This could very well make me the most unpopular guy in the blogosphere, but I actually wouldn’t mind seeing a couple of bloggers get their butts sued off.
At the moment, of course, the big buzz in this regard is a stoush between a couple of political bloggers. One, a PR flack and a Democrat who is suing a pro-Republican blogger over allegations made on his anonymous blog.
Being an Aussie I don’t really care which way the case goes, except to say that if we’re going to start suing a blogger it may as well be someone who supports George Bush. However, I do think a couple of high-profile court cases would do a hell of a lot to weed out some of the nastier elements of the blogosphere.
As a journalist, I’ve been tought to believe that if you want to be published then the first thing you have to realise is your accountable for what you say. A lot of bloggers seem to want all of the priviledges of being a publisher, without taking any of the responsibility that goes along with it.
You can be guaranteed that rogue, anonymous blogging is going to get worse. Don’t like the way your boyfriend dumped you, blog about how bad he was in the sack. Don’t like the way the way your boss is treating you, vilify him in print. Can’t stand your neighbour, then take pictures of him standing in his backyard in his underwear and post them on the web.
I firmly believe that if you’re going to attack/criticise/abuse someone, you put your name to it and accept the ramifications of your words. Or at least, someone has to take responsibility for it. Newspapers run anonymous columns, but if someone has a beef with something that’s said in this type of article, they can at least take it up with the publisher.
If you’re defamed in a blog by an anonymous blogger, who gives their blog host fake details, you’ve got no recourse. So how long before somebody decides that Google or WordPress.com or whoever, should take responsibility for what they are essentially publishing.
Or even sue an aggregator, because they republished a defamatory paragraph on their site and magnified the damage done to a person’s reputation. We saw a case of Digg.com sparking controversy this week because a false report made it all the way to its front page.
I don’t think blogs should be, or even could be, subjected to exactly the same legal restraints as Big Media organisations, but there needs to be legally-accepted limits of what bloggers can, or can’t get away with. The same goes with plagiarism. A couple of legal decisions will set precedents and then guidelines for where we, both bloggers and the public, stand. The sooner that happens the better.
Update: A story from Wired on the anonymous internet. I have a feeling this issue is going to grow legs this year.