What is more dangerous: censorship or self-censorship?

At yesterday’s seminar, the issue of liability came up (as it always does) with many agents worried that they could get in legal danger for content that they write on a blog. My summary of what Russ is able to say quite eloquently is that the type of content that is legally appropriate for an email or other correspondence is the same for a blog. In other words, if you’re not allowed to call a neighborhood “family-friendly” to a client in person or in an email, then you can’t do it in a blog. The take home lesson is that blogging is like all other business endeavors in that an agent needs to use common-sense when blogging.

While liability is interesting, I find the concept of censorship to be a much bigger danger for the real estate community. To give an example, yesterday someone requested that I take down a set of comments he had written (over a month ago) on RCG because the powers that be (most likely his broker) did not want him blogging. Considering his comments were part of a long dialog that was already read and commented upon by hundreds of people, the request seemed hopelessly short-sighted on the part of his broker. Nonetheless, I did make the changes he requested. But this got me thinking… There really are two types of censorships that are common in the way that the real estate industry operates online:

  • Censorship: When agents are censored by their brokers/industry
  • Self-censorship: When agents simply refuse to take part in an online community because they are afraid that the “powers that be” might not approve of their comments

Personally, I think self-censorship is the real danger in that agents don’t even take the chance to push the limits of what it means to create an online community. If the censorship is overt, the conversations over and an agent can either live with the consequences of not having an online “voice” or move to a new broker. But when the censorship is self-imposed based on a climate of uncertainty, I think agents will have a much harder time demonstrating the expertise that they can provide to their potential clients. It seems obvious to me that agents need to have a high level of freedom if they are going to differentiate and successfully market themselves online.