And what if we're outed?
In a comment to an earlier post exploring the question of anonymity, DearJaneSample summed up what most of us bloggers hope, which is that consequences would be fairly benign:
I imagine that it would come out via an "enemy" because if you are my friend no way are you blowing my cover. Which means it would probably be spun in a negative light and it would be someone who had an axe to grind.Adweek contends that "the legal system still works in favor of the bloggers." But I've been doing a little research this morning. And what I've turned up seems to indicate otherwise.
As such at this point I would be in damage control mode, and I'd have to tell my boss, because it is best that it came from me ... rather then have them find out from someone else, and I would get the dreaded "invite to the boardroom".
I would not stop blogging, but who knows how it would change or how my agency would want to be involved or not? I think they might be excited about the association ... but I would probably have to "edit" some posts.
"The difference between blogging about your pets and blogging about who the office skank is? One can get you in serious trouble," reports an online article exploring the question with attorneys.
A lawyer personally invested in the continuance of my job opportunities (hi, hon) warns that if you work for a company in one of the 8 states with at-will employment law, you can be fired at any moment for any reason at all. As long as standard discrimination laws aren't violated. New York happens to be one of these states.
Turns out blogging about work has been cause for termination ever since blogs were called weblogs. In 2002, a web designer was let go because she wrote satirical accounts of her experiences at a dot-com startup on her blog called Dooce. (Which is why being fired for blogging is being "dooced.") She warns fellow bloggers:
I started this website in February 2001. A year later I was fired from my job for this website because I had written stories that included people in my workplace. My advice to you is BE YE NOT SO STUPID.The growing list of dooced employees (according to, what else, a blog):
1) Michael Hanscom, fired in October 2003 as a temp at Microsoft for posting a picture of Apple Macintosh G5s sitting on the loading dock at MS.
2) Troutgirl, fired from Friendster for blogs that included references to her work.
3) Matthew Brown, fired from Starbuck's for posting comments about the coffee chain, its customers and managers on his personal blog in September 2004.
4) Penny Cholmondeley, terminated from her post as Nunavut (Canada) Tourism marketing officer after someone anonymously complained about her blog to her employer, which included passing references to the locale.
5) Iain Murray, a Brit working in the US, fired from his post as Director of Research at an NPO in January 2003, apparently in part due to blogging at work.
6) Steve Olafson, fired from his job reporting for the Houston Chronicle after another reporter outed him as the anonymous force behind a blog that was critical of local politicians and other news sources.
7) Daniel P. Finney, also fired from a job as a reporter, at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch when they discovered he was blogging, in part about his news assignments.
8) Jessica Cutler (Washingtonienne), fired after blogging for a total of two weeks about her sexual exploits with six partners, including a few highly placed government staffers.
9) Amy Norah Burch, who was fired from her job as undergraduate coordinator for the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies at Harvard University, after "a handful of unflattering references to her workplace interspersed throughout the site’s archives raised eyebrows at the department." May 2004.
10) QueenofSky, who was fired from Delta Airlines after she posted pictures of herself in Flight Attendant uniform ("risque" poses?).
Last month, a CNN producer was fired for blogging about media, which he still does. Today's post is titled A Jihad of Fun.
No ad grunts that I could suss out, but the Adweek article today quotes an agency exec who suggests "shops will start to crack down on posts" pointing out that "it's a small universe of people."
There's no federal case to set precedent yet. (Be the first! It's one way to go down in history.) But it appears that First Amendment law does not protect bloggers dishing dirt about employers--even if employers aren't specifically named. Alas, it seems if you work for a place with pockets deep enough to file a John Doe lawsuit , the bottom line is this: You can blog about work. But only if you're ready to be your own boss.