Last week I was in the pub talking to a friend and we were talking about blogging. This person doesn’t know much about it, but he knows that I’m heavily interested in it. (NB. This person is a Labour Party supporter, which explains a lot.)
He asked me a really strange question. “So, who is it that’s in charge of blogging then?”
“What do you mean, ‘in charge’?”
“Well, there must be someone who’s behind it all.”
“What do you mean? No! It’s something that you do yourself! Anyone can set up a blog.”
I actually had to explain to him that there is no overlord that looks after the blogosphere. There is no official process. You don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to set up a blog.
And that’s the way it should be, right? Blogging — and, indeed, the internet as a whole — is fundamentally a medium of freedom. Blogging is about many of the things we value the most about freedom — of speech, protest, association. And for many oppressed people in this world who would otherwise not be allowed to express themselves, blogging offers the chance to speak out to a wide audience.
The day you have to ask permission to blog is the day you have to ask permission to express an opinion. (Of course, thanks to our friends in the Labour Government, you already do have to ask permission to express your opinion in this country — but that is a whole new blog post.) What amazes me is not just that some people think that’s the way it should be. It that they think it’s the way it already is and are so unconcerned about it.
Still, at least we know it’s not going to happen, right? Right?
Actually, no. Some poisonous person called Marianne Mikko wants to put a stop to all of that “expressing your opinion” nonsense. Marianno Mikko is an Estonian centre-left MEP. It would be someone on the left, wouldn’t it? If anyone asks me why I don’t see myself as being on the left, it is because the left contains people like this.
Here is what she has to say: “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”.
Clairwil’s sarcastic response is the only sensible one: “Oh God! I hate ‘less principled’ bloggers!”
And the solution for stopping less principled people from having a blog? Why, red tape of course!
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.
It’s interesting that Ms Mikko thinks that the public trusts blogs, because it doesn’t seem that way to me. Take the aversion that many people have to Wikipedia. “You can’t trust that, you know — anyone can edit it,” they say. That is despite the fact that it contains few more errors than Encyclopædia Britannica does. You hear much the same things about bloggers. They’re not to be trusted. (Of course, the mainstream media is responsible and measured in all of its output!)
That’s just the beginning though. Here is what German ‘Liberal’ Jorgo Chatzimarkakis — a member of Germany’s “Free Democratic Party” — has to say:
bloggers cannot automatically be considered a threat, but imagine pressure groups, professional interests or any other groups using blogs to pass on their message.
Just imagine it! Imagine all those pressure groups. Imagine any other groups! All using tools to communicate with people! Isn’t it just shocking?
Mr Chatzimarkakis continues that blogs “can be seen as a threat”. A threat to what? His job? Then good! Honestly. If this is the sort of thing that comes out of Germany’s “Free Democratic” Party, I dread to think of the illiberal nonsense the other parties come out with.
The thing about it is that you are perfectly welcome to choose which blogs you trust and which you don’t. For me, there are of course some blogs that I trust more than others. I am happy with the decisions I make in this regard. And if it turns out I was wrong about a blog then I just change my mind. Easy.
So what on earth is this ‘quality mark’ nonsense all about? Do these people really think that we are unable to decide for ourselves what we can read on the internet? If these people get their way, soon enough the government will be telling us what to read. If the government tells me to read something though, that is a sure fire sign that I ought to steer clear of it.
Quality mark? Sounds more like skid mark to me.
This might be laughed off by some. But the fact that there are politicians even talking about this is enough to make my blood boil. How can these people have such scant regard for a fundamental right such as freedom of speech?
And, via the comments at The Devil’s Kitchen, it appears as though in Italy they are at an advanced stage of legislation requiring people to register their blogs. Not only that, they would have to pay a tax as well!
The Levi-Prodi law lays out that anyone with a blog or a website has to register it with the ROC, a register of the Communications Authority, produce certificates, pay a tax, even if they provide information without any intention to make money… the Levi-Prodi law obliges anyone who has a website or a blog to get a publishing company and to have a journalist who is on the register of professionals as the responsible director.
99% would close down.
Jesus Shite! Are we really headed down this road?