Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New Attempt to Regulate Blogs Won't Work

The Telegraph tells us this morning that a new regulatory body is about to be set up to police blogs and social network sites. The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee will make the recommendation in a report to be published tomorrow. According to the Telegraph...

Under the proposals, the new internet watchdog would operate in a similar way to other industry bodies such as the Press Complaints Commission, which enforces a code of practice for the UK newspaper and magazine industry, covering accuracy, discrimination and intrusion. The watchdog would not have any statutory powers to impose fines but would investigate complaints and most likely publish its decisions in instances when its guidelines have been breached. It is understood that it would also be able to order bloggers and social networking sites such as Bebo and MySpace to take down offensive messages or photographs.

A source who has seen the report said that the committee wanted to give the public "a form of redress" "At the moment consumers don't know where to go if they want to complaint about something they have seen on the internet," the source said. "The absence of any industry body is leading to a great deal of confusion and to widely differing practices.

"The idea is that a self-regulatory body like the Advertising Standards Authority would be set up to make sure that members, including, internet companies and search engines, subscribe to the code and abide by rulings."

I'd be interested in your views on this. In my view, self regulation works perfectly well. If someone makes a complaint to me about an abusive comment - or something I have writen which they believe is incorrect or offensive - I look it up and then decide whether to remove it, amend it or leave it as it is. If people don't agree with my decision they don't come back to my blog. It's a simple, free market, and it works. How on earth would this body seek to regulate avowed swear blogs or attack blogs like Devil's Kitchen?

The truth is that without a statutory base, any regulatory body which is voluntary will be toothless from the start. I cannot conceive that I would sign up to a regulatory code and I doubt many other blogs would. Because in the end, we would all ask: what possible benefit to us could there possibly be?

49 comments:

Anonymous said...

O dear dear. Another pointless report and jobs for the boys to follow. Get the xxxx out of our lives and try running the Country you total tossers.
freedom to prosper

Daniel Furr said...

I think it is very silly Iain.

I've never had to remove comments from my blogs - abusive comments can be reported if needed. I don't see the problem here.

If it's not broken..

Curly said...

Another case of see or creating a problem which isn't really there and then providing the "policy" to deal with it.

Anonymous said...

They can go f*** themselves.

Bloggers will simply move to offshore based servers beyond their reach.

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

This is the thin end of a very big wedge. After five years this new outfit will say, 'Unfortunately voluntary regulation is not working and we shall have to seek statutory powers... etc., etc.'

You know the rest.

Helen said...

"The truth is that without a statutory base, any regulatory body which is voluntary will be toothless from the start."

Well, I presume the aim is to introduce some sort of statutory control eventually. Can't have all that anarchy going on in the blogosphere, can we? People expressing their opinions and by-passing the officially sanctioned media? Tut-tut.

It won't work, of course. The internet cannot be controlled by governments. Even the Chinese firewall is not all it is cracked up to be. But it won't stop ourdemented rulers from trying. Gives the impression of constant activity.

Anonymous said...

Another case of seeing or creating a problem which isn't really there...

Hmmm...

http://www.shieldsgazette.com/news/Web-smear-probe-will-go.3649882.jp

JuliaM said...

Jobs for the boys, as 'anon' said...

"It is understood that it would also be able to order bloggers and social networking sites such as Bebo and MySpace to take down offensive messages or photographs."

And if they did't use Blogger, but hosted their own site (perhaps overseas)? What then?

"I cannot conceive that I would sign up to a regulatory code and I doubt many other blogs would. "

Me neither.

But they won't stop - they want to control the internet, and if they aren't seen off sharpish, they will find a way.

Arkangel said...

Surely, this is merely a ploy so that the great and the good can become immune to comment.

Anonymous said...

This is the thin end of a very big wedge. After five years this new outfit will say, 'Unfortunately voluntary regulation is not working and we shall have to seek statutory powers... etc., etc.'

You know the rest.


Never a truer word. At the risk of sounding like I have merely misplaced my tinfoil helmet, they are not doing this because they want to protect anyone, or because they want to make things better, they are doing it because they hate the fact that they have no control over it, and ultimately hate free speech.

Freedom of speech in this country has all but been destroyed by a raft of legislation all of which was sold to us as designed to protect us. The internet is the last bastion of freedom of speech, it is also a shining beacon of how sensible people are. For example, take racism, one of the most pernicious forms that attacks on freedom of speech has taken. If bloggers are genuinely racist then they fast find that the only people who visit are likeminded racists, and everyone else avoids them. But genuine debate of the kind that the left likes to shut down through accusation of racism thrives.

Benjamin said...

Like all your other contributors thus far, I think this is another stupid idea.

If I don't like the 'tone' of a blog or it offends my sensibilities in some way I have the ability to move on to a different blog or website.

Those who seek to regulate really should read Adam Smith - he understood that there are very few aspects of human life that are improved by regulation and that all would-be regulators claim they are acting "for the common good" but are, in fact, acting for their own ends.

Anonymous said...

I thought that Tim Ireland had already appointed himself to this position?

wrinkled weasel said...

It is another brick in the firewall.

All these complaints procedures do these days is to provide a platform for jilted. snubbed, passed over has beens to take a pop at the successful. Either that or allow the putative "victim" a moment of mock martyrdom.

Every time someone says "fuck" on television, some busybody has to write in and complain.

If you start giving these people an angle they will use it to vent spleen at best and be vindictive at worst. Revenge is very popular at the moment. Just look at the number of hate-filled women who maliciously cry "rape".

People who claim to be "offended", particularly over politically correct issues, are thought fascists and bullies. Don't give them the ammunition.

Lastly, if you don't like it, turn off and f&%k off.

Zeddy said...

***If someone makes a complaint to me about an abusive comment - or something I have writen which they believe is incorrect or offensive - I look it up and then decide whether to remove it, amend it or leave it as it is. If people don't agree with my decision they don't come back to my blog. It's a simple, free market, and it works.***

If someone posts something on Iain's blog which X regards as offensive to X, the fact that Iain, after thoughtful consideration, decides to leave it there is hardly justice.

As for the line that that no-one is forcing the complainant to read Iain's blog, the point is that the complainant probably doesn't want everyone who does read the blog believing something insulting about him.

How would Iain's feel if the Daily Mail printed the headline: "Iain Dale is David Davis' secret lover"? Actually, I suspect that Iain would quite like it but, if he didn't and complained to the Mail and the Mail didn't agree with his complaint, would Iain be happy just to stop reading the Mail? Might he not worry that, having read the Mail's headline, none of us would ever trust anything he ever wrote about DD again?

Think of all the time that would have been saved in the last few weeks if Iain had followed his own advice and simply refused to listen to what Iris Robinson said.

Pogo said...

Just the first tooth of the ratchet...

Martin said...

I actually smell the hand of the BBC at work here. They want to control as much of the internet as they can.

The Government also want control. The Government controls the BBC and hey presto.

Thanks to blogs we've seen through the lies and spin put out by the BBC and they HATE it.

ukipwebmaster said...

Another pointless idea from pointless people. The EU are looking at similar ways to control the internet and blogs.

BillyBoy said...

It's a bad idea.

Anonymous said...

This is a completely fantastic suggestion.

Do "they" not realise that "we" turn to blogs such as yours because the controlled media is so annoying because it IS regulated. The BBC will now NEVER recover from the Kelly/Gilligan affair afterr Campbell applied his own unique form of regulation. I am now conditioned to view everything they say in the light of that incident.

And the minute your blog becomes regulated then I'm off to pastures new.

Perhaps David Davis' stand on the issue of Freedom is necessary after all.

John Gillmartin said...

... without a statutory base, any regulatory body which is voluntary will be toothless from the start

trumpeter has it right ... on this side of the slough, politically-correct agencies such as this are designed to function without teeth for a few years, superficially, then, while all are sleeping, a statutory straight jacket is installed.

Look to Canada for a prime example.

Jilted John said...

If someone posts something on Iain's blog which X regards as offensive to X, the fact that Iain, after thoughtful consideration, decides to leave it there is hardly justice.

Why so not? If it is defamatory, they can sue Iain, and if it is found do to be, he gets taken to the cleaners. If it is not defamatory, it's their problem, not his.

How would Iain's feel if the Daily Mail printed the headline: "Iain Dale is David Davis' secret lover"? Actually, I suspect that Iain would quite like it but, if he didn't and complained to the Mail and the Mail didn't agree with his complaint, would Iain be happy just to stop reading the Mail?

No. Assuming - and I am - that it is not true then both Iain and Davis could sue for libel. And they would make quite a lot of money. Which is why the Mail wouldn't print that headline. You seriously cannot think that the two situations are equivalent? You are extremely ignorant of media law if so.

JuliaM said...

"If someone posts something on Iain's blog which X regards as offensive to X, the fact that Iain, after thoughtful consideration, decides to leave it there is hardly justice."

Fistly, there's no such 'right' to not ever be offended by anything. I believe the great Stephen Fry had a pithy comment on that subject...

Secondly, it's Iain's blog. His property. He gets to say what goes on it (subject to the libel laws).

Don't like it? Use those libel laws, if you can prove your case.

Alternatively, start your own blog, and say what you have to say about the matter. Don't just whine that the whole world won't revolve around you the instant you snap your fingers...

Anonymous said...

Yet another collection of the 'great and the good' setting up a quango to ensure their 'momentary slips' over expenses, etc, do not see the light of day.

Liz said...

Good lord. Not a pie out there without the interfering finger of government in it.

Nigel said...

What possible business is it of government what anyone publishes on a blog ?
Existing laws such as libel apply in any event. This is utter BS.
After the lack of outrage at the latest Eady decision - the second time that fool has ruled in favour of a knave - I'm beginning to wonder if anyone places much value on freedom of speech.

Guido Fawkes said...

Guido is self-regulated already thanks very much.

Anonymous said...

How did it take the interfering busybodies so long to come up with this idea? Another money grabbing QUANGO full of overpaid know all tossers - Just how long is it going to take these left wing liberals and fellow travelers to understand WE DON'T WANT THEM POKING THEIR NOSES IN OTHER PEOPLES BUSINESS - JUST LEAVE US (ordinary people) ALONE.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12.57 p.m

Spot on the money - you put it so eloquently. My input would include many f's!

Dangerous, controlling. I don't think many people get it - one day, you'll wake up to the fact you'll never have the chance to vote out the sitting government.

And democracy will die. What are you going to do about it?

Niccolo Machiavelli said...

Unworkable, and in any case there is no right not to be offended.

If it's libellous, of course, that's a different matter. People then have the option to sue.

This is the sort of typically idiotic idea that comes out when a Government has run out of steam.

Toby Philpott said...

Yet another attempt to "Sinofy" the UK. Before you know it they will start banning certain words as they do in China.

For goodness sake could the Government please just keep itself out of our lives as much as possible!

Just leave us alone for God's sake.

Not a sheep said...

It's about a) control/censorship, b) job creation in a new regulatory body and c) raising money through registration fees

Yak40 said...

they want to control the internet, and if they aren't seen off sharpish, they will find a way.


Another UN or EU agency in the making ?

Hillary Clinton was calling for "gatekeeping" and "regulatory" powers over the internet ten years ago.

Man in a Shed said...

Short answer to the new proposed regulator: Eat my shorts !

Slightly longer and more paranoid answer:
My guess is this is preparing the ground for a EU based crack down on blogging and freedom in general as the superstate becomes oppressive.

Still we can always have our sites hosted in China or Zimbabwe.

Arden Forester said...

Looks like I could be going to jail for both my religious beliefs (not agreeing with women clergy) and my blogging activity!

New Labour - New Frights
New Anglicans - New Doctrines

It's only liberal when you are a Liberal. Being a Liberal isn't very liberal.

Thatcher-right said...

How on earth would this body seek to regulate avowed swear blogs or attack blogs like Devil's Kitchen?
Obviously swear bloggers will be required to maintain statistics to allow them to prove they don't fall below the currently accepted levels of blasphemy and abuse (as defined by the watchdog in a 768 page document - not published online but available for purchase in 17 languages (including for some reason, Old Church Slavonic) from HMSO).
Mind you, I can sort of guess what DK's response might be!

Roger Thornhill said...

This is not about regulating blogs to protet the public, it is about regulating the blogs to silence exposure and ridicule of our Political Classes.

A pox on both their IP Addresses!

Casual Observer said...

Whoever thought of this ought to get out more. What arrant nonsense. You would think that they would have something better to occupy their minds as their rotten little party fades into oblivion.

Anonymous said...

Calm down, dear, it's only a select committee report!

(which, being translated, means that, as Iain in his less excitable mode might possibly acknowledge, it is a long haul from a recommendation in a select committee report - especially a committee with a Conservative chairman - being a) acknowledged as a good idea by the Government b) adopted as Government policy c) implemented this side of a General Election.)

ps - anons at 2.34 and 3.01: a select committee ain't a quango.

Matt Wardman said...

Hip hip humbug.

Blogs already have several forms of regulation, ranging from comments to self restraint to out already-draconian law if they need them.

>Don't like it? Use those libel laws, if you can prove your case.

That is the problem. You don't NEED to prove your case.

That's why we need to be going in the other direction.

Anonymous said...

'The watchdog would not have any statutory powers to impose fines'....'It is understood that it would also be able to order bloggers and social networking sites such as Bebo and MySpace to take down offensive messages or photographs'

I have always expected attempts at control to be initially structured on these lines. No lengthy legislation to be fought over. No public outcry. No Wail going on about political Maoism or the Great Firewall of Spode. And, as others have said, legislation when it 'doesn't seem to be working'

The other flank in this battle for control is being lined up in the new 'UK Council for Child Internet Safety'. Won't be anything statutory, well not yet, anyway. Rather, shady deals in private, quiet pressure on the ISP etc, all in the 'interests of the children' We will never know directly what is being suppressed and what we will know about will be the measures that superficially seem to be morally upstanding and 'right'.

Won't happen? Look back and see how much legislation and other action has been brought in, on the back of the most extraordinary, and often very flimsy foundation, and how many things are happening that adversely affect and curtail our liberties now, that we thought, or were told, could never possibly be the case

On this topic, our American cousins have got it absolutely right. Sometimes you have to pay a price, by protecting those you don't like, to ensure your own freedom

Problem here is that we're having to pay through the nose to give these people and people and their ilk the opportunity to restrict ours

Anonymous said...

Nigel said...
July 30, 2008 2:45 PM

'After the lack of outrage at the latest Eady decision - the second time that fool has ruled in favour of a knave - I'm beginning to wonder if anyone places much value on freedom of speech.'

In the States, 'freedom of speech' covers more than what you say and what you write. It covers behaviour too, and they are pretty hot, too, on protecting people's rights to go about their private, lawful business, without it being curtailed merely because someone else thinks that they are a knave because they do/are a (fill in whatever prejudices you might care to have).

Lots of folk fall at this first hurdle. You can't have it both ways.

AfricanMum said...

I agree with Yak40.
The establishment are worried people are getting info outside the controlled media. People are fed up of spin.
We can judge what we want to read. If anyone doesn't like the language on a particular blog, they'd just stop reading it.

Dave said...

Actually Iain I think this might be something we need to consider.
Take this article from Wired;
http://www.wired.com/politics/law/news/2008/07/autoadmit
The law is a messy and rather unsubtle tool in the above case. But on the other hand it's clear various posters have gone too far and morally, culturally I think most people would agree that's too much and they need to face up to the consequences of their actions.
So if we could find (for want of a better phrase) a third way, it might benefit all of us.
And a small example for you to think about, a while back you posted something about new research that seemed to question the consensus on Climate Change, climaxing in something like "imagine if this story confirmed climate change existed, you'd be sure it would be all over the Ten O'Clock news on the BBC!"
As I and several others pointed out at the time this story WAS featured on the Ten a few nights earlier.
You allowed the posts, but didn't correct your incorrect story.
It's not enough to sue you over, but perhaps referring you to an ombudsman might be a way forward.

JuliaM said...

dave: "You allowed the posts, but didn't correct your incorrect story."

Allowing the posts WAS 'correcting the incorrect post', you cretin. If Iain had vanished them out of existance, you might have had a tiny point, but as he didn't, you don't.

And even if he had, so what? Doesn't it just teach people that you shouldn't slavishly believe everything you read on the internet?

What you are asking for is a ruling body to be set up so people aren't exposed to 'wrong' opinions. And that's far, far to dangerous a road to go down...

Ian Deans said...

The benefit of voluntarily submitting to a regulatory code might be that bloggers avoid statutory regulation.

You know, like all the other voluntary standards organisations. Duh.

Anonymous said...

July 30, 2008 10:33 PM , Dave said...

'You allowed the posts, but didn't correct your incorrect story.
It's not enough to sue you over, but perhaps referring you to an ombudsman might be a way forward.'

But surely a blog is more like a conversation, a piece of opinion, rather than, say, a PhD thesis? I don't expect anyone I am chatting to, to run off squealing to some 'chat monitor' to whinge that 'XYZ said blah blah blah blah'. Nor do I expect to have to go back and formally say it all over again with, maybe, a participle corrected.

And I don't want to have any government appointed body telling me I can't share my opinions either. You are in really dangerous territory when you start to think that this sort of equine effleuent has real merit

JuliaM said...

"But surely a blog is more like a conversation, a piece of opinion, rather than, say, a PhD thesis? I don't expect anyone I am chatting to, to run off squealing to some 'chat monitor' to whinge that 'XYZ said blah blah blah blah'. Nor do I expect to have to go back and formally say it all over again with, maybe, a participle corrected. "

Blimey, don't give them ideas...!

Anonymous said...

People who stop the right of learning others views used to be known as book burners.Hitler was a book burner so if the cap fits Labour are the new book burners...Keith

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said: "But surely a blog is more like a conversation"

If that is true, then Nadine Dorries is the blog of a woman talking to herself....

Carl Eve