HANDS OFF BLOGS
Tim Toulmin of the Press Complaints Commission believes there should some sort of similar complaints system for blogs. Let's eschew the obvious jibe that he is trying to grab more power for the PCC; is he right?
He says that online generally"there are no professional standards, there is no means of redress. If you want to see how the newspaper industry would look like if it was unchecked, then look at the internet."
Maybe so. Certainly, there is a lot of unpleasant stuff in blogs and blogs do tend to go further than papers in some areas - identifying celebrities and politicians involved in scandals, for example. But anybody who writes a blog is subject to the law and can be sued for libel or prosecuted for hate speech. It may not happen much, but it doesn't happen to papers a great deal, either. What's important is that the sanction is there.
Tim Toulmin is a regulator and naturally comes down on the side of control and protection. Many of us think the opposite: that people should be able to say and write what they want, subject to appropriate laws protecting others from real defamation (and not the hurt feelings nonsense that often ends up in the libel courts) and certain forms of speech likely to promote violence (racist language, incitements to kill) etc. (I think this principle should apply to newspapers too and the PCC should be abolished.)
Let's have debates that are vigorous, acrimonious, pungent, unpleasant. Let feelings be hurt, let pride be wounded, let offence be given and received. The internet is still a bastion of free speech: let's keep it that way.