Sunday, July 23, 2006

Student fined for anonymous comment on his blog

On Saturday there was an article published in el Pais (in Spanish of course)about a student who has been find 400 Euros (200 acording to the electronic edition of the newspaper) because of a comment published on his blog.

Ivan Fresneda wrote about his college, saying that it was incoherent and absurd, complaining about the lack of newspapers in his school, and was extremely critical of the methodology of his Philosophy teacher.

Now Ivan has been taken to court and fined because of threats to the Philosophy teacher that were published in the comments section of this blog post. Although the comments were published anonymously, Ivan has been held responsible because it is his blog, and he should have let the comment be published.

Obviously, this has repercussions for bloggers everywhere, who could potentially be held responsible for comments published anonymously on their blogs, and is also related to the cyber-bullying incident I wrote about recently.

At the very least, we need to ensure that comments on student blogs are moderated before they are published, and now it's not just because of the threat of spam.


  1. Graham wrote > "At the very least, we need to ensure that comments on student blogs are moderated before they are published, and now it's not just because of the threat of spam."

    I'm afraid I must disagree. On the one hand, I see a need to make students aware of the potential consequences of their actions, and allow them to act responsibly or with knowledge of those consequences. On the other hand, I see a problem with the institute taking such a hard line with this student's feedback. Don't we all blog under the impression that we have certain freedoms of expression? If we agree, or disagree, with the policy or procedure of the institutions to which we belong (including such institutions as our government), do we not expect the freedom to speak our mind?

    What will become of the principles of democracy if we teach our students that their thoughts must be sanctioned to be valid? Furthermore, if a teacher allows a comment to be posted that their institute (or another party) later claims is over the line, does that teacher, or their institute, then become liable for the publication of the student's comment?

  2. Hi Leonard

    If it were a trivial comment, then I'd agree with you, but this is a teacher being threatened. I agree too that the reaction was excessive, and that he should have simply been asked to remove the offending comment rather than prosecuted (and suspended from school, etc).

    I believe this about threats to teachers because I've worked in an institution where teachers have been verbally threatened by students and seen the effect this has had. In this case, the establishment did take action, and suspended the student, which I think was the right thing as it sent the correct message to the other students in the school (behaviour like this is not acceptable) and so far it has not happened again.

    I'm all for freedom of expression through blogging, and I'm more than happy to see criticism of the school, etc wasn't the reason why Ivan was taken to task about this. However, when freedom of speech interferes with basic rights of other people (this is a form of cyber bullying, remember), then I'm not so sure we should allow anything and everything to pass without comment.

    Where would you draw the line? Would you let all comments on your own blog go uncensored? Wouldn't you erase those which were racist, or which incited hate or threatened someone you knew with physical harm?

  3. Allow me to disagree, Graham.Leonard makes a point when he says the institute took a hard line with the student.

    I must admit I have not read the offending comment but I do not think we should censor comments (though I would delete spam) but prevent people from posting anonymously.

    If unpleasant or threatening comments are made, a balanced answer should be provided repelling the attack.

  4. But, Bee...Does that mean you wouldn't censor any comment even if it promoted racial hatred, for example, or was clearly offensive to a person/group of people? And then what about blogs for Young Learners.

    Of course, I agree with you in principle, but not in every case. What if the person writing the offending comments kept coming back and writing more? I'm sure there'd be a point where you'd have to draw the line.

  5. Please post your experiences on EFL schools on the TEFL Blacklist.

  6. this is pretty bad...shows a lack of understanding of blogs, the way they work, the people who work with them and the people who use say that an owner of a website or blog has to absolutely ensure that no offensive or "illegal" comments are made is a mockery of logic...does that mean that if someone sprays graffiti on the courthouse and writes smth offensive about the city's citizens that the court can be fined for each day that it is not removed?...