Saturday, April 13, 2013

"Top bloggers" in secret talks with Department for Culture, Media and Sport

I agree with Martin Robbins.

On Tuesday, so Sunny Hundal, Stephen Tall and William Perrin tell us, a number of bloggers met representatives of the  Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to discuss how the legislation following the Leveson Report will affect bloggers.

We don't know who else was there and we don't know what they said when they got there. As Martin suggests in one of his many tweets on the subject, if a blogger finds himself or herself tangling with the law in future, the argument "a group of people you had no part in choosing and whose identity you may not know raised no objection to this" will not be an impressive one.

Thanks to their relative openness on the subject, we know that Sunny, Stephen and William were there. And in a tweet Sunny said those present were "mostly bloggers who run top blogs. But one or two lone bloggers." But beyond that we don't know and when Martin Robbins asked the DCMS it declined to tell him.

What Sunny, Stephen and William say is useful, but if blogging were really the edgy, collegiate activity we used to think it then more would have leaked out or people would have declined to co-operate with this exercise in the first place. Perhaps the silent participants felt flattered to be asked?

Still, it does make you wonder why the government thinks blogging is worth regulating if bloggers are won over so easily.

Elsewhere, Hacked Off have elected themselves as our representative. But we didn't choose them either, did we?


Stephen Tall said...

Good post, Jonathan, and a fair question. For the record, I think I have been kicking up a fuss about it - enough to annoy a fair few Lib Dems over at LibDemVoice who think regulation of blogs is a small price to pay for seeing Leveson implemented. I think they're wrong.

Put bluntly, I think the reason so many liberal/left bloggers are so quiet is that they values their own freedom less than they do their hatred of the Daily Mail / Rupert Murdoch.

Paul Walter said...

Agree that is a bit rum but apropos the tweet:
"It amazes me that the Dept. of Culture are discussing state regulation of blogging this week, and British bloggers are so quiet about it."
- that is a bit like the old question "When did you stop beating your wife?"
They weren't discussing state regulation of blogging this week because there is not the remotest possibility of that happening. So that may explain why "British bloggers" are quiet about it.
We are talking about voluntary self-regulation bodies which have their set-ups verified by a body defined by Royal Charter. Entities can choose to stay out of such a body if they want. But if they then break existing laws (of defamation, breach of privacy etc etc) they may be open to exemplary damages and costs. The discussion is over where to draw the line and therefore what sort of websites are liable to the exemplary damages/costs when they break the law. To paraphrase all that as "discussing state regulation of blogging" is quite a stretch.

Ex-Senator Stuart Syvret said...

I'm sorry, but what Paul Walter says above is horrifying and shocking.

Not in my name.

I'm a blogger - and if someone wants to sue me - they can sue me. Within the established law.

Defamation is the established law.

This notion that - as a blogger - I will purchase the "privilege" of only being subject to the settled law - if I sign-up to some form of coerced, de facto state regulation is just insane.

Really - it's a worse prospect than actual, direct, up-front legislation.

At least that would be seen for what it is - and subject to all of the established checks & balances of the law-making process and of democracy.

Mr Walter is a dangerous ignoramus and a clown,

Stuart Syvret

Paul Walter said...

Stuart, I refer back what I wrote above:
"The discussion is over where to draw the line and therefore what sort of websites are liable to the exemplary damages/costs when they break the law."

And indeed DCMS have now drawn the line at 10 employees and annual turnover of £2 million. Any blog below those thresholds is excluded from the ambit of the legislation's definition of "relevant publisher".

Indeed, even before this latest clarification, single bloggers such as yourself were specifically excluded from the legislation anyway. The final loose end was only related to multi-contributor blogs.

Paul Walter said...

The DCMS have produced an excellent infographic on the definition of "relevant publisher" which is available here on Flickr.