European Politicians Discuss 'The Blogger Problem'

from the are-you-serious? dept

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.

Filed Under: bloggers, europe, media ownership, regulations, right to reply


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  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 2 Jul 2008 @ 1:23am

    "Way back in 2003, we wrote about plans in Europe to regulate bloggers..."

    That's really the problem they're discussing here I think. They want to have "traditional" media rather than bloggers because the media guys are easier to regulate. Brussels meetings are all about how to regulate, control and micromanage things, whether that makes sense or not, and they're worried that this isn't possible with blogs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jon, 2 Jul 2008 @ 1:44am

    Radio was free initially and rather exciting. Then came regulation. The net is free and rather more exciting because it's easier to publish than host your own radio show. Now legislators are coming for the web.

    I'm sure the greatest battle of this century will be the battle to govern and control information (IT).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    yogi, 2 Jul 2008 @ 2:10am

    Anybody

    who knows anything about European politics could guess that anything that is independent, like bloggers, would be perceived as a threat to the entire European Community.

    Happily there are more than enough politicians that will jump at the opportunity to protect their constituents from the threat of unauthorized information and unofficial opinion.

    The sheep of Europe can continue to graze peacefully...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Stephen Adams, 2 Jul 2008 @ 7:05am

      Re: Anybody

      Exactly. It has nothing to do with media, or with "polluting" anything. It's all about the threat posed to the political status quo by independent, unregulated voices.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    SRN, 2 Jul 2008 @ 2:41am

    "The sheep of Europe can continue to graze peacefully..."

    I'm not quite sure, Yogi - are you some "the sky is falling" European who intentionally misrepresents facts because you don't like our current heading, or are you a behind-the-news foreigner who does not, in fact, live in Europe and therefore has no clue how much freedom we have?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Jul 2008 @ 4:55am

      Re:

      So the alternatives are he's a native crackpot or a foreign idiot? There's no room that perhaps he has a point? i'd hate to imply that YOU may be misinformed, but we should consider all the possibilities.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      apple pi, 2 Jul 2008 @ 11:18am

      Re:

      "...who does not, in fact, live in Europe and therefore has no clue how much freedom we have?"

      "There are none so enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free." -Goethe

      Both quotes you're familiar with, I'm sure. But nevertheless, the question is...

      Are you sure you're as free as you think you are?

      It probably seems like a dumb question to you, but think about it. Are you?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Vincent Clement, 2 Jul 2008 @ 4:09am

    "European commitment" = Regulations and government funding

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Lisa Westveld (profile), 2 Jul 2008 @ 4:15am

    This could be related to the problems the Dutch justice system has with several Dutch bloggers. Their biggest pain in the is a site called geenstijl.nl (geen stijl = no style) which tends to report on many different issues that are mostly ignored by the regular media. For a few years, the Dutch justice system and Dutch politicians tend to be favorite targets on this site, yet the site just kicks everyone on an equal level. Recently there were some articles about Gregorius Nekschot, a cartoonist who was accused om publishing racist cartoons on the Internet. GeenStijl just suggested that there was a more political motive behind this arrest. Nekschot had made some cartoons that the current political powers didn't like, especially the CDA.
    Also, recently one of the bloggers at GeenStijl also had to report to the police since they concluded that the site contained racist remarks. Normally, someone would report such remarks to the moderator and the moderator would then remove them. However, in this case some organisation that investigates racist remarks on the Internet (MDI) had filed several complaints to the local police instead of warning the moderators. That was in 2006. For two years nothing happened until recently. And again, this was reported as a form of intimidation on GeenStijl. As an attempt by the current political powers to shut down all negative comments about their work. A kind of censorshop.
    Yesterday, a new article appeared on GeenStijl which accuses the CDA (One of the major political powers here) of taking Geert Wilders (politician and creator of the movie Fitna) hostage in his own country. How? Well, Jordan (the country) has instructed their judges to prosecute Wilders for publishing this Fitna movie. As a result, Wilders cannot leave the Netherlands anymore or risk being arrested. Our government is supposed to question Jordan and make it clear that this is unacceptable but no... Maxime Verhagen who is responsible for foreign affairs just isn't going to take any actions about this, thus by doing nothing he supports a possible arrest of Wilders.

    If you can understand the Dutch language, reading GeenStijl almost gives you the idea that the Dutch government is trying to become a dictatorship... Almost. :-)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dr.A, 2 Jul 2008 @ 5:44am

    US/UE English

    Now if you read this:
    "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."

    It is just saying that "less principled people" AKA "companies" might use blogs yet pretending to be "citizens/consumers". It is like the wikipedia entries where you do not want a company to "advertise" itself but rather have an independent view.

    That beeing said, eu politicians tend to look ahead and I can't find any bad to it. Their power is however VERY limited.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Eric V., 2 Jul 2008 @ 5:47am

    Politicians v Bloggers

    I think what the pols fear is the bloggers disguising opinion as news. What I have noticed is a lack of journalistic integrity in the blogging community. There are too many Rush Limbaughs and not enough Ted Koppels. It is getting difficult to find informed and unbiased reporting.
    You do a good job of letting your readers know what you write is commentary while giving links to both sides of a story so a reader can form their own opinions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Capt Obvious, 2 Jul 2008 @ 9:28am

      Re: Politicians v Bloggers

      The blogs that misrepresent themselves will eventually fail, either on their content or when they get "outed" by the greater community Which they will. If you have any doubt just go looking at the reactions to sites and companies that are shown to be astroturfing or adverblogging.

      I don't believe that limiting the number of limbaughs is the answer, I believe that encouraging the koppels is a much better choice.

      CO

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Coz, 2 Jul 2008 @ 6:03am

    Real shit

    Yeah. I'm American, and Americans are out of the loop on a lot of things. But lets bash the cultural dispositions for a second and really get down to the real shit behind the information situation. I can 2 sides to the arguement of regulating information on cyberspace... on one side you have the arguement of libel against someone or something. Which due to free speech people are granted the right and due to the internet anyone can say anything - too a certain extent(racism)... so it's only fair that someone has the ability to reply or provide an answer back... but since the internet IS free then this so called "right to reply" act is actually already in place. Someone just needs to say their piece and the hungry infomaniacs will find it.
    On the flip side you have the people full of mis-information, hatred, or marketing... yeah they all go together. Who knows who's saying what these days? How can it be regulated? People go to customer review sites and such to make sure the restaurant they are going to is cool and up-to-par only to realize it's not and the 20+ reviews from the site are all from a marketing team paid to hype the buzz for the new place... or vice versa... someone's competition and they go out to put mis-information on a business that isn't true at all. How do we know what is real and what is fake these days? And outside of cross checking your sources against wikipedia, websters, google and the pope, you just have to make your own mind up about everything!

    Should there or shouldn't there be some sort of ownership to the things we say on the net? Should there be some kind of reprieve for people that are affected by whats said?

    As with all things, Radio, TV, painting, science, love... there have been regulations and those to fight against it. Its a game really. think about it... the games where the rules are set and established people have the most fun... you don't see kids these days playing a CRAZY game of soccer where they get to use their hands... no one likes that. secretly we love rules... so that we know where the line is. Truthfully not until there are rules can we actually really see who is on our team or the other. Right now its just a crazy game dodgeball and you don't know who to trust or who to believe. I know I am rambling on and on but I would like some foreign input on this because if the internet is our last domain of freedome these days what do we need to do to keep it? What is IT exactly. The media has filtered the news and tv and radio so much so that I watch NBC here and get one side of what goes on Israel (for example) and I go over my friends house (who gets Istanbul direct tv) and see the news and he explains to me something COMPLETELY different that is going on there. Weird. I know the whole 1000 word picture everyone sees it different shit but when one side sees up and the other sees down that is a completely different portrayal and information is now helpless to the whims of political big whigs that don't care about cause or truth but what they think the masses can handle or should hear and that's a little scary. very scary actually.

    Sorry about the soap box situation but I just think this internet regulation thing is a lot bigger than we think it is. Titantic + tip of the iceberg kind of thing going on here.

    I asked a lot of questions in this to see what others think... so what do you think? Is this just a blip on the radar of technology's history or is it bigger?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Overcast, 2 Jul 2008 @ 6:33am

    The Blogger Problem:

    AKA the Free Speech Problem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Improbus, 2 Jul 2008 @ 7:51am

    The New World Order

    The powers that be do not like to be questioned. Therefore, in the future, questions will be made illegal and actually protesting the new order will get you prison time because you will be a "terrorist". Hello police state. Hello fascism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Matt, 2 Jul 2008 @ 8:10am

    Read Closely

    The Quote used in the article:

    "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."

    Says that they are not concerned where the blogging world is NOW. They are concerned where it might go. So to compare their concern with how and what people are blogging today is irrelevant. The quote actually says that they want to preserve the quality and correctness of blogging in today's state and are worried as they see a trend that the blogging world is becoming less trustworthy. The quotes that Mike chose for this article to me reads as the politicians trying to preserve the integrity of blogging.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Stephen Adams, 2 Jul 2008 @ 8:23am

      Re: Read Closely

      Interesting that you used "politicians" and "integrity" in the same sentence. Having politicians concerned with the integrity of blogging is similar to having foxes concerned for the welfare of chickens. The entire quote is completely disingenuous, and is designed to fool people.

      However, with blogs becoming commonplace, less principled people will want to use them...

      Really, are there any "less principled people" than politicians?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Matt, 2 Jul 2008 @ 8:33am

        Re: Re: Read Closely

        Well I didn't say they were going to get the future of blogging right :-). Just that they were not saying that the current state of blogging is problem, as previous replies were implying.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ghdm, 2 Jul 2008 @ 8:23am

    Orson Scott Card

    Read the Ender's Game series...there is something to be worried about

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Abdul, 2 Jul 2008 @ 12:17pm

    Hold Bloggers To The Same Standard As Journalist

    Bloggers are here and definitely here to stay.It's time politicians and others accept that fact. With the explosive growth of the bloggosphere, i think it's very rational that some standards be set in order to avoid some of the craziness emanating from it. As such, i will support this write in saying that bloggers should be treated in the same light as journalist: Survey: Bloggers Should Have Standards(http://www.internetevolution.com/author.asp?section_id=466&doc_id=157694&F_src=flf two)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Emily H, 2 Jul 2008 @ 1:59pm

    An Observation

    What's going to be interesting is what the next generation of politicians do-- Having contributed on blogs and all.

    I'm not a gambling woman, but if I had to bet, my money would be on the next generation embracing the technology rather than trying to bury it. Web sights like Wikipedia have shown that people want to contribute to society, as well as consume.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pietzki, 2 Jul 2008 @ 2:38pm

    Paranoid much?

    I think a lot of people here are very paranoid.. From what I can gather these politicians are posing a legitimate question: how does one stop people from abusing the false sense of legitimacy that a well designed, but less well researched blog can give?

    Anyone can blog about anything, and people who know a bit about history will confirm just how much havoc some good rethoric and spin can create, no matter how much BS the actual content is. This is the real problem here.

    As people flock to 'independent' media to get their news, there is a real danger that rumours and badly researched (if at all) 'news' will become accepted as fact. At least real journalists have people like 'media watch' and the ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority, dunno what the US equivalent is) to watch over them and keep them at least halfway honest. What about blogs? Yes, there are people who will comment and often correct the blogger if they misrepresent things, but who except the dedicated will read those comments?

    Just think about how often your friends forward some stupid hoax email about killer wasps or whatnot to you, without verifying its truth it or even thinking about it for a minute. And many of those emails actually start out as blog posts somewhere and then get picked up and forwarded. So many people just blindly accept things without any critical thinking at all. I know the same problem exists with legitimate news outlets, but as I said before, at least they have certain authorities that watch what they do & say. There is no equivalent to 'keep bloggers honest'.


    A little note on the side: it's funny how US Americans always think they're the country with the most freedom, apple pi - one could pose the same question to you. I have spent a long time of my life in Europe, and I now live in Australia. I'd say the two are pretty much equal in terms of freedom - your own freedom stops where it starts infringing on that of others. In the US, it seems different (pardon me, I have never lived in the US, so this is only my perception). For example, you have the right to carry guns, but I would say that infringes on other people's right to feel safe. I for one wouldn't feel safe walking around knowing that anyone around me could be carrying a gun...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      sonofdot, 3 Jul 2008 @ 9:02am

      Re: Paranoid much?

      I know the same problem exists with legitimate news outlets, but as I said before, at least they have certain authorities that watch what they do & say.

      Who, exactly, are these authorities? I'm not aware of any "Journalistic Integrity Association" or any other such entity, at least none that has any teeth. Where is the regulatory authority that issues journalist credentials? If there are no such authorities or regulations for journalists, why are bloggers any different? Have you ever heard of Jason Blair?

      And I think you must be just a bit paranoid, if you wouldn't feel safe walking around knowing that anyone around you might be carrying a gun. No matter where you live, that's the case. Hell, they might have a hand grenade or a machete. So what?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Pietzki, 4 Jul 2008 @ 6:01am

        Re: Re: Paranoid much?

        I mentioned those authorities in my post. Here in Australia it is the ACMA, and then there are shows like 'media watch'. I don't know what the equivalents of all european countries are. In germany there's the KEK, Medien Tenor (independent), and another governmental watchdog (I forget the name).

        And about the last bit, you're reading into my wording too much, I mean in the US there's a much higher chance that people around me would be carrying guns, which is scary...but that's besides the point anyway.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Al, 2 Jul 2008 @ 8:57pm

    Just a bunch of Modern Liberals/Socialists....

    As we have seen in the US, freedom of speech is under attack. Think of Political Correctness, hate crimes, resurrection of the Fairness Doctrine, etc.

    It's just the usual from Socialists and only different in degree as compared to Socialist countries (Cuba, Venezuela, etc.).

    When I refer to Modern Liberals, I'm thinking of the definition in this great video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaE98w1KZ-c
    It's called "HOW MODERN LIBERALS THINK" and you'll need some quiet time to watch it. It's very good.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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