Wednesday, October 29, 2003

the limits of free speech

Blogging is liberating: I know that, all my friends who blog know that; all the bloggers I don't know know that. But, there are limits to blogging. A little slip can cost you plenty. Take this example: Michael Hanscom, A Xerox contractor at Microsoft, is a frequent blogger. His blog is called Eclecticism. On October 23, 2003, he made a post titled Even Microsoft wants G5s, which included (a) information about where he worked at MSFT (b) a photograph of the loading deck at the place, and some presumably innocuous lines commenting on the presence of Macs on the MSFT campus. Nothing derogatory. Just simple observations. At 2 pm, on October 27, 2003, he found himself without a job. Although, the sensationally titled post Microsoft fires Mac Fan for Blog Photo spun off a long discussion thread, it seemed to overlook the key issue: This was not about Microsoft hating Macs. This was not about Microsoft hating bloggers. This was a simple security violation. It took on a different form, but (a) and (b) above comprised a faux pas that became fatal for Michael, in a "being employed" sense. It may seem drastic to third-party observers, but one could easily make a strong case for the higher-ups. And Michael does not paint a different picture either. He understood even then how bad it looked, and was ready to make amends. In utopia, he might have had a second chance. The ourse of action that MSFT adopted was unfortunate, but here's wishing Michael the very best in his search for a new position. The trackbacks on his posts offer mixed reactions, the most generally common being outrage at MSFT's action, which has been viewed as "hasty". Would the reactions have been less inflammatory if this had happened in a context other than blogging? Say a more private one?

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