Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Big Brother Is Watching

Singapore, the nation that administers corporal punishment for acts of vandalism, is cracking-down on some potty-mouthed student bloggers:
In August, five junior college students who posted derogatory remarks about their teachers and vice-principal on their blogs, or online journals, were suspended for three days, the Straits Times reported.

Seven secondary schools and two junior colleges have also got tough on penalized students for making offensive remarks about teachers on blogs: one secondary school student who called a teacher a "prude" and a "frustrated old spinster" on her blog was ordered to remove the remarks.

Blogging, writing in online journals, has become huge popular among the young in tech-savvy Singapore, where over 65 percent of the city-state's 4.2 million people are wired to the Internet.

But with libelous blogs emerging as a hot legal issue, one has to be careful with what is written.

In May, a Singapore student shut down his blog after a government agency threatened to sue for what it said were untrue and serious accusations.

In September, three ethnic Chinese bloggers were charged in court under Singapore's sedition laws for making racial slurs against the Malay community on their weblogs.

Lawyers say students could be sued for defamation, even if a teacher was not named.

"As long as someone is able to identify the teacher, and it is an untrue statement that affects his reputation or livelihood, then the student is liable," lawyer Doris Chia of Harry Elias and Partners was quoted as saying in the Straits Times.

An injunction can be taken to get the student to remove the blog and issue an apology, she said.
Here in the United States, it would be highly unlikely that any educational entity (such as a university or school district) could actually cause a student to pull the plug on his or her blog unless the entries could clearly be deemed libelous in a court of law.

Even though freedom of speech doesn't include the right to yell "
Fire!" in a crowded theater, it does infer that public figures (and it can be argued that teachers are "public" figures) have to "take" a certain amount of guff from students and the public as long as it's outside the scope of our employment.

Realistically, I guess that it just goes with the territory.
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