17 August 2007

The Power of Blogs

In which some people discover the reality, namely that bloggers are not immune to libel and slander laws and in which we discover the potential that some other people - including the rich and powerful - might seek to impose a form of chill by simply launching lawsuits claiming defamation.

Then there's Michael Geist's blog. Geist is a law professor specializing in Internet issues. He's got a youtube link to a piece from The National on the issue. There are other posts on the Internet and free speech issues. geist is being sued himself, incidentally, for doing nothing more complicated than including in a blogroll a link to a site allegedly containing defamatory comments.

The Toronto Transit Commission has threatened legal action over a blog posting.

Ditto for a newspaper that prides itself on being locally owned and telling it like it is.

And of course, there's the Premier's famous melt-down. Oddly enough, by falsely accusing your humble e-scribbler of attempting "to disparage the reputations of people", the Premier was effectively doing the thing he claimed to be opposing.

Go figure.

The issue of defamation is a potent one for any form of communication, but especially for the online community where many of the rules and conventions of society appear to be ignored by so many. There are aspects of the Internet that seriously challenge some of the conventions society has evolved to permit free speech. Those will require some careful consideration and some serious thought before anyone rushes to write new laws.

At the same time, the notion of free speech apparently causes some people concern simply because it exists. The content is not as important to these people so much as the fact that comments are made publicly which are contrary to whatever turns out to be the official dogma of the moment.

Take for example, that there are some people out there who have a great deal of difficulty with the things written here from time to time. The comments include the now infamous "I am all for free speech but..." line used by a surprisingly large number of people to claims that your humble e-scribe ought to be thrown in jail for something they deem as "treason" to actual threats of violence.

Blogs can be a powerful medium, so powerful in fact that some people spend a heck of a lot of time trying to figure out how to shut them down. As the links above suggest, the future of blogging in Canada might wind up being a very hot topic this fall.