In a recent column on his Web Informant blog writer David Strom related the story of another blogger, Bill Frezza, who pens the blog Menckenism. The tale began when Frezza revealed to his insurance agent that he is a blogger. The agent called him back the next day to tell him that his [$3 million umbrella insurance policy] through Ameriprise would be cancelled in the next ten months. Why? Because Frezza is a blogger!
Blogger Bill Frezza
Astounding. It seems that Ameriprise was concerned about the possibility of Frezza being taken to court for slander or libel and that they then might have to pay under Frezza's umbrella policy. Strom quotes Frezza:
"... you would think I could get a waiver releasing them from slander and libel claims as I really do want the rest of the coverage ... I guess I should have never volunteered that I was a blogger. But I never thought there would be an issue. Ameriprise told me that if they knew I was a blogger when I signed up for a policy, they would have never given me coverage."
This is interesting because the number of people now blogging is staggering: For example, Tumblr.com has 139.9 million blogs, WordPress.com 71.1 million blogs, and Livejournal claims some 62.6 million blogs. While the majority of these blogs aren't professional or, in many cases, even active that means there's still a huge number of people who could find themselves facing a law suit because of something they blog. Then there are all the people who blog on publications (such as Network World) as freelancers (such as me) who probably aren't legally covered by the publication in the way staff members would be. You have to wonder whether Ameriprise's fear of blogging could extend to other insurance companies.
Sure, slander, libel, and defamation suits are rare but even dealing with threatened action can be expensive unless you're willing to apologize and or remove the offending content or you're going to be very brave and ignore the aggrieved party in the hope they will just give up and go away. If neither of those courses are palatable then it's going to get spendy and you'll have to make sure your umbrella policy is good to go.
The moral of the story: Don't tell your insurance company anything more than they absolutely have to know. And don't tell them you're a blogger.
[Corrected to make it clear that Ameriprise cancelled only Frezza's umbrella policy and not his home insurance]