Earlier, someone who reads what I write sometimes said I should be careful because those lawyers might really sue me and get my blog taken down. I told them not to be so daft and that I was sure what I had written was not actionable. As part of the following conversation about various things, they then said “If they paid you, would you remove it ?” I didn’t have an answer.
Last December I posted about when you would remove a post and glancing at it I can’t see a reference to cash. It just wasn’t part of the equation – this is blogging….but then I got thinking.
Some time ago I was asked about making ‘Posts for cash’ – Company name a product, gives lots of nice words and I blog it. They pay for that. Advertising. It’s just advertising with a different coat on. I haven’t made any such post – I’m sure it would be noticed – but the point is that I would be using a post for income generation. Make post, make money.
Let’s say I made a post about someone called ‘Bob’. (‘Bob’ is entirely fictional but for the purposes of this bit of writing I’ll going to say it’s Good Ol’ Cap’n Bob himself – Robert “I’m a thieving bastard” Maxwell). So I blog about Bob. Bob sees this and gets annoyed. Bob sends me mail threatening to sue me into the Poor House, remove all my sites and bring the whole Internet to it’s knees unless I remove the post (from what I’ve read, that’s what he was like). Bob’s lawyers then tell him that such threats cannot be made, and that the post is not actionable. But Bob wants it gone. So he offers me money to make the post go away.
I am not asking for money.
I have not committed libel at all.
I have not broken any laws at all.
And he is offering me money to remove (delete) a post.
Now where’s the harm in that ?
If you read the post I linked to above, you will see that I and others feel quite strongly that posts should not be removed. But the situation with Bob has now changed. He is not asking. He is offering me money. He is offering me money in return for a favour. Arguably he is trying to sway my ‘editorial policy’. (Which is perfectly fine for every single major newspaper. I find it amusing that they have “Editorials” to try and indicate that what is in that bit is an opinion and different therefore with the rest of the paper which is based solely in Fact). And when it comes down to it, it’s income generation.
Get paid to make a post.
Get paid to remove a post.
Hmmm…… the first of the above is generally frowned upon by people unless the ‘sponsoring of the post’ is very clear, along with the terms. (It’s like ads I see on blogs. “Sponsors” it says. Okay.. call it whatever – it’s still an ad). (maybe it isn’t like “Sponsors” but either way connections need to clear to all) But the first of the above is fairly harmless.
But the second seems to be very dodgy territory indeed. Arguably one could make posts which dance on the line of libel and do so waiting for the cash to appear. This assumes a few things: (1) that the company / person you are blogging about actually give a damn about the internet (2) that you can get the results high enough in google for it to be seen (3) that no-one else picks up on what you are doing because a diluted threat is no threat at all. So as the blogger the things you need to have in place are fairly high targets. Back to Bob. I say to Bob “Sure mate, we’ll meet at the pub and discuss it”. Now no matter what I agree to, be it 1p or £1000 don’t you think he would try some sort of extortion-type charge ? Try – I didn’t say win, just try.
In fact, if he sent an email saying “Would you consider deleting that post about me if I paid you” then unless I reply with an emphatic NO he could say the extortion started there – because there was a price put on it. But we all have our price.
But then it’s just blogging and as much as might like the self-publishing game it’s not hugely important is it ? (It’s a blog, not life support) so the lofty goals of extortion and libel would seem to be a very long distance away.
Do I have a price ? Yes.
Do I know what for ? No.
Is what I’m talking about a crime ?