"Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm"
. . . said Paul to Timothy, without fully appreciating the legal ramifications of such a potentially slanderous statement should Alexander object and take action.
A BIG conversation going on over the last few days regarding two men who are both occasional commenters here, Ken Silva and Richard Abanes. I had email discussions yesterday with both men who I consider friends but hard-headed friends on different sides on an argument. From what I can figure out, Ken posted an article about Richard that Richard thought was slanderous and so Richard complained to Ken's ISP and asked to to have the page taken down. Because Ken refused to take it down, his entire website was taken down by IPower, the same ISP that took Ingrid's Slice of Laodicea down last year.
Ken has since got a new ISP and some help rebuilding his site and the offending article, now three years old, is back in business. But the battle still rages. It was suggested Richard tried to sue Ken (which is false) but the question remains about whether Ken should keep the article online or not, and whether Richard did right by calling for action without talking to Ken. I think Ken should try to be critical without slanderous and he is probably stirring the hornets nest by overreacting. But whether Ken should remove that page is a tricky question with serious consequences for censorship in the blogosphere – which is why I am bringing it up here.
What do you think?
I was thinking about my own policy. Most of the time, I am responsive to requests to change, edit and sometimes delete material that people find damaging. Of course I try not to write a nasty post in the first place but sometimes I find weird and offensive surprises in the comments. Once or twice, someone has left a comment that was in the form of a complaint about a person or their business/ministry and I have leave it there for the sake of truthfulness and correction. We are all entitled to free speech.
Other times I deleted it as slanderous. I guess each case has its own considerations.
But there are ten thoughts that come to mind on how to handle offensiveness in the blog world:
1. Back up your entire site in case someone or some evil company kills your blog. I have used an old program called Pagesucker that literally sucks ups all your pages and puts them on a file. There might be some new apps that are better.
2. If your blog does disappear, you can use the wayback machine to find it again.
3. Talk to bloggers directly if you have a problem and if they don't listen, bring a few others into the conversation. If they still don't listen, maybe you should take it higher but there is a process to respect. But Christians should not resort to legal pressure among other Christians. (and again, Richard did not do this)
4. If you are a controversial blogger, dont use iPowerweb.com as your ISP (oooh – is that slanderous?)
5. Bloggers should be contactable – put your email address on your blog.
6. If you are worried about censorship, download the Handbook from Reporters Without Borders
7. If you really have to delete something immediately, and go the extra step of purging it from the Google search engine cache, you will need Google Webmaster Tools just like I needed them. I did this once when some harmless info on my site proved dangerous to some friends in the Middle East.
8. Emails from someone else should not be published on blogs without prior permission.
9. Attempts to stop or censor blog information will often result in heightened attention, more links and therefore more publicity than if just ignored in the first place.
10. Try being nice in the first place :-] and soften your tone. Like, dont use lawyer voice or CAPTIALS because it scares the hell out of people.
and 11. Allow comments! It lets two or three witnesses give an alternative view if they so choose and it lets two or three others confirm what they see as accurate
Ally in the comments below points out that a similar spat is happening with Lambeth cartoonist Dave Walker and Mark Brewer regarding Dave's cartoons on the trials of the SPCK bookstores. The skinny is here. And a crash course on related legalese for bloggers is here at ministry of truth
[Image from Jon but can be found here unless you are a lawyer looking for a blogger to sue, in which case try this link]