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Last Updated: Friday, 8 April 2005, 11:08 GMT 12:08 UK
Work bloggers offered guidelines
Computer
Blogging has taken off all over the world
Bloggers, people who have their own websites where they share thoughts daily, have been urged to be anonymous if they write about their workplace.

The advice comes from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a US digital civil rights group, which has issued guidelines for safe blogging.

The EFF suggest bloggers should be safe if they avoid identifying details.

Recent cases of workers fired for what they said on their blogs have highlighted the risks for some.

The term "doocing" was coined to describe being fired for one's website content after a US web designer was fired for her site in 2002.

"The point is that anyone can eventually find your blog if your real identity is tied to it in some way," the EFF explains.

"And there may be consequences. Family members may be shocked or upset when they read your uncensored thoughts.

"A potential boss may think twice about hiring you. But these concerns shouldn't stop you from writing.

"Instead, they should inspire you to keep your blog private, or accessible only to certain trusted people.

Blog sense

In November 2004, a US airline attendant calling herself Queen of the Sky was fired over "inappropriate images" on her anonymous blog, which identified her as a Delta Airlines worker.

A Google employee was also fired for what he wrote about the company on his blog.

Other cases have shown that companies are more aware of what their employees are saying on their own websites too.

Subsequently, some have been urged to set appropriate guidelines themselves for workers, but many others have not yet.

In the guidelines, the EFF describes blogs as "personal telephones crossed with newspapers".

The First Amendment protects speech from being censored by the government; it does not regulate what private parties (such as most employers) do
EFF guidelines
It warns that people are not necessarily protected under the US First Amendment, which protects free speech.

"The First Amendment protects speech from being censored by the government; it does not regulate what private parties (such as most employers) do," according to the guidelines.

However, it says there are cases where government employees are protected if they wish to blog about work because it is in the public interest.

It stresses that, even if bloggers do not intend for their blogs to be read by people outside their circle of friends, they can be found and read by anyone - including employers - unless they are made anonymous.

The guidelines suggest several ways to protect identity, including changing names, and using tools freely available on the web to protect anonymity.

Even details such as in which city a blogger's company is based should not be revealed, suggests the guidelines, and it advises people to avoid blogging while they are at work.

Growing popularity

But many bloggers specifically have their sites to highlight company wrongdoing, or political issues.

Many US states protect people from being fired because of political opinions they express in their own time.

Former Delta Airline employee's blog
Ms Simonetti's site was part-fictional and anonymous
But the EFF suggests that bloggers who want to raise cases of malpractice within their workplace should inform appropriate regulatory or law enforcement bodies of problems before they blog about it.

Recent estimates from the Pew Internet and American Life Project suggest there are about eight million US-based blogs, but some suggest the figure is much higher than that globally.

Blogging has become popular because of the growing number of services which offer free sites which are easy to set up, and which require little technical knowledge.

Technical developments like Really Simple Syndication (RSS), have also made it very easy for people to "subscribe" to a blog so that they are alerted whenever a new entry is posted.


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