I started to fear for my own legal security as some companies will take measures to stifle their critics whether said criticism is actionable or not. Even the least warranted lawsuit by a corporation against an individual could cost the individual a pile of cash which I do not have.
Because the commenter posted anonymously, I would take on any litigation myself and, frankly, I cannot afford to pay a lawyer let alone spend the time it would take to defend myself.
I don’t like the sleazy feeling I get from censoring comments. The only others that I have not published came from bots or got caught up in the blogspot spam filter, which I didn’t know existed until this morning and I will go through the pile of spam posts up there and publish the false positives that I discovered earlier. So, if you have posted a comment and didn’t see it on BC, I didn’t censor you, the blogger spam filter did and I will correct the mistake when I get the chance.
I have posted comments that directly insulted me, corrected my facts or position on a matter and, in some cases, made me look more foolish than I do on my own. I can take it but some businesses employ more aggressive legal tactics than others. I cannot, therefore, post comments from Anonymous sources that contain inflammatory statements about specific individuals, organizations or individuals other than me and a small handful of personal friends who I feel comfortable wouldn’t do anything other than laugh.
If Anonymous comes forward and lets me use his or her name, I’ll post the comment for all to see and read. As, in that case, I will only be allowing a critic to state a position they hold in relation to the item I posted on Thursday, October 12.
A few times per week since January, I have taken the risks associated with writing blog posts that may entertain, cajole, flame, rant, rave and take on all kinds of businesses, organizations and even a few individuals. I have written about my personal life in incredible detail, talking about issues that most people would hide from colleagues and some friends, let alone anyone who wants to come along and read a blog post. I have celebrated here and I’ve express sadness, doubt and all kinds of opinions in a forum where most readers know who I am and can, if they choose, use the contents against me in some fashion or another.
I, therefore, cannot take responsibility for an anonymous post as I say enough things that can potentially get me into trouble. Last week, in a situation where a friend was being threatened with litigation, I took it upon myself to challenge the absurd nature of the possible litigation, hence, inviting litigation against me. I’m willing to take risks for people who don’t hide behind the anonymity of the Internet and will hang their bare asses out in public with mine and, to use the quote incorrectly attributed to Ben Franklin, “we can hang together or surely we will hang separately.”
I get a lot of private emails from readers who wish to comment to me personally, the emails outnumber the comments that get posted to the web site by a ten to one ratio. These people and I enjoy correspondence and I may quote them in the public forum in the future. As none of these people have ever put me in the uncomfortable position of either living with the fear of a lawsuit or living with the shitty feeling of having had to censor someone with a legitimate comment with which I may agree or not, I am not troubled by maintaining their anonymity. The same goes for the people who call me at home or over Skype, I listen, talk and enjoy many of these conversations and never expose an individual who makes a statement I might use in a future published piece. Skype and email are private forms of communication and I hold them as such.
Using a public forum to post anonymously is fine as long as you don’t put anyone else’s security at risk. This morning, the statements, which may or may not have any real merit, definitely had an explosive potential and I simply cannot take such risks because, as I say above, lawyers are too damned expensive and I have too little time to waste dealing with settlements and such to risk my ass for some person unwilling to risk their butt as well.
So, Anonymous, whether you work for the company you criticize, one of its competitors or anyone else, please, if you want to provoke people into considering your opinion in this forum, come forward and we’ll hang together.
I just reread this piece and it sucks. It’s far too long for what it is trying to say but I don’t have the time to edit so this is how it will stand.