March 8, 2005 4:00 AM PST

FAQ: Blogging on the job

Being a blogger can get you in trouble nowadays, at least if you write something that sufficiently vexes your employer.

Delta Air Lines last year fired flight attendant Ellen Simonetti because of her blog. Friendster, Google and Microsoft also have waved goodbye to employees or contractors who, in the opinion of a corporate manager, were unacceptably indiscreet in their online scribblings. As the popularity of blogs grows and search tools get better, such intracompany tiffs are likely to increase.

The word "blogging" refers to the process of writing a Web log--basically a specialized Web site to which individuals can post their thoughts. Those could be about politics, religion, or even about a blogger's cats and their daily antics. Popular sites that offer free blogging include Google's Blogger.com and LiveJournal.com.

In an effort to separate fact from fiction, CNET News.com offers this list of frequently asked questions about blogging at work and at home. Feel free to contribute your own thoughts and experiences in the "talkback" section at the end of this article.

News.context

What's new:
As the popularity of blogs grows and search tools get better, more companies are likely to discipline bloggers who disclose confidential or embarrassing information.

Bottom line:
If your boss should see your blog and is offended by something there, in most states you have almost no protection against being fired.

More stories on this topic

Can blogging hurt my career?
If you're already employed, your blog could get you fired. Delta Air Lines, Friendster, Google, Microsoft and Wells Fargo have all reportedly fired employees or contractors over the content of their online journals. In most cases, the bloggers were let go for either criticizing the company or fellow workers, disclosing embarrassing or confidential information or otherwise offending the boss' sensibilities.

How risky is blogging really?
Blog firings are relatively rare. In a recent survey of 279 human resource professionals by the Society for Human Resources Management, just 3 percent of companies reported disciplining bloggers and none reported firing anyone for blogging. You're more likely to get in trouble for fooling around online or downloading music at work. About half the companies in the survey said they've fired or disciplined employees for Internet use that was unrelated to work duties.

Blogging is a pretty new activity. Is my company likely to have guidelines and policies about it yet?
Few companies have created policies that specifically address blogging. But most corporate policies already address many issues related to blogs, such as protecting confidential information, upholding the company's reputation, and Internet use at work.

Can my employer fire me if I blog from home on my own time?
Yes. The odds of your company perusing your blog is slim. "But if your boss should see your blog and be offended by something there, in most states you have virtually no protection against being fired," says Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute in Princeton, N.J.

Wait--does that mean that where I live matters?
Yes. California, New York, Colorado, Montana and North Dakota recently have enacted laws limiting when an employer can fire you based on something you do off-duty that's not related to your job. Note

CONTINUED:
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23 comments

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Add your comment
Sick of Blogger Stories
Why is CNET OBSESSED with bloggers and their job situations? This is like the tenth story on a subject that has little relevance to the world at large! Stop it! We're sick of it! We're sick of bloggers. Most whine continuously either how much comment spam they get or how pathetic their lives are. The Signal Noise ratio is horrific! Yes there are a few out there that upon occasion show some insight, but there aren't many out there that show consistent, bookmark-able quality to keep you coming back.
Posted by 201293546946733175101343322673 (722 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree!!!
I totally agree with Bill on this issue. Blogging is overrated and a hype right up there with instant messaging, chat rooms, and online PC gamin. Remember those next great phenomenons? After the novelty dies off, it's really left for people who are dedicated to living their life on the computer while many people move on. Blogging, IMO, is colossal waster of time. Like Bill said, most of these people are incappable of writing, some are socially inept, and certainly most are w-h-i-n-e-r-s. Give them cheese!

I feel that C/Net is one of many media sources that is hyping this up to be a first admendment and freedom of speech issue with the recent firings of the Delta and Google employee. To be fair, C/Net has gradually change the tone of recent articles noting the other side of the argument (whereas in the first 4-5 stories were more of a "freedom of speech" 'tude). Obviously, so such right exists when one violates a NDA or company ethics. I really could not give a care to people who blog, just DON'T EXPECT ME TO BE SORRY for them losing their jobs over being stupid (i.e. Simonetti and Jen). At least Jen admitted responsibility for his actions and have found new employment.
Posted by BodegaBay (7 comments )
Link Flag
True for the whole Internet, not just blogs
The signal-to-noise ration on the entire Internet is bad. It's true of email, it's true of the web, it's true of P2P networks, it's true of Usenet, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn it's true of IM (I haven't used IM much since college, so I'm not sure how bad it is these days). That's hardly unique to blogs.

10 years ago, this would all have been about email, or emerging websites. And you know, someone would still be saying "all these websites just link to each other, there's nothing interesting, I'm sick of hearing about the web."

Blogs may be a subset of the web, but the pattern is very similar to the emergence of the web, from the initial explosion to the sudden arrival of media and commercial attention.

You know, I'm sick of hearing about this Internet thing. CNET, please stop writing about the Internet. It's all people whining about how much spam they get and copyright lawsuits. Sure, there are a few interesting sites on the web, but most of them are boring and the signal-to-noise ratio is way too high.
Posted by Kelson (64 comments )
Link Flag
BUT...
You have to admit they are onto something: Look how everyone uses blogs now. In fact, you just used a blog-type interface to post a message about how you hate blogs. Blog blog blog.
Posted by (2 comments )
Link Flag
signal to noise
Does the perceived signal to noise ratio of Blogs not apply to all human communication?
Posted by tennapel (22 comments )
Link Flag
Sick of Blogger Stories
Why is CNET OBSESSED with bloggers and their job situations? This is like the tenth story on a subject that has little relevance to the world at large! Stop it! We're sick of it! We're sick of bloggers. Most whine continuously either how much comment spam they get or how pathetic their lives are. The Signal Noise ratio is horrific! Yes there are a few out there that upon occasion show some insight, but there aren't many out there that show consistent, bookmark-able quality to keep you coming back.
Posted by 201293546946733175101343322673 (722 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree!!!
I totally agree with Bill on this issue. Blogging is overrated and a hype right up there with instant messaging, chat rooms, and online PC gamin. Remember those next great phenomenons? After the novelty dies off, it's really left for people who are dedicated to living their life on the computer while many people move on. Blogging, IMO, is colossal waster of time. Like Bill said, most of these people are incappable of writing, some are socially inept, and certainly most are w-h-i-n-e-r-s. Give them cheese!

I feel that C/Net is one of many media sources that is hyping this up to be a first admendment and freedom of speech issue with the recent firings of the Delta and Google employee. To be fair, C/Net has gradually change the tone of recent articles noting the other side of the argument (whereas in the first 4-5 stories were more of a "freedom of speech" 'tude). Obviously, so such right exists when one violates a NDA or company ethics. I really could not give a care to people who blog, just DON'T EXPECT ME TO BE SORRY for them losing their jobs over being stupid (i.e. Simonetti and Jen). At least Jen admitted responsibility for his actions and have found new employment.
Posted by BodegaBay (7 comments )
Link Flag
True for the whole Internet, not just blogs
The signal-to-noise ration on the entire Internet is bad. It's true of email, it's true of the web, it's true of P2P networks, it's true of Usenet, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn it's true of IM (I haven't used IM much since college, so I'm not sure how bad it is these days). That's hardly unique to blogs.

10 years ago, this would all have been about email, or emerging websites. And you know, someone would still be saying "all these websites just link to each other, there's nothing interesting, I'm sick of hearing about the web."

Blogs may be a subset of the web, but the pattern is very similar to the emergence of the web, from the initial explosion to the sudden arrival of media and commercial attention.

You know, I'm sick of hearing about this Internet thing. CNET, please stop writing about the Internet. It's all people whining about how much spam they get and copyright lawsuits. Sure, there are a few interesting sites on the web, but most of them are boring and the signal-to-noise ratio is way too high.
Posted by Kelson (64 comments )
Link Flag
BUT...
You have to admit they are onto something: Look how everyone uses blogs now. In fact, you just used a blog-type interface to post a message about how you hate blogs. Blog blog blog.
Posted by (2 comments )
Link Flag
signal to noise
Does the perceived signal to noise ratio of Blogs not apply to all human communication?
Posted by tennapel (22 comments )
Link Flag
Your reply subject line:
I guess a BBS is a blog, then. Hey everyone, Cnet is reporting on a 25 year old tech! Notice how news organizations use the term blog? Doesn't a blog lose meaning when just about everything electronic can be considered one?
Posted by 201293546946733175101343322673 (722 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Your reply subject line:
I guess a BBS is a blog, then. Hey everyone, Cnet is reporting on a 25 year old tech! Notice how news organizations use the term blog? Doesn't a blog lose meaning when just about everything electronic can be considered one?
Posted by 201293546946733175101343322673 (722 comments )
Reply Link Flag
where is the right to freedom of speech?
do we still have freedom of speach in this country or what???? After all has it been deleted from the constitution or what? A right to express your opinion on a subject or question should not be governed on whether the reply is right or wrong ,agreeable or not but rather on the facts and the truth whether you agree or not still does not give you the right to fire someone for there option of what they think on the matter just because you happen to be in disagreement. ps. if you are a loser then you are a loser so be it.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Freedom of speech
You have the right of freedom of speech. You have the right to end your relationship with your employer with any time (quitting).

Your employer also generally has the right to end its relationship with you (it's called getting fired).

It's pretty unreasonable to expect someone to pay you to work for them if you're, say, complaining about the company publicly.
Posted by declan00 (848 comments )
Link Flag
where is the right to freedom of speech?
do we still have freedom of speach in this country or what???? After all has it been deleted from the constitution or what? A right to express your opinion on a subject or question should not be governed on whether the reply is right or wrong ,agreeable or not but rather on the facts and the truth whether you agree or not still does not give you the right to fire someone for there option of what they think on the matter just because you happen to be in disagreement. ps. if you are a loser then you are a loser so be it.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Freedom of speech
You have the right of freedom of speech. You have the right to end your relationship with your employer with any time (quitting).

Your employer also generally has the right to end its relationship with you (it's called getting fired).

It's pretty unreasonable to expect someone to pay you to work for them if you're, say, complaining about the company publicly.
Posted by declan00 (848 comments )
Link Flag
blogger stories
I know there is alot of blogs out there about everything but this is everyones chance to use their creative thinking also. I enjoy blogging because it allows me to express myself and hopefully interest other people in reading it. If your interested in reading something with creativity and a story line you are more then welcome to visit my blog at <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://apowerfrombeyond.blogspot.com" target="_newWindow">http://apowerfrombeyond.blogspot.com</a>
and see if you still believe all blogs are garbage. thank you for your interest in advance
Posted by amber_red (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
blogger stories
I know there is alot of blogs out there about everything but this is everyones chance to use their creative thinking also. I enjoy blogging because it allows me to express myself and hopefully interest other people in reading it. If your interested in reading something with creativity and a story line you are more then welcome to visit my blog at <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://apowerfrombeyond.blogspot.com" target="_newWindow">http://apowerfrombeyond.blogspot.com</a>
and see if you still believe all blogs are garbage. thank you for your interest in advance
Posted by amber_red (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Emergency Legislation 1 Jul 2012

Politician salaries to be reduced for each job lost

Labor-hire and HR to be outlawed as a result of United Nations ruling on human rights abuse

Hiring managers obliged to hire at least 10% unemployed

Fines and jail terms to be imposed for discrimination and privacy infringement with respect to age, employment-status and history

Company owners, executives and families to serve 8 weeks per year in homes of lowest paid employees
Posted by Thiago20 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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