Blogs offer new way to vent anger

Abbey Stirgwolt

Before the Internet, a person who was upset with his professor or angry with his best friend had several options: Confront the source, complain to a friend or don’t say anything at all.

Then technology presented a new option: blogging.

“You used to be able to tell people at recess, at the movies, with your friends … about your problems,” said Gary Daniels, Ohio American Civil Liberties Union litigation coordinator.

Now, blogging, Facebook, and online journals allow those who might not normally have the nerve to tell off their authorities the option of doing so for a select online audience.

The problem comes when nobody knows exactly how “select” the online audience will be.

Daniels said the Ohio ACLU office receives complaints about administration reviewing student blogs about once a month. Though, none of the complaints so far have gone to court, Daniels said the ACLU is willing to defend any case that demonstrates administration has overstepped its bounds.

The recent case of a California high school student whose academic fate remains in question after his school administration found threats he had posted on his MySpace site wouldn’t likely occur in a university setting, Daniels said.

So far, the ACLU hasn’t dealt with any similar cases at a university, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen, he said.

Sophomore exploratory major Erin Swift said she has heard of a few instances of Facebook censorship on the Kent State campus.

“I heard that people in the dorms got written up for having alcohol or drug-related issues on their Facebooks,” she said.

Swift said while authorities should be able to view students’ blogs, she believes blogs shouldn’t be used as a basis for incrimination.

Sophomore exploratory major Katie Appleton agreed, adding that often the content of blogs and Facebooks cannot be taken for fact.

“You don’t know if that (information) is true or not,” Appleton said.

School administrators aren’t the only ones logging onto Facebook. Swift said employers should have the right to review potential workers’ online postings.

“The hiring process is so expensive, they should be able to use anything they have,” she said, adding that employers can also save money from drug tests if they search potential employees’ blogs to see if the employees are involved with drugs.

Daniels said regardless of blog content – as long as it’s not libelous – it’s “really no different than telling your friends at the mall” and is able to be defended.

“Anything is fair game as long as it’s protected speech,” he said.

Daniels said the ACLU is currently reviewing “a couple cases” of teacher-student blogging conflicts in the Columbus area.

Contact technology reporter Abbey Stirgwolt at [email protected].