Week 8: Blogosphere—To Censor or not?

When I had a vacation job, I had to sign a contract to keep trade secrets secret. Hence, I often self-censor myself when I whined to my friends about my job in case I spill the beans accidentally. This was especially so when I worked as a clinic assistant in a hospital’s urology department. Patients’ conditions must be kept confidential However, I often liked to joke about how men came in and asked for Viagra and consulted the doctor on their sex life. They often talk in softer tone when I am around and I was once asked to leave the consultation room for the patient’s privacy.

The contract was to prevent me from divulging any trade secrets. However, what if I am a whistle blower who discovered some malpractice in the hospital and work with a journalist to break this news story in the form of collaborative investigative journalism? I am breaking the terms of the contract and will face legal actions, yet what I do will benefit the public. There must be some sort of legal protection for the whistleblower for the collaborative journalism idea to work. Or do so anonymously. This brings me to the point on privacy issue.

Privacy is often valued by Americans, yet for the blogosphere to be seen as a credible source, internet veteran Jamais Cascio said that some form of social change has to be made to reduce the threat arising from disclosure of personal information. How can we achieve this state when privacy rights are so prized? Are we willing to sacrifice some privacy for open access to information?

Personally, I am reluctant to. I don’t want the whole world to know what I am doing. Like how Marian Lu does not divulge too much personal information on her working blog vs her personal blog, a line of balance needs to be drawn. However, I am more concerned about what Gilmor said about government surveillance on the Internet.

This concern, which often leads to heavy self-censorship, stemmed from my experience in Singapore. A few years ago, a student was charged in court making racist remarks against the Muslims on his blog. The daughter of a politician was made to do community service for discriminating against the poor and making elitist comments on her blog. Closer to heart, a student in my high school was disqualified from running for the student council elections after badmouthing the election committee on her blog.

However, free speech does not mean irresponsible speech. We self-censor because we are afraid of the consequences. Given that the blogosphere serves as a feedback system, the government, in my opinion, can take a back seat in surveilling the Internet.

1) How does the blog insurance work and what are the costs and benefits of having one?
2) What do you think are the guidelines that should govern what a blogger should and should not write?


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