“Prejudice is a great time saver. You can form opinions without having to get the facts.” – E.B. White
A week or so ago I received an odd email that was something between spam and legit. At first I ignored it but later felt compelled to open and read it. Perhaps it was the legit sounding from address or the subject of the message. When I opened I read a message from an alleged privacy attorney in the Boston area. The message author seemed to have read my blog for there were reference to it, by name and topic, in the body of the message. The author launched into an abbreviated lesson on online privacy and then oddly derailed into informing me they worked for a digital marketing firm that wanted to place advertisements on my blog. It was disjointed and off topic. At that point it read spambot to me yet since they had mailed me a few times, I did respond back and say “not interested, thank you”.
My response prompted two more emails from the individual explaining their digital advertising, fees, etc to which I responded a second and third time “not interested, thank you.”
Yesterday, a blog reader emailed me and asked about the possibility of filing suit against adoption bloggers for possible libel. The question reminded me of the earlier odd email from the person peddling digital adverts. It got me thinking, again, about adoption blogging, privacy, libel and our intentions when we blog.
Has anyone been charged with libel? Threatened with a lawsuit? Is the average adoption blogger even aware of online defamation law and how they may or may not be affected by it? Are you aware of the rights of that other blogger that you criticize when you are doing so and are you confident they are just ignoring you versus pondering bringing suit against you? I offer that I am conscious of this topic when I write but will admit to a definite lack of full legal knowledge. I don’t have the luxury of a fact checker or legal reviewer.
Some may be easy to shake this off and say “Gosh, Suz, that is ridiculous. Who would do that? It is just online conversation and opinion. Just because Mary Sue got thrown under the adoption blog bus for putting up pictures of her adoptling and was then excoriated for it, does not prompt a law suit. It is not that big of a deal. It is just conversation…just opinion.”
Is it? It may be that to some but if you unknowingly impact someone’s professional reputation or even their personal life because of what your “opinion” does it become something more?
Every now and then I get a private email from a conscientious person who feels the need to tell me that they are discussing me and my views, or a post, on some other blog or adoption forum. The message is most often crafted in such a way to suggest that the discussion of me is not complimentary and I should click right over to this online minefield and defend myself, or worse, engage in some sort of emotional warfare with the authors.
I never do. It is my practice to thank the person reporting the personal carnage to me for their concern and share with them my belief that we all have opinions and views – and rights to them – and I do not expect everyone to agree with mine. As much as adoption professional and prospective adopters want to believe all mothers and babies are the same, we are not. When adoptees project their mother on to me, I am not bothered. I am not her. I surrendered a child to adoption, yes. I did not surrender YOU. As such, any suggestion that I am just like the evil barfmother in NE tends to be ignored by me. It does not warrant a gathering of my cyber besties to go pummel the criticizer. Their words and actions say more about them than they do about me. This has been my personal view to date and it based on the fact that those that disagree with me, project onto me, aren’t doing me any personal harm nor are they individuals, opinions, I value so I disregard. They haven’t damaged my income, my relationships, and my ability to obtain a job. As my children say “H8rs gonna H8”.
But what if they had, say, damaged my job, reputation, livelihood, or less tangible, but equally important, my ability to connect with my child? What if I had been clearly harmed by the opinion of a stranger in adoptions strange blog land?
A quick Google search brings me to the Electronic Frontier Foundation Legal Guide for Bloggers. I cannot speak to its accuracy, I did after all find it from a Google search, but it is interesting to read and keep in mind – both for writers and those being written about by others. This page, The Bloggers’ FAQ on Online Defamation Law, “provides an overview of defamation (libel) law, including a discussion of the constitutional and statutory privileges that may protect you.” There are also numerous links to other sites that may provide helpful information.
It seems worth the read. If you have read it before, maybe a re-read. Refreshers are always good.
Off to read more myself.