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The Lines are Blurry

Posted on : 12-12-2008 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Social Media



The other day a Customer posted a comment to my blog about his Comcast experience. He did not realize that there were better ways to contact me or that it was not a place for discussing Comcast (for the record I prefer Customers email We_Can_Help@cable.comcast.com). I helped him out and we had a nice conversation on my ride home from work. I told him at the time that he inspired a post. He was not a blogger he just wanted help, and as always I am happy to assist. Based on the great work of my team I have been very much linked to Comcast. I realized this when I went to Blog World. The first night I was in Vegas I was invited to the TechSet party at Mirage’s Bare Club. I was really looking forward to have a good time with a few drinks. I walked in and the first person I met was one of the hosts Stephanie Agresta. I introduced myself and she immediately announced to the crowd around her how ComcastCares was in the house. This is when I realized I represent Comcast to many people.  I am not Frank but I am ComcastCares.

I still had fun that night talking with Brian Solis, Gary Vandurchuk, Tony Hsieh and many others.  At the same time I only had 2 drinks the entire night.  Not that I am the type that would have been running into the pool or doing anything crazy, but it is a weird feeling the moment you realize that everything you do not only represents yourself, but also the company that you work for, no matter the time of day.  I also tend to be working all the time because twitter makes it so easy to talk with great people about topics of interest, including the work that I do.   

The day that the comment was made on the blog, I already was thinking a lot about how blurry the lines are in social media spaces.  On my ride in to work I heard a news report regarding an appeals case involving Hermitage School District and a student who created a fake myspace profile for the school principal.  On the page he referred to the principal as a “steroid freak,” a “whore” and a marijuana user.  According to Philadelphia CBS 3, the student was suspended, put into an alternative education program and restricted from extracurricular activities for his actions.  This punishment is what caused the lawsuit.  The initial court ruled that since the activity was outside of school, the district did not have the right to offer the punishment.  What is really interesting is another case with the exact opposite outcome also in the appeals system.  It is another Pennsylvania case involving an 8th Grader who created a myspace profile of the principal.  The profile did not mention the last name, but it did have the picture of the actual principal and listed his job as principal.  I will not repeat all of the specifics, but he was described as having sexual activity in his office and hitting on students and parents.  The student was suspended and the court upheld the decision.  It is now being appealed with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union and a pro bono team from Drinker, Biddle & Reath.  They are claiming first amendment rights.

I find it interesting that 2 very similar cases with 2 different answers.  I am curious how the appeals court views both cases.  But this just shows more of the blurring that is happening.  In these cases it is home, school and social media.  I have to be honest, I am not sure how I feel about these cases.  The activity was outside of school, so it is something that the parent should discipline.  At the same time there does need to be a certain amount of respect for the principal and I am sure both caused some disruption at school.  Are these cases defamation of character or a joke protected by the first amendment?  Should the schools discipline for this or should the individuals being defamed sue the family?  Maybe nothing should be done.  To me it is a blurry aspect of social media.  If this was the press, the principals would sue.  Is social media any different?