This page looks at some legal questions regarding blogging,
including defamation and censorship.
It covers -
Somewhat to the surprise of blogging zealots, concerns
regarding blogs have not been addressed through a discrete
legal code that seeks to address all issues or provide
special privileges for "citizens of blogistan".
There is no 'law of blogging'.
Instead, bloggers face the same legal challenges as other
online authors, subject to a range of existing 'information
law'. That law has a national (and on occasion provincial)
basis: there are no international standards and restrictions
(or protections) vary from country to country.
Overall, blogging is potentially affected by statute and
case law regarding -
defamation and objectivity
As we have suggested throughout this site, publishing
online does not occur in a legal vacuum.
There have been a number of defamation actions about statements
in blogs, directed against individual authors and against
internet service providers and content hosting providers,
some of which have also faced action over alleged trade
Sites such as LiveJournal have increasingly stressed 'being
nice' and offered instructions for what to do if one member
of the online community is "hateful" to other
members, eg makes egregiously offensive comments, threats
or 'stalks' another bloggers.
Scott Rosenberg at a 2002 UC event
on blogging & journalism argued that
blogging is really an online media format, it's really
not a movement. I view it as a form of writing and a
form of media that's native to the Web. Journalists
are already doing things with the weblogging tool that
they wouldn't have thought possible a couple of years
ago. That may be why you had some of that resistance
at first, the sense that it was going to become institutionalized,
and the purist ideal of the blogger as the lone word
slinger, beholden to no one, would be placed in jeopardy.
One of the key issues facing the collision of journalism
and blogging today is the question of editing. Blogging
tools today don't allow for much of an editing process.
Part of what attracts people to blogging is, no one
can tell me what to write. Part of what journalists
uphold as part of their tradition is that more than
one set of eyes reviews materials before it's released
to the public.
bloggers want to spend their time fact-checking the
traditional media's ass, that's fine - and some of them
even do it entertainingly. But when that becomes a major
focus of blogging, it hardly points to a 'radical transformation'
of the 'journalistic culture'. Blogs come across less
as a revolutionary vanguard remaking journalism into
something new and dynamic, and more like traditional
journalism's poor cousin - putting it down, picking
holes in its arguments, and generally having a good
old moan about the Fisks and Krugmans of the world.
... if bloggers fancy themselves as cutting-edge 'new
journalists' giving the old media a run for its money,
they'll have to do more than post quickfire comments
in response to already published material or breaking
news or another blogger's comments about another blogger's
comments. Perhaps they could start by generating some
a rare example of historical consciousness he suggests
The rise of blogging on the web, and the way in which
it has been hailed as a media revolution not only by
bloggers but also by some newspapers, reflects recent
shifts within journalism itself. In the traditional
media, everywhere from the papers to the TV, there has
been a rise in personal opinions and emotionally responsive
journalism over objectivity and hard-hitting investigation.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with opinion journalism,
especially if the journalist has got something to say.
But too often today, much opinion writing seems to be
driven more by feelings and emotions than by insight
or having a distinct argument to put forward.
Offenses aren't restricted to adults. An educator wrote
in the Washington Post in September 2003 that
blogs, like chat rooms,
are "the latest sites of Internet cruelty" by
children against children -
are cyber reality shows, widely read diaries that publicly
detail the social drama and fluctuating emotions of
young lives. They are often scoured for personal mention,
and they spare no language or feelings ...This isn't
likely to be some child of poverty or deprivation speaking.
involves a population that is largely middle-class,
usually known as the "good kids" who are "on
the right track" or, as many school personnel told
me, "the ones you'd least expect" to bully
or degrade others. The Internet foments outrageous behavior
in part because it is a "gray area" for social
... the Internet deletes social inhibitions. "It
allows kids to say and do things that they wouldn't
do face-to-face, and they feel like they won't be held
accountable in the same way. It gives them a false sense
of security and power." The kids themselves agree
... "E-mails are so much less personal ... They're
so much less formal and more indirect, and it's easier
for people to be more candid and even meaner because
of that. People can be as mean and vicious as they want
because they're not directly confronting the person.
It's the same thing as when you're talking on the phone
because you don't have to face the person directly.
This is a step further removed. You don't even have
to hear the person's voice or see their reaction."
Post noted that
matters of discipline, the proprietary nature of personal
Web pages and blogs is pitting ethics against rights,
or what kids know about bullying against what they know
about personal freedoms of speech and intellectual property.
When a child is reprimanded for negative or hateful
speech on a personal Web page, she may invoke her right
to write what she wants in a semi-private space. And
the parents often go along. ... "Some parents are
so concerned about respecting their children's rights
that they see email as a privacy issue."
When a child is disciplined, the parent has two reactions.
One is, 'Who gave that to you?' And, 'These e-mails
are the private property of my daughter. You can't admit
that evidence into any court.'
A later page of this profile suggests
that teen blogging may be even more fraught.
censorship and spin
Blogging is not situated in a historical vacuum and like
other text is potentially subject to censorship
on grounds of offences that encompass obscenity,
secrets or political
The boilerplate for most blog hosting services features
restrictions on the inclusion of erotic or other adult
content. So far there has been little coverage of blog
entries (or whole blogs) taken offline at the request
of a service operator or direction from a regulatory agency.
Most media attention has instead centred on
as a mechanism for free speech - in particular South
American blogs hosted in the EU or US
use of firewalls to stop citizens using external hosting
to publish potentially dissident blogs, for example
recurrent Chinese government blocks on Blogspot identified
by Ben Edelman and filtering in Iran
'insider' accounts such as the 'Baghdad Blogger' Salam
Pax, hyped as "the Anne Frank of the War ...
and its Elvis".
the popularity of the Pax blog (adopted by the UK Guardian)
we can presumably expect to see Wag the Dog style
disinformation blogging - an extension of the growth of
- in the next war.
Action to inhibit blogging has taken various forms, including
prohibitions on blogging, mandatory registration of blogs
and takedown orders. China, for example, requires registration
of blogs, justified on the basis that
internet has profited many people but it also has brought
many problems, such as sex, violence and feudal superstitions
and other harmful information that has seriously poisoned
net crawler system will monitor the sites in real time
and search each web address for its registration number.
It will report back to the ministry if it finds a site
thought to be unregistered
May 2006 veteran dissident writer Yang Tianshui was sentenced
to 12 years in prison for subversion after he blogged
in support of free elections.
Other regimes have simply frozen access on occasion. In
2006 for example the Indian national government forced
service providers to cut consumer access to Blogspot,
Typepad, Geocities and other sites after terrorist bombings
in Mumbai. The federal department of telecommunications
justified the restrictions on grounds of national security,
claiming that it aimed to close 17 blogs that carried
material from political and religious extremists.
Lawyer Sanjukta Basu lamented "This is a clearly
an infringement of fundamental right" of free speech
and noted that a 300-strong Delhi blogging community is
considering a petition to the high court. The Indian establishment
is presumably quaking in its boots.
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