Thursday, September 04, 2008

EU Mounts Another Attempt to Regulate Blogs


Some time I ago I warned that that the EU had aspirations to regulate blogs. I suppose in the back of my mind I didn't really think it would amount to anything. Sadly I was wrong. Dan Hannan reports today that a group of Euro MPs has issued a report. Paragraph O states...
O. whereas weblogs are an increasingly common medium for self-expression by media professionals as well as private persons, the status of their authors and publishers, including their legal status, is neither determined nor made clear to the readers of the weblogs, causing uncertainties regarding impartiality, reliability, source protection, applicability of ethical codes and the assignment of liability in the event of lawsuits.
They don't seem to like blogs or even understand the concept of blogging, do they? Recommendation 9 says...
Suggests clarifying the status, legal or otherwise, of weblogs and encourages their
voluntary labelling according to the professional and financial responsibilities and
interests of their authors and publishers;
We all know that 'voluntary' soon becomes 'compulsory'. My label is the title of my blog. That is quite sufficient, and I don't need some faceless Eurocrat to tell me otherwise.

Dan Hannan says...

Bruno Waterfield
recently reported on a secret Commission report about the danger posed by online libertarians: "Apart from official websites, the internet has largely been a space left to anti-European feeling. Given the ability to reach an audience at a much lower cost, and given the simplicity of the No campaign messages, it has proven to be easily malleable during the campaign and pre-campaign period."

The EU's solution? Why, to regulate blogs! Back in June (hat tip, EU Referendum), MEPs began to complain that unlicensed blogs were "polluting" cyberspace with "misinformation and malicious intent". They wanted "a quality mark, a disclosure of who is writing and why".

At the time, I dismissed it as the ramblings of a single dotty MEP. Not even the European Parliament, I thought, would actually try to censor the internet. I was wrong. We now have the full report and, sure enough, it wants to "clarify the status, legal or otherwise, of weblogs", and to ensure their "voluntary labelling according to the professional and financial responsibilities and interests of their authors and publishers".

With a glorious lack of self-awareness, the Euro-MPs behind the report elaborate their motives: "The report points out that the undetermined and unindicated status of authors and publishers of weblogs causes uncertainties regarding impartiality, reliability, source protection, applicability of ethical codes and the assignment of liability in the event of lawsuits. It recommends clarification of the legal status of different categories of weblog authors and publishers as well as disclosure of interests and voluntary labelling of weblogs."
This way lies madness. I'd rather give up blogging that co-operate with these wretched, obsessive regulators. Of course, I wouldn't have to give up at all, seeing as my blog is hosted in America. They really don't understand the internet, do they?

Europhiles will now, no doubt, accuse me of scaremongering, and point out that it's only a Parliament proposal and has now to be agreed by the Commission and the Member States, and in all likelihood won't get very far. I'm too old to fall for that old trick. Perhaps I'd better start lobbying Tom Watson!

45 comments:

Not a sheep said...

The EU will introduce legislation to licence and then censor blogs. The EU is no friend of free speech or liberty. However we should all beware criticising the EU too much or we may be charged and convicted in Brussels and sent there to serve out our sentence. Welcome to the brave new world of the EU empire.

strapworld said...

Iain,

Perhaps, now, you may realise why some of us are so anti EU but NOT anti europe!

The EU is a communistic organisation. Undemocratic and unaccountable. Its accounts have NEVER been signed off. It is a corrupt organisation.

It makes me wonder why intelligent people, such as yourself, have been supporting such a body.

This is the first step to banning blogs! Remember that the EU want to make it an offence to criticise the EU!

Lola said...

Blogging is Freedom. With a capital F. Freedom is anathema to 'efficient' i.e. easy to carry out and unchallenged, bureaucracy. Therefore Blogging and bureaucracy = oil and water.

Anonymous said...

I think if someone published something libellous in your comment section and the person concerned went on to try and sue you Iain, you might feel differently about the need to clarify the status of blogs.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

What makes me very angry indeed is the presupposition that it is any of their effing business. Am I Eurosceptic or am I Eurosceptic? Too right I fecking am.

The internet is my world and my right, and you can have your way, when you prise the keyboard from my cold, dead hands.

Anonymous said...

no surprises here. It's not a european matter either but a state machinery / bureacracy one. Authoritarians everywhere are quick to condemn the internet because they can't control it.

If ever a man deserved the thanks of libertarians everywhere it is Tim Berners-Lee.

David Boothroyd said...

"A group of MEPs" is not the same as "the EU". It also strikes me that one aspect of clarity which might be achieved on this, pace Harry's Place's recent trouble, would be to establish that the legal liability for what is written on a blog, or on a comment on the blog, is solely on the author and not on the webhost. That's what clarifying the assignment of liability means.

'Voluntary soon becomes compulsory' is a vanishingly weak argument. It's also dubious that the EU has the power to bring in compulsory legislation on this subject.

Al said...

I don't make any money from my blog, virtually noone reads it anyway and I am careful to never write anything close to libellous. Unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

I think that Blogs have had it coming for a while though.

Surely blogs should live up to the rules of print?

archroy said...

Don't you think it's rather odd that someone defending the EU's proposals recommending "clarification of the legal status of different categories of weblog authors and publishers as well as disclosure of interests and voluntary labelling of weblogs" should comment anonymously? (5.25 pm)

Henry Rogers said...

Iain,

At a guess, though lawyers will confirm or deny, even if your blog is hosted elsewhere it would be only too easy for the EU to devise legislation, which member states would be bound to enact, by which your editorial activities in UK could become criminal. Free the Diary One!

Roger Thornhill said...

Prepare for re-educational camps.

jeremy said...

Unbelievable as it may sound Iain, expect some of the lefties who comment on here to support this incursion into blogging freedoms. They just cannot seem to countenance any opinion that runs counter to their world view.

Anoneumouse said...

I already have a quality mark, a disclosure of who is writing and why.

What more do they want?

tapestry said...

The blogs hurt them in Ireland, shaking them to the core.

If only we'd had blogs in 2003, I doubt Blair and Campbell would have got away with the Iraq War. Only main media were available to stop them.

Those that tried were sent packing (Gilligan and the BBC), and their sources murdered (David Kelly). It wouldn't be so easy to silence and dispose of thousands of bloggers following a similar story today.

That's why they are worried, and that's why bloggers must carry on.

I laughed at the EU written assessment of the effect of blogs, on the Irish referendum. Did you see it?

Treaty opponents had 'songs'! How will the Eureaucracy counter that, I wonder?!! No wonder they are getting desperate.

leg-iron said...

Anon 5.23: Under these rules, you won't be anonymous any more. You will have to prove who you are before you'll be allowed to participate.

Therefore, any libellous comments will be attributed to the clearly identified commenter, not the blog owner. Although it's not too hard to trace any blog owner or commenter anyway so all that 'accountability' is a red herring.

Anon 5.35: Under these rules, you won't be anonymous either. As for living up to the rules of print, how many authors and journalists write under pseudonyms?

I'll blog to the 'rules of print' when someone pays me to do it. Until then, no pay, no rules, no regulations.

Still, it will mean no more anonymous trolling. That's going to spoil a few people's fun.

How long, I wonder, before we are required to have a webcam so some central EU computer can see who's typing?

Two-way viewscreens. I've heard of those somewhere before.

Anonymous said...

I haven't yet read Hannan's report, but I glimpsed at Bruno's yesterday, and I thought the gist of it was that they realised that this would be like trying to knit fog, and the report reflected this ?

Still, eternal vigilance and all that..

Anonymous said...

This point you raise Iain just goes to show why we should leave the EU - it's fundamental lack of the concept of Liberty.

Man in a Shed said...

Lets hope we all get cells next to each other after we have been tried in our absence by a Eurocourt and then departed in the dead of night with only they crying of our spouses and/or children to mark the event.

So the question is who's going to be head of the escape committee for EU-Stalagluft 14 ?

Mind you perhaps I should just start digging a tunnel from my shed ...

I guess by writing this I have committed EU-thought crime.

Yak40 said...

So, seventy-five years later, the EU wants a 21st century version of this.

Philipa said...

Yup, with you completely on this one, Iain.

Suggests clarifying the status, legal or otherwise, of weblogs and encourages their voluntary labelling according to the professional and financial responsibilities and interests of their authors and publishers

status of weblogs? No they don't get it.

volountary labelling? It's a blog

it's kinda like trying to regulate conversation in a pub. Will they be doing that too? Will we all have to wear signs declaring our professional and financial responsibilities before chatting to a stranger?

I'm going to learn to knit, Iain - bring on the guillotine.

Anonymous said...

Since when did the EU wait for formal powers before doing what it wanted?
It's whole modus operandi is to start doing things and then, when it's already well established, introduce the legislation "as a formality - to regularise things".

Anonymous said...

@ Henry Rogers 5:43 PM said...

At a guess, though lawyers will confirm or deny, even if your blog is hosted elsewhere it would be only too easy for the EU to devise legislation, which member states would be bound to enact, by which your editorial activities in UK could become criminal. Free the Diary One!

I can just see the US Supreme Court agreeing to a suppression of the freedom of speech, in what are effectively US based e-publications, at the behest of a foreign government. I think not somehow.

curly15 said...

I knew it wouldn't take long, moan first, regulate later!

eurowisedup said...

Well, Iain, name ten initiatives which have originated solely in European Parliament own-initiative reports with no prior support from the Commission or the Council of Ministers.

This proposal -- which is merely an EP wish-list -- is utterly dead in the water unless Commission and Council both decide to back it.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you will now stop cheering Euro Dave now and back a REAL Conservative.

stuart said...

This does worry me. I don't buy into the notion that the EU secret police will start smashing down the doors of anti-Europeans (and, yes, I am going to call them that), or somesuch other nonsense, but I could see something silly like this becoming law - and that would be utterly wrong.

Even though I count myself as pro-European, I do worry about the EU's desire constantly to legislate and regulate. Just let things be. Human beings will organise themselves.

Henry Rogers said...

Anon 8.11

I'm sure you're right about the US Supreme Court, but that wouldn't be the issue.

Unless Iain decides to go and live outside the EU, a little bit of monitoring within the EU would provide enough evidence to bang him up, regardless of where the blog is hosted. Using facilities outside the EU, in an attempt to circumvent EU laws, could be interpreted by a court within the EU as aggravating the offence.

So we are looking a few life sentences I should think! And all of us are probably on a file somewhere already as potential accomplices.

By the way Anon, not quite sure whether your approach is: -

a) It won't happen or
b) Such laws would be too much trouble to enforce or
c) The EU is an honest trustworthy organization which would never behave like that or

d) It would be a really good idea to stamp out all that hostile comment from evil bloggers who want to think for themselves without permission.

Auntie Flo' said...

No way will they regulate blogging!

It would be as though they'd finally taken control of our thoughts and minds.

"we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air...whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."

Nick said...

Bit like Labour Home saying they will start to get rid of the Tories who post.

It's my ball and unless you let me win I'm going to take it away. So there, with knobs on ....

Anonymous said...

@ Henry Rogers 9:12 PM said...

"Unless Iain decides to go and live outside the EU, a little bit of monitoring within the EU would provide enough evidence to bang him up, regardless of where the blog is hosted. Using facilities outside the EU, in an attempt to circumvent EU laws, could be interpreted by a court within the EU as aggravating the offence."

It may be that bloggers from the EU may have to adopt nomes de guerre, third country bolt holes, shielded ip addresses and other tactics in the pursuit of freedom of speech in the event that a temporary advantage is gained by the high priests at the EU tower of Babel.

However, the technological advantage will never stay one sided, particularly with the increased use of encrypted communications and the like.

"By the way Anon, not quite sure whether your approach is: -

a) It won't happen or
b) Such laws would be too much trouble to enforce or
c) The EU is an honest trustworthy organization which would never behave like that or

d) It would be a really good idea to stamp out all that hostile comment from evil bloggers who want to think for themselves without permission.


I consider the unelected EU tower of Babel a serious threat to our liberties and do not take anything they do lightly. It does concern me that there is a high degree of apathy among the masses, based mainly on ignorance of proceedings at the centre of our unelected government, allowing the stealthy encroachment of a totalitarian bureaucracy into and around our lives.

Does that go some way to answering your question?

ukipwebmaster said...

As a Tory Iain, you've got what you wished for, so why are you complaining? "In Europe but not ruled by Europe" - thats the Tory mantra and it's now biting you in the butt!

Tom Watson said...

Hi Iain,

I'll take a look at this but I wouldn't mount the barricades just yet.

thedarknight said...

So what are your party going to do about it? You'll have a big majority. Parliament is supreme in this country, this could all be solved in two shakes. What are your party, your friends and colleaugues going to DO?

Chas said...

If you have to give up blogging, you should take up a gun. Our freedoms and democratic representation are being eroded at such a rate that the time is fast approaching when we will need to take them back by force.

It is imperative that the Conservatives understand this and that when they assume power they return those liberties and restore those democratic institutions that the Labour government has stolen and force the EU to reverse their insidious creep on the many other freedoms that have been taken away.

The shift in the relationship between the individual and the state that has occurred in the last 10 years at the hands of both the government and the EU is the most important long-term issue affecting us, in my opinion. The sad fact is, however, that the man in the street does not generally value freedom or democracy, sometimes even after they have been taken away.

Anonymous said...

Large, bureaucratic organisations become pompous, then ridiculed. The EU is approaching this second stage and will eventually become so obviously ridiculous that it will implode, partly from ridicule and partly from unwieldiness. Roll on the day!

copydude said...

I believe this is the pet project of MEP Marianne Mikko.

It's barking from start to finish.

Thankfully, it seems that this report does not carry any legal weight whatsoever. So the thought police won't be around just yet.

Link

Scallywag said...

If the blogs said nice things about the EU, then there wouldn't be an issue here.

Henry Rogers said...

Anon September 04, 2008 10:20 PM

"I consider the unelected EU tower of Babel a serious threat to our liberties..........a totalitarian bureaucracy into and around our lives.

Does that go some way to answering your question?"

Yes indeed! My sentiments exactly.

But if the system really makes its mind up to suppress blogging, whatever people do to conceal identity would either be unravelled by the resources brought to bear or else the attempt at concealment would be the offence. I see no way out as there clearly isn't sufficient public support in UK, yet, for addressing the problem at its root (by leaving before the EU has an army which could stop us).

Fortunately, as Dizzy has pointed out, the shear scale of the problem of overseeing all electronic communications probably makes it too difficult to do effectively. Which doesn't mean that millions won't be squandered on the attempt or that selective enforcement would not be used to frighten off everyone else.

I wonder where they will build the re-education camps?

Final ghastly thought, if the EU's attempts at diplomacy land us in a war over the Ukraine or a land corridor to what used to be East Prussia, we might even look on Putin as a liberator. Or not. Nothing like a bit of gallows humour to cheer oneself up!

Broon's Talking Bawgie said...

"EU Mounts Another Attempt to Regulate Blogs"

They should stick to mounting their Sybians.

Everyone got a mental picture of Kinnochio doing that?

Anonymous said...

Interesting blog post on this from a publisher of blog books...

http://mondaybooks.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

Sir John Donaldson, then Master of the Rolls (head of the Court of Appeal) said in 1988:

"...a free press... is and essential element in maintaining parliamentary democracy and the British way of life as we know it. But it is important to remember why the press occupies this crucial position. It is not because of any special wisdom, interest, or status enjoyed by proprietors, editors, or journalists. It is because the media are the eyes and ears of the general public. They act on behalf of the general public. Their right to know and their right to publish is neither more nor less than that of the general public. Indeed it is that of the general public for whom they are trustees.

Anonymous said...

Eurowisedup has hit the nail on the head. This is not, yet, "faceless Eurocrats" (good bit of Daily Mail whistling there Iain), but a group of MEPs: if you look at the report then the names of those MEPs who support this idea will be listed at the end. Why not write to them all and explain to them why they're wrong...

Anonymous said...

Bloggers would do well to heed the words of Emile De Antonio when he said, "never underestimate the power of the bureaucrat".

This is going to be a serious fight for the right to freedom of speech for the individual.

Too many people have a laid back dismissive attitude towards the EU tower of Babel and it's machinations. Such an attitude is very dangerous.

The Devils Kitchen seems to be ahead of most other bloggers in scenting the danger approaching rapidly over the horizon,
http://devilskitchen.me.uk/2008/09/wheel-turns-slow-but-it-grinds-awfy.html

tony flaig bignews said...

Thanet council in Kent is currently drawing up a blogging protocol for councillors, to enhance the loony regulations of standards board of England.