Chilly climate for blogging?

Lately I’ve been wrestling with whether I want to keep working on the Bug Blog.

When I started in 2005, there were few insect bloggers out there–now there’s a pretty good group of folks. And, I also have a new job, which is seriously cutting into my blogging time.

Then I see this: A scientist that blogs about autism and some of the thimerosol nonsense was subpoenaed for a lawsuit over vaccines, by a family claiming their child was damaged.

Neurodiversity is a science blog run by one woman with a passion for neurology and science. And now she’s been served with an order to turn over all her financial records, all correspondence with fellow bloggers, and a host of additional personal details, just because she blogged about a topic related to the case. And cited primary literature in the process, BTW.

That’s messed up. And it’s not the first time a blogger has been sued for doing something that is completely legal. It’s hard to not think about how close to the line I skate with my pseudonym, and wonder if it’s worth it.

17 thoughts on “Chilly climate for blogging?

  1. If I had to list the things that are most f*cked up about our country, I’d have to put the Litigation Entitlement Culture up near the top.

  2. Wow.
    If there ever is a time for folks to Digg.com or Stumbleupon.com or whatever to spread the word, this is it.
    It’s just so wrong.
    The mere fact that you are thinking of quitting proves the chilling effect a subpoena can have.
    I’ve “digged” and “stumbled” the scienceblogs.com post.

  3. It’s not just this suit, but all of them. And the consequences of being “outed” are getting higher. Some people know my secret identity–and one slip, and I’m in hot water. I tend to not pull punches on the blog. I’m fairly blunt about what I think, and I’m willing to tell people they are idiots.

    You may have noticed this :D

  4. EFF site has badges; after reading this, I just placed one on my blog. I found them here:
    http://w2.eff.org/bloggers/badges/

    (EFF’s goal is to give you a basic roadmap to the legal issues you may confront as a blogger, to let you know you have rights, and to encourage you to blog freely with the knowledge that your legitimate speech is protected.)

  5. That is sad, but unfortunately not surprising in this day and age. I try to keep myself as anonymous as I can on my site and I don’t even write anything particularly confrontational. My problem is someone finding out where I work. I write very positive things about my work experience, but you never know if someone is going to read something into what you’ve written that isn’t there. For that reason and a couple others I’ve decided recently to start a whole new blog that is even more anonomous than the current one. In the end though if someone wants to find out who you are they probably can. I hope you keep writing.

  6. I can sympathize with you BG. My blog is a direct offshoot of my business website, so I try to stick mainly to work related themes. (Trust me, there are times when I’d love to weigh in on plenty of other topics!)

    I think writing on a blog is similar to any other form of speech. You can’t say (or write) whatever you want – ask how Kathleen Turner feels today after her recent experience!

    You have tremendous knowledge, and with that comes perhaps a higher level of responsibility. It would be a shame if you stopped writing because of this. If anything this is when people with convictions need to hang on!

    Remember…anyone with a couple hundred bucks and a lawyer can file suit. It’s like the bogey-man. Scary, but kind of empty when you get right down to it.

    “Talents that are not shared are not talents!”
    :)

  7. Some of this navel-gazing on my part stems from my being indirectly “outed” to an online entomological community. The ESA isn’t all that keen on me to begin with, since I”m not a proper faculty member; having a blog where I routinely say certain folks are full of it isn’t really helping.

    Of course, it isn’t really anything I haven’t said to their face; and I also knew this could happen going into making an effort to be a more visible blogger.

    I’m sort of at a turning point in my career in a lot of ways, and of course I choose to work it all out in public :D

    And–”tremendous knowledge”?
    He he he he.

  8. I know how you feel. I’ve read dozens of articles about how anonymity is becoming unnecessary, or a thing of the past. But every time I flirt with the idea of stepping out from behind the mask of my online handle, something comes up that makes me think I should stay anonymous for a little longer.

    And I’m not even a scientist. This is just basic stuff, like wanting find employment or something like that, without being Googled, and having years worth of forum and blog posts being taken into account.

  9. Yes, “tremendous knowledge!”

    Think of it this way: your blog has appeal (to this reader anyway) because of the mixture of science, humor, and opinion that is unique to you.

    It ain’t just a “pretty picture” blog…although I’m a fan of many of those too.

    I’m sure all those elements would remain if you weren’t blogging, but fewer folks would see it.

  10. That’s really unsettling. I blog under my own name and reveal a bunch of personal as well as professional stuff. My blog mentions where I work (though my boss is one of my readers, so it’s not like I’m trying to hide anything here). Perhaps that’s just part of the lesson that I’ve taken from being a gay man in the scineces. Hide nothing, and the malicious folks have that much less to hold over me. Still, this gives me quite a bit of pause. I hope you keep blogging, yours is one of the high points of my daily read.

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