Apparently this got some discussion a few weeks back, but I was just alerted to the fact that some European politicians have been debating how to handle the new media landscape that makes some odd and totally contradictory suggestions which the possibilities of bloggers becoming a problem by "polluting cyberspace."
While some of the argument has been blown way out of proportion
, there are some things that are very problematic in the way the paper is written.
The oddest contradiction in the piece is the fact that much of it is concerned about the lack of diversity in media these days, and then it seems to see bloggers as a threat, rather than the solution:
"The cases of unrestricted ownership concentration or of scarce content pluralism in the media are endangering cultural diversity and freedom of expression not only within national markets but also at European level. We need therefore strong European commitment to overcome those challenges especially in view of the new technologies and services in the media sector."
One would think that such politicians would then champion the rise of easy publishing platforms that allows anyone, professional or amateur, to join the game. Yet, that doesn't appear to be the case.
"The blogosphere has so far been a haven of good intentions and relatively honest dealing. However, with blogs becoming commonplace, less principled people will want to use them.... We do not see bloggers as a threat. They are in position, however, to considerably pollute cyberspace. We already have too much spam, misinformation and malicious intent in cyberspace. I think the public is still very trusting towards blogs, it is still seen as sincere. And it should remain sincere. For that we need a quality mark, a disclosure of who is really writing and why."
If I'm reading this right, it appears that these politicians are afraid of media consolidation, because it limits the diversity of voices -- but at the same time, it's afraid of bloggers polluting media, because that diversity of voices might be "bad." Right. In other words, the real fear isn't either the diversity of media or the rise of bad bloggers -- it's just that they're afraid that speech they don't like will become popular, whereas those who agree with them might get drowned out. That would also explain the ridiculous assertion that Europe needs a "right to reply." A sort of cousin of the fairness doctrine
, a right to reply is designed to let someone respond if a publication says something about them that they don't like. This isn't the first time this has been proposed in Europe. Way back in 2003, we wrote about plans in Europe to regulate bloggers
with a demand for a right to reply.
The thing is, everyone already has a right to reply: your own website. A right to reply makes sense when there isn't a way for you to reply. With the internet, however, that's just not the case any more. And, yes, some people will say "but, if the original report is on a popular publication, and your site doesn't get any traffic, then that's not the same." However, that's inaccurate as well. In this day and age, if the media says something incorrect about you, and you write up your own thoughts, it seems that others are only too eager to hype it up and show the news report was wrong. You just need to let some other folks know that you've responded, and the word spreads pretty quickly.
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