I had to do something today that was very difficult for me. I deleted user-contributed content from a site I admin.

I feel very strongly for freedom of speech. I believe everyone has the right to an opinion* and that they also have the right to voice that opinion. Free speech is what a functional society must be based on, the open and frank discussion of ideas, of faults and of mistakes. If one person makes a mistake that harms someone, then everyone should learn from it. I commented on this on Mark Reeves‘ blog this week and I’ve made my position clear before numerous times.

Most importantly, this doesn’t absolve the individual from their responsibility to keep private information that should not be made public. For example, when I attend an incident and want to blog about it, I have to weigh up free speech against an individual’s right to privacy as well as my own professionalism in the approach that I take to whatever topic it is I’m writing about.

This week, a controversial topic has arisen on a website that I’m an admin on. There have been some comments made in public on what is essentially a private matter between two management groups. Although I don’t believe that such comments should be made public since the issue is an internal one and it’s not in the public interest to air it. What’s worse is that the comments that were made were immature, inflammatory and unprofessional. They managed to serve no purpose than to bring their own organisation into disrepute. After a brief conversation with the appropriate managers, a decision was taken to remove them – a decision I did not take lightly.

At the moment I’m furious. Removing those comments left a bad taste in my mouth. However, I cannot condone their behaviour and the comments were harmful to the entire organisation. What disgusts me most is that some of these are people that should know better. They are professionals and they have achieved nothing other than to inflame an already difficult situation and make themselves look like fools.

People should stop and think before putting fingers to keys. As someone once said to me “Don’t ever say anything on the internet that you wouldn’t say in an interview on TV.”

* When I say opinion, I mean just that. Opinions should not be presented as fact, and if you present rumour as fact you should be prepared to stand up and apologise as loudly as you shouted your fact in the first place when you’re proven wrong.


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