Andrew Piper from IBM’s WebSphere Solutions team is now enthusiastically speaking about how IBM is using social software and blogging, something he says has been driven by needs within the organisation:
"It’s a massive company… we have new people coming in all the time and it’s difficult for them to know where to start"
So, in Nov 2003, IBM started a blog directory for internal blogs and integrated with the worldwide employee directory and intranet security. Now there are 35,000 users and 10,000 blogs. The benefits are better and more effective communication:
"Rather than me sending out an email to my team… we could just have a team blog that updates what’s happening where people are… as I sit in a meeting I can use our internal twitter tool to tell people what’s happening, up to the minute… I can save and tag something using our internal bookmarking tool to make it available to others on my team…"
Like many companies, IBM started thinking about their staff blogging outside the firewall and, in 2005, published their corporate blogging guidelines. Andy feels that, far from discouraging staff from blogging publicly, the guidelines help to encourage IBM staff to blog outside the firewall.
"… industry analysts come to my blog… they know I’m a techie, not an executive, but they want to come to me, they want to hear what I think… and I’m on flickr and facebook and other social networking sites where (by being there) we’re building up a much stronger relationships (with customers) by using these sites… just because anyone can write and stick it up on the wall it isn’t necessarily a good thing… you need to engage in the conversations. If people comment on your blog post, you need to be prepared to defend it."
- commercial disclosure of confidential information
- harm of reputation or goodwill
- vicarious liability for violation of intellectual property rights
- FSA violations (the release of some financial data isn’t allowed under finance rules – eg. interim results; acquisition information; etc)
- harassment or other employment issues (corporate responsibility greatly expanded by Majrowski Guy’s and St. Thomas NHS Trust) – it’s worth noting that if allegations posted on an employee blog, it may constitute notice to employer which would require action
- libel (which I’ve looked at here at cybersoc.com)
- breaches of privacy rights (no UK case law here relating to blogs, but in US Washingtonienne case)
Cooper acknowledges that none of these are new topics at all, but blogging brings them to a new light and there aren’t many cases on this at all.
The biggest blogging related issue facing corporates? Employee blogs. You can’t monitor them all so maybe all you can do is set guidelines. Banning blogging probably won’t work and, Cooper says, "in both the UK and US there are cases against employers for unfair dismissal" brought by employees who are fired for the content of their personal blogs. So employers need to make it clear, within their employee blogging policies, what the risks are and that violation of the policies could lead to dismissal. It also, Cooper says, makes sense to discuss when blogging can and cannot occur (at work? when?), to require that the employee’s blog contains a clear disclaimer of corporate responsibility, and that specific types of content (confidential, financial data, etc) that should never be blogged.