Monday, August 17, 2009

How concerned should today’s business owner, manager or executive be about websites, blogs and tweets?

For decades there were limits on slander and libel and a price to pay if someone wrote, said or broadcast something that was not true. And sometimes, the target of even truthful statements might try to exact a pound of flesh from someone who dared make their secret mistakes public.
The big difference today is not the libelous or slanderous statements, but how QUICKLY and FAR they can travel before you have a chance to act.
Gene Policinski is Executive Director of the First Amendment Center, and in an article for the Gannett News Service, he raised the concern that abuses of websites, blogs and tweets could trigger an over-reaction that would interfere with our First Amendment rights of free speech.
Having spent 35 years in the news business, I hold the First Amendment near and dear. And, eventually some politicians will try to use our newest forms of communication as a reason to clamp down on existing freedoms. We have to be ready to respond to those attempts with sound reason and good judgment.
In the meantime, organizations of all kinds must be vigilant and monitor what is being written and said about them on the internet, and have a plan to respond, in a timely way, with the right message and in the appropriate medium.
Policinski used the example of Madison Square Garden’s lawsuit against a website that speculated Radio City management was considering a halt to their annual Christmas Spectacular. MSG accused the website of defamation.
In Maryland, a website operator has been accused in a lawsuit of posting an unsubstantiated comment claiming a public official was a sexual predator.
And, a nursing student at the University of Louisville has been ordered reinstated to class by a federal court judge, after the Medical School kicked her out because they didn’t like what she wrote about her school experiences on her blog. The University generated significant negative media attention by its actions.
Domino’s Pizza was slow to react when two former employees posted an unflattering kitchen video. Other companies have responded well and some have not.
You don’t have to be next. Learn from the mistakes of others and decide now, what you will do and how you will do it.

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