I just took down a post, something I have only done four times previously. This decision, unlike the others, was the resolution of a genuine ethics conflict, created in part by the recent discussions here.
Tonight I received a terse demand, phrased as a request but with a time deadline,* from a former commentary subject insisting that I remove a critical post here from nearly a year ago. The post was not factually incorrect, nor did it make any factual assertions that could support a credible defamation claim. My commentary was pure opinion, though a fairly harsh one. I have pledged, following the inspirational example of Ken at Popehat and also attorney/blogger Marc Randazza, not to countenance web censorship involving bogus legal threats, and thus drafted and came within a finger-stroke of sending a rejection of the demand, and a strongly worded one.
Then I re-read the post at issue. It was a criticism of a tweet from a professional that I believed, and believe, had the effect of unfairly impugning an entire workplace and the identifiable colleagues of the tweeter. The tweet was wrong, but I realized that I was also wrong to highlight it here. I have been writing quite a lot lately about the inherent Golden Rule violation of web-shaming individuals for single and isolated unethical acts that fall short of illegality or such outrageous callousness or cruelty that there is a duty to warn others. I think there is a toxic cultural trend, fed by the power of the internet, that will soon make web bullies and assassins of us all, and potential victims as well. I want to fight that trend, not contribute to it. I think, in the case of that post, I was on the side that I now believe is the wrong one. It was a stupid and thoughtless tweet. It did not justify a web-shaming on Ethics Alarms. Continue reading