Bloggers a public menace?

The European Parliament has been debating on whether weblogs are good or bad:

"journalists face libel laws, whereas some bloggers behave as if they're in the Wild West. Bloggers will state things without saying where they got them from. And increasingly, blogs are used to promote products without making this clear". Thomas Burg, of, saw things very differently, saying "weblogs are not about content but about sharing, learning and connecting with other people". Blogs should thus be seen as free conversations between people who do not need to adhere to specific rules, rather than as news postings on the Internet. Aidan White, General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, vehemently disagreed, saying that a democratic society sets certain norms and standards which should not be thrown out of the window. He deplored the lack of a global legal framework to combat child pornography and libellous or hateful weblogs on the Internet.

This is so classic rhetorics... Equating child pornography and weblogs? Saying that bloggers don't have to worry about libel laws? (Then why has Jani of Mummila a court date set for his libel suit? The libel and criminal laws work on the internet as well as on paper.) Stating that bloggers throw out democratic norms and standards? Hell-o? What could be more democratic than the fact that all people can finally have an equal voice on the internet?

What freedom is it when people are allowed to say whatever they want, as long as it conforms to standards?

What is it about freedom that scares the high officials?

Have they done something wrong - something they do not wish to be uncovered?

Or is it just that the cheerful anarchy of the blogosphere hurts their aesthetic eye for law and order?

"People have little time and want to be reasonably confident that the sites they visit are reliable, whereas a lot of weblogs are tripe", said White. Considering that 90% of weblogs are about the daily life of the common person, does that mean that Mr. General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists thinks that the life of a common person is tripe? Perhaps people should not be allowed to write about their own life, because they are not experts and trained journalists? I mean, someone might actually mistake that for a real life?

What a dumb and horribly condescending thought.

(Thanks to Janne for the link.)


I agree with the sentiment, but when you write "What freedom is it when people are allowed to say whatever they want, as long as it conforms to standards?" I immediately ask myself: "Which standards?" I do think that blogs are a form of publishing, and that there is an incredible body of legal information that ordinary people are suddenly facing. I'm not sure what to do about it. Simplify the law? (I had to take down a pointer to a suspected Swiss wiki spammer because he was threatening legal action...)

--Alex Schroeder, 15-Dec-2005

I have no ideas whatsoever what standards Mr. White was talking about, but I would presume that these are the same standards...

The internet is not above the law, and at least in Finland the law makes no difference whether you are publishing online or offline. You can get a libel lawsuit if you are slandering someone in a newspaper, in a blog, or in a public pub.

There are already standards, which are called laws. Within these laws, people should be allowed to say whatever they want, without having to conform to some higher ideal of a "standard".

--JanneJalkanen, 15-Dec-2005

...unless they voluntarily choose to conform. That's the idea of journalist's code of ethics.

--Kari Haakana, 15-Dec-2005

Well, yes, it's all about the ability to make personal choices, isn't it...? :)

--JanneJalkanen, 16-Dec-2005

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