[M., this is for you.]

… suppression of speech or other public communication, which may be considered objectionable or inconvenient.

Have you ever paused before sharing something on the internet? Decided against posting a photo or a comment? Welcome to living out loud.

“Kate, I saw those dirty pictures of you online. Looking good!”, says a friend. “Thanks”, I smile coyly. This exchange is especially effective, when a third party, not privy to my racing endeavors, is present.  I quite enjoy watching their eyes pop slightly.

Numerous discussions on whether internet has killed privacy seem to miss the main point – internet never really had privacy.

In 2009, a public high school teacher was asked to see her principal after her European vacation. “Do you have a Facebook page?”, the principal wanted to know. The photo in question displayed Ashley holding a glass of wine and a mug of beer.

An anonymous parent sent an email to the school, complaining about her child’s teacher’s unacceptable activities online as well as promotion of alcohol use. Ashley actually used privacy controls on Facebook, thinking that only her closest friends could see it. She was given a choice: resign or be suspended.

Even closer to home: Matthew Dicks, also a fellow teacher, had to face what can only be labelled as a witch hunt, after an anonymous source compiled over 28 pages of strategically selected quotes from his blog, and delivered copies to every door in the neighborhood. Reflecting on my own blog, I shudder at the possibilities.

If you are a teacher, you can get fired or suspended over holding a mug of beer. May I suggest a career in politics instead? Because then you can really up the ante.

As every self-respecting Torontonian wants to crawl under a rock and never come out, I do not even turn on the radio any more. A girl can only handle so much crack cocaine in a week. [Now, there is a brilliant quote for you – ripe for misinterpretation, when taken out of context. Enjoy.]

The uproar over the lack of privacy is not new. In fact, the birth of snapshot photography in the late 19th century caused a number of similar concerns, after all, there was now a way to capture a moment in time. All kinds of questionable things could be immortalized on film. Private detectives and divorce lawyers rejoiced.

Long time ago someone made fun of the fact that I had over 200 friends on Facebook. “Do you even know them?”, he teased. I did.

After few years of travelling, racing, and now, blogging, my friend count grew. And grew. There are friends, acquaintances, relatives, colleagues, bosses, blog readers, and yes, some people I have never met, but interacted with online.

I’m a blogger. A persona somewhat public (and exhibitionist) by definition. Then again, when it comes to privacy, I am in a privileged position. I do not teach children. I do not work in national defense.

You have to decide what social media is to you. To me, it’s a public forum. Everything on Facebook (Twitter, LinkedIn), I assume is completely and utterly public and searchable.

“It only takes one person to copy what you posted, and it’s out into the wild”, we are warned. I take it one step further. I assume whatever I post IS out into the wild already.

In the age of the internet, we are all free to engage in the incessant barking into the universe. Sometimes, the universe barks back.

“I love to do the things the censors won’t pass”,
says Marilyn.

and, thus, I find myself starting my sentences with “and”
and doing other things I’m not supposed to

posessing biceps, triceps
and passion for debate

I drive stickshift
and others crazy

I fail to apologize
so unCanadian, but yet… refreshing.

And a questionable photo. Just to make a point. 

YOUR TURN: Have your “dirty” racing pictures ever made it into your regular life? What is your social media policy? Do you use advanced privacy settings? Only post certain things online? 


Posted November 14, 2013

3 responses to “censorship”

  1. Great post, Kate. The challenges of social media oversharing can be pretty complicated, and spill over into a host of interesting issues.

    From an employment perspective, there’s a fairly elaborate test for determining whether or not misconduct outside of the workplace can be disciplinable. (And then there are the cases where people post incriminating evidence on Facebook – an admission to having committed a crime, a photo of oneself at the ball game when supposedly home ‘sick’, etc., but that’s getting into a whole other matter.) People generally need to be cognizant of what they’re putting out there on the net, because it’s there forever, and privacy settings aren’t always as simple as they seem.

    For instance, there was a pilot working for an airline up north who shared on Facebook, “You know you fly in the North when…”, followed by a list which was extremely offensive to the airline’s First Nations/Inuit demographic. On another instance, a nurse at a seniors residence maintained a blog where she vented about work, including about the seniors and co-workers by name, often disclosing inappropriate confidential information.

    The more innocuous matters arise less frequently. I’ve seen the picture in the teacher case you referred to, and it’s pretty innocent…I’m quite confident that, in Ontario, publication of a teacher in such a way would absolutely NOT justify dismissal, and probably not any discipline at all. (Most of the roles that are more sensitive in that way – teachers, public servants, etc. – tend to be unionized, meaning that they get to grieve inappropriate discipline and seek reinstatement for unfair discharge.)

    So we need to bear in mind the kind of image we’re trying to cultivate on the internet, and be cognizant of what we’re putting out there…but with a bit of sense, and a recognition that what we put up is in the public domain forever, most of us are usually alright.

    What gets even more challenging, however, is that sometimes *other* people will post compromising photos on the internet. Imagine you’re a teacher, and someone tags a drunk party photo of you.

    The ultimate example of this is the Lori Douglas case: She’s a Manitoba judge, facing disciplinary proceedings at the Canadian Judicial Congress, and may end up being removed from the bench. (That’s exceptionally rare – the CJC has only done it twice before, to my knowledge. In both cases, the judges resigned before being fired.) Her crime? Her ex-husband posted pornographic images of her online.

    (To be fair, the fact pattern is a little more complicated. She’s being accused of using the photos to sexually harass somebody, etc., but from what I’ve heard it sounds like her ex was the real bad actor. Still, one of the disciplinary grounds at issue is the mere public existence of the photos. But did she do anything wrong, in that sense? Is it wrong to let your spouse take intimate pictures of you in a private setting? Is it her fault that her husband published them online? And people say that videoing Rob Ford’s drunken rant is an invasion of privacy.)

    Then there’s the recent case of the guy who hacked teenage girls’ webcams to take compromising photos of them, and published some online. Makes me glad I have a webcam with a physical shutter on it.

    That’s the real danger of the internet. Not that people will post things of themselves that harm themselves – that’s their own folly. The problem is that anything you do *anywhere* can wind up on the net.

    • SOLO says:

      Dennis, thanks so much for such a thoughtful comment. I absolutely agree about OTHER people posting pictures of YOU. That piece would be incredibly hard to control as there are cameras everywhere. So it seems that the only way out really is to live authentically, and make the same impression at a bar that you would in a regular life. Possibly the best argument to never get drunk to a point where embarrassing pictures would become an issue.

  2. […] Liked this post? You may enjoy my post on trans athletes in CrossFit and rabid libertarianism, or my musings on censorship. […]

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