What is a blog?
A blog, or Web log, is generally described as an online journal or diary where individuals can post their thoughts on a subject for the world to see and read. Many, however, disagree over the definition of a blog. Robert Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association, stated in an interview with the First Amendment Center Online that there is no clear definition of “blogging”: “[The term] is worse than useless because it is an empty vessel into which people can — and do — pour whatever meaning suits them at the time. … Blogging is writing.”
Does blogging raise First Amendment issues?
Just as with any medium of communication, blogging can implicate a variety of First Amendment interests. Some bloggers write material that others may claim is defamatory. There is also a debate as to whether bloggers qualify as journalists or reporters for purposes of reporter-shield legislation. Additionally, a looming question concerns the extent of free-speech protection held by public employees who post blogs on their free time. There is also a debate as to whether bloggers should be subject to campaign-disclosure legislation.
Can public employees be disciplined for the content of their blogs?
That is a difficult question. Certainly, public employers have authority to prohibit employees from writing their blogs on employer time. The trickier question is whether a public employee can be disciplined for expression created on his or her own time. One theory is that since the expression was created off-duty, then the employer has no control over such content. A key factor could be whether the expression causes a disruption at the workplace. A few courts, for instance, have disciplined employees for racist comments they have made off-duty. This is a developing area of the law that merits close attention.