My life there and afterwards

Archive for October, 2015

Public Writing

There is no real protection. In America anyone can sue anyone for anything. They may not win their case, but they can open one against you, and guess what, you have to pay your lawyer.

Whatever you write is public. All your emails are public. Even after you delete them, they are on a Google server somewhere. Google is a private company. The law can subpoena them to provide your emails. It’s up to Google, not you, how they respond to that. Your texts are public and can end up in court. Your written letters are public and can be subpoened.

A phone call didn’t use to be recorded. You can be called upon to try to remember, and to give the gist of your phone conversatons, but everyone knows memory is not infallible, and you can only do your best with it.

If you send off a draft of an article, or whatever, to a journalist, or a book company, or anywhere, even to a friend, it is in the public domain and can end up in court. Did you think it was only a draft, and it was meant to be edited before it got published? No protection there. The unedited draft can be used against you if you were not careful and named names or said anything that can’t be proven.

We do still have freedom of speech, but think before you write.

Oh yes, what I receive in written form is also in the public domain. Did a friend write me in confidence and ask me to not publish it? I have regretfully found out that the fact that you emailed it to me makes it already public. I will certainly keep it in confidence as far as my actions are concerned, but again, Google still has it.

Anonymity certainly helps. I’ve been told by reporters that people can tell their stories anonymously, but I do not know what the law says about their right to not reveal their sources. We know from popular media that sources are sacrosanct and not to be shared, but I don’t know how the real world works.

One thought in our favor is that organizations, groups, leadership, usually do not want the spotlight and probably will take no action publicly as an entity. However there is always the possibility that an individual within a group may take action in the hopes of shutting us up.

Freedom of Speech

I’ve been doing a little reading about freedom of speech. More is allowed than I had realized. Public figures are expected to be in the public scrutiny, so even caustic remarks are allowed. Private citizens are more protected from harm to their reputations. Intent is important. A charge of Defamation has to prove that the statements were made with the intent to harm.

“Defamation law tries to balance competing interests: On the one hand, people should not ruin others’ lives by telling lies about them; but on the other hand, people should be able to speak freely without fear of litigation over every insult, disagreement, or mistake… A defamatory statement must be false…People who aren’t elected but who are still public figures because they are influential or famous — like movie stars — also have to prove that defamatory statements were made with actual malice, in most cases. ”