Thursday, March 09, 2006

What you say online could haunt you

This article caught my attention on the newstands today at a couple of different places (ironically, in print, not online.) The ever-growing online arena is so different than anything society has ever known before that the methods for instructing people and handling situations are being developed right before our eyes.

At the base level are these truths: Words mean things, and actions have consequences.

Deceptive Anonymity
Students are getting in trouble for posting things that they would normally hesitate to openly proclaim by mouth or pen and paper. People are getting fired or not hired because of the information about them on the web. The dangers of the supposed anonymity of a personal computer screen is deceptive to say the least. The glass house provides no privacy. Employees may be safer bad-mouthing their boss at the water cooler than on the web.

There is something fascinating about "publishing" one's own words and pictures for absolutely the whole world to see. Yet, it is a fire of a responsibility that a 7th grader as well as a 55 year old CEO must learn to contain.

Drawing the line
In most of the cases in this article, I think the person who got 'caught' rightly deserved it. If a student writes bad things in a personal journal that no one reads, there is reasonably no punishment. If a student writes bad things on the board, that's a different case.

New Codes of Conduct
We are seeing and will continue to see new rules written into the conduct codes at schools and with employers. Taking it all into consideration, I think the lessons that are being learned are valuable ones for the land where "Freedom of Speech" reigns. Yes, freedom of speech is a good thing, but that freedom is a jewel that must be handled with care.

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