• Blogs and Your Company
  • June 1, 2007 | Author: Marjorie McMahon Obod
  • Law Firm: Dilworth Paxson LLP - Philadelphia Office
  • The advent of blogging may further erode the application of the old saying "What you don't know won't hurt you." With the growing popularity of blogs, including company sponsored blogs, it is time for companies to consider adopting policies informing employees of its expectations with respect to information posted on either third party or company sponsored blogs. Blogs are websites where individuals can go to post or read opinions and information, often anonymously, on a wide variety of topics. You can expect that a number of your employees are active on blogs, and may well have their own personal blogs. It is estimated that there are more than 20 million blogs currently active in cyberspace.

    It is not unusual for employees to post information or feelings about their work on blogs, which are then available for literally the world to read. As technology and use of the technology become more commonplace, such as use of blogs, courts begin to hold employers responsible for what occurs in making use the technology, and ignorance is no excuse under the law. Although this activity may occur off-hours, and most companies avoid regulating off-hour conduct, the growing use of blogs may call for appropriate policies relative to this activity.

    The business issues that blogging implicates are many. First it is possible that confidential and trade secret information may be revealed on a blog. It is also not unusual that financial information useful to your competitors may be made available on blogs, or telegraphed by the posting of information relative to restructuring, plant openings or closings, etc. There may be unauthorized or illegal disclosures under the securities laws. Moreover, there have been several cases where blogs, or their predecessors, chat rooms, have been cited as creating or enhancing a hostile and offensive environment based on the comments about employees by other employees. In addition, employees may post highly critical and damaging information provided with respect to the workplace.

    In adopting a policy, it is important to notify employees of the expectations of the company relative to use of the blogs, such as making it clear that whatever they say is not said on behalf of the company; and that the employee comply with the various policies that otherwise apply in the work place including confidentially and trade secrets, harassment and others. Employees should be informed that they can be disciplined as a result of information they make available on the blog. Although regulation of behavior on non-work hours is a sensitive subject, where conduct significantly impacts or could create liabilities for the company, there is little question but that it is reasonable.

    It is important to do what you can to regulate behavior before it occurs. In one of the first cases to be decided on the issue, the Delaware Supreme Court recently imposed extremely difficult standards on a party attempting to obtain the identity of an anonymous contributor to a blog. Although the Delaware Supreme Court case involved criticism of a political figure, and therefore implicated First Amendment rights, other courts have required a demonstration, at a minimum, of a legitimate good faith basis for obtaining the identity of an anonymous blogger, which good faith basis can be fortified if the company has a policy in place regulating the conduct.

    If you are interested in checking what might be posted in cyberspace about your company, a good search engine for blogs is www.technorati.com.