Censoring the Blogosphere: The Right and Wrong Ways to Respond to Criticism

We know that the world of media has been evolving as bloggers become more prevalent, and our methods of interacting with the media must also evolve with these changes. Some blogs (TechCrunch, Engadget, The Huffington Post) have become more popular than many traditional media sources, but many people are struggling to adapt to interacting with the blogosphere.


An example from the Washington Post about how NOT to respond to a blogger caught my eye this morning:

“Memories fade, but the Internet is forever.

Murry N. Gunty found that out the hard way this summer. Well known among Washington financiers, the head of Milestone Capital Management LLC ran afoul of bloggers for an attempt to censor a Web article about a 1992 incident in which he manipulated the election for officers of the Harvard Business School’s Finance Club.

The Harvard flap seemed like ancient history until Silicon Valley entrepreneur Mark Pincus — no relation to Gunty’s business partner — resurrected it.

‘I have nothing personal against the guy at all,’ said Pincus, whose original post included numerous disparaging personal remarks about Gunty. ‘I write about ethics all the time. It’s something I’m passionate about. If Murry had responded on my blog, the whole thing would have just ended there.’

Gunty or someone representing him sent an e-mail to Six Apart Ltd., the company that hosted Pincus’s blog, asking that the article be changed because it was a violation of privacy.

When a Six Apart staffer asked Pincus to at least remove Gunty’s last name from the posting, Pincus responded by posting the request on his blog — escalating the issue beyond corporate ethics to a matter of free speech.” (Quote from the Washington Post)

Needless to say, cover ups and censorship are not an appropriate response to the blogosphere unless you really want the situation to escalate and spiral out of control.

Blogs require a different approach to criticism. Tim O’Reilly’s lynching in the blogosphere over the web 2.0 trademark controversy provide an excellent example of how something can escalate out of control and still be diffused by the right type of response.

The best way to respond is with an honest and thoughtful (not defensive) comment back to the blogger on her blog along with an entry on your blog providing your side of the story. The response needs to come directly from the person (not someone on his staff). In order for this approach to work, the responder must admit to any mistakes and help people understand what was learned and how the situation evolved. This should be followed by clarifying any errors in the original post and next steps that the person is taking in response.

Approaching bloggers on their own terms through comments and posts on your blog create a conversation where the issues can be discussed and explored in the open.

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One Response to Censoring the Blogosphere: The Right and Wrong Ways to Respond to Criticism

  1. Geoff_Livingston says:

    I totally agree. The right response is to post something on your own blog, perhaps a statement on the web site, and depending on the nature of the situation (i.e. crisis) even a press release. The point is try to tell a factual side of your story, but asking people to remove content is not right. It is a personal blog, not a newspaper that founds itself on accuracy.

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