Tim Russo (Blogger Interrupted) and I disagree on whether a private individual's email should be posted, without the individual's consent, on a blog.
Russo twice interviewed a woman who previously appeared in a brief television film clip about Ohioans' views on Obama, and subsequently published her email. I expressed reservations, which prompted a subsequent post from Russo, in which he wrote:
Such hatemongers, like Joy, thrive in an environment where they get to spread their lies without fear of being exposed as liars. That’s why she talked to Channel 19. She, like most Americans, is used to media being a one way conversation, in which you can spout your crap with complete certainty that it won’t come back at you... .
And then Russo repeats the woman's email address and encourages his readers to "write to Joy and continue to correct her lies". He further plans to publish all recipients of the chain emails. And thus I have two problems with his position on publishing email addresses.
- Russo's publishing a woman's email, which she gave him in the course of an interview, and encouraging his readers to write her. My problem with that? She didn't email him, but repeated her thoughts on a video interview that he sought out.
- Russo, and his colleague Eric Vessels of Plunderbund, are publishing not only the senders of smear emails, but the recipients, too. My problem with that? Russo and Vessels are painting all the recipients as equally complicit in spreading the smears. If I had a dollar for all the loony emails I've received (on autism, on political issues far and wide, on dodgy urban myths) -- well, I'd be rich. But I can't think of one I've agreed with.
What do you think? When is it ethically correct to broadcast a person's private information? Is it different when someone is circulating untruths and lies?
The whole story came about as a way of fighting smears. So my question is, what's the best way to fight smears?
Below the fold, the back story.