Taking Down Posts Doesn't Work

I don't know much about the new Technorati fiasco, but I think what's amazing is the staff at Technorati's complete boneheadedness about a main tenet of blogging: asking an employee to take down a post (or simply pressuring them to do so) is an act of censorship.

Now, that may not always be the wrong thing to do. There are definitely cases when a company just can't have a post stand as is and really does need an employee to remove it - I can imagine problems with the SEC during a quiet period, for example, or a personal attack against a coworker. But the fact is, once a post is out there, it's out there. Asking your employee to remove that post is now a Big Decision not to be taken lightly. The reason the Mark Jen firing got so much attention was not only that it was Google, but because they had him remove posts. It was an act of a company censoring an individual and pretty much all of us agree that's bad.

Dave and the gang at Technorati should know this! I'm amazed at what I'm reading this morning. The conversation should've been about future posts, and re-asserting the separation of the employee's writings from Technorati policy. You can't go back in time and erase a post in the blog world, it just doesn't work - there's no undo in the blogosphere.

If you ask your employee to take down a post, you better have a *damn good reason*. Even putting pressure on your employee so that they feel they should take down their post is un-pardonable. Once it's out there, it's out there. It's cached by the Search Engines (unless they remove it from the index like the increasingly evil Google did with Mark Jen's posts), and it's also cached by all the aggregators in the world. Companies can't take posts back, and they look like morons trying to think they can. Really, they're just calling attention to their boneheadedness rather than solving the root of the problem.

Welcome to 2005. Every company needs clear and fair blogging rules. And every employee needs to agree to those rules or go find another job. Y! is actually producing blogging guidelines now. If I don't like the guidelines when they're produced, I'll quit. Period. If someone ever asks me to take down a post because of nothing less than their fear of how that posts reflects on the company, I'll quit. Period. And the rules need to be more than "check with your boss" (bosses will always say "no" when in doubt) or "don't post about our industry" which is the worst thing in the world for a company to do. Look at Jeremy praising Google's Desktop product. That's a very good thing. Imagine if Jeremy had to check with his boss? It wouldn't have been published. No, blogging guidelines rules need to be clear and fair to both the employee and the company. As long as you make it understood you don't speak for the company, and are not breaking any SEC filings you pretty much get to say what you want on your own blog.

What happens when someone agrees to a fair set of rules and then still posts something which is against those rules? For example, I write about some unannounced product, or personally attack a coworker by name? Well, the company has a few choices, but none of them are "take down that post" unless, again, it breaks some law or regulation somewhere. If not, the company can punish the employee (some sort of probation) or let them go. But trying to take back a post is not an option, because again, it just doesn't work.


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