Monday, September 25, 2006

Jurisprudence slate.com column on blogs; concerns about unemployment claims


On Sunday, Spet. 24, 2006, The Washington Post ran, in the Outlook section (p B2), a column by Dahlia Lithwick, "Jurisprudence: Blog of A Death Foretold." The link is this, but the visitor may need a Post online subscription. The story was supposed to have been published on Slate, but I could not find it there.

The columnist brings up the point that many people who do not fit in and who feel hostile to social hiearchies or authority find psychological satisfaction by public self-exposure on the Web. (She talks about vampirefreaks.com; I'll decline to provide the direct link.) If they commit crimes, the police often use their Web postings as evidence. "And there are all sorts of legal implications in this explosion of virtual fingerprints -- not only with respect to solving crimes, but in terms of inspiring others." This brings up the enticement and coercion, and copycat problems, which have not yet been much explored legally in a passive setting.

Regulation, she points out, would be impractical and difficult (we know that from litigating COPA) when a social networing site like Myspace.com enrolls 230,000 new members per day (it has something like a hundred million subscribers). "As a legal matter, we still treat the Internet as though nothing on it is read."

Except by employers.

Wondering about implications for unemployment claims

When people qualify for state unemployment benefits and collect them, they must be actively looking for work. There are some guidelines. They may confine themselves to their field, and must accept as low as a percentage (often about 85%) of what they made. There are questions of temperament: if someone worked as a technician in the life insurance industry, must he/she consider a position as an agent if he/she doesn't consider sales as part of his/her mindset?

Here I would wonder if the presence of questionable blogs, personal sites or social networking profiles could become the basis for discontinuing an unemployment claim, on the theory that they would interfere with job searches, since employers have, according to repeated media stories in the past year or so, become well known for trolling personal sites and profiles as part of informal "background investigations."
I haven't heard about the potential unemployment compensation issue yet, but I wonder if that is the next shoe to drop.

(The picture here, for conceptual illustration, is the printing press at the Kansas City Star on McGee St in KCMO.)

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