Bloggers get 3-week mini-consultation on regulation


9:20 pm - March 27th 2013

by Sunny Hundal    


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Bloggers will be offered a three-week ‘mini-consultation’ period, a senior source from the Labour party has told Liberal Conspiracy, to help draft the legislation on web regulation.

The controversial legislation on press and web regulation is likely to be ‘finalised’ in mid-April.

The currently drafted rules exclude various types of publishers including the BBC and other broadcasters, special interest magazines and political parties.

A senior source from the shadow media team said the three political parties were looking for the “right definition” of a small blog.

This [definition] has to steer a path between exempting blogs that are really small and not providing a legal loophole so that newspapers get exemption on all their online activity or are encouraged to avoid the law by restructuring themselves into a series of small bodies.

We also need to future-proof the law so that as papers gradually move online, we don’t see a slide back into the old world.

The aim of the consultation is to determine how to measure size: whether by company turnover, readership, number of staff or some combination.

Our souce added:

Lord Justice Leveson recommended a new independent regulator, underpinned by statute, with financial incentives to join. This is not state regulation of the press, nor does it in any way infringe on the important free speech rights we all want to protect.

Blogs run by just one person are already exempted from the current rules.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Easy solution. Don’t impose regulation on any blogger.

2. Richard Carey

No blog worthy of respect would be involved in such a despicable process. It’s like being a prison camp snitch.

3. Shatterface

Blogs run by just one person are already exempted from the current rules.

Why?

Why sould some self-sufficient autocrat imposing their authority over the entire contents of their blog be exempt from this legislation while democratically run blogs staffed by part-timers are at its mercy?

If committe members of a democratic blog decide to step down in favour of a single, all-powerful manager do they then earn exemption?

The definition of ‘small’ or ‘large’ is purely arbitrary:

This [definition] has to steer a path between exempting blogs that are really small and not providing a legal loophole so that newspapers get exemption on all their online activity or are encouraged to avoid the law by restructuring themselves into a series of small bodies.

That’s creating a false dichotomy between ‘small’ on one side and ‘online newspaper’ on the other – as if all newspapers are ‘large’ while non-newspaper affiliated sites are ‘small’.

Even disregarding newspaper run sites what constitutes ‘small’ or ‘large’? Is a well financed site with a small but very influential readership ‘big’ or ‘small’? How about a tightly financed blog with a broad but relatively powerless readership?

What about cross posts from ‘small’ to ‘large’ sites or vise-versa – could exactly the same content see one site fined punitively while the other gets a slap on the wrist? How about simply quoting or linking to other articles?

As someone who has been involved in conducting this kind of consultation, those conducting it will already have decided what the outcome will be and who to seek responses from in order to achieve it.

Any blog that copies or refers to any content from an organisation that is covered by the Leveson censorship rules will doubtless find they are judged as an accessory to the facts”, or some such.

But enjoy yourself Sunny in your three days with the censors.

Rather revealing that the BBC is exempt, is it not?

6. Dislecksick

Oh how I hoot with laughter. bring on the censorship of the web – this will show the masses exactly what the price of kicking Murdoch in the balls is, who was behind it, and what we have chucked away to satisfy a petty vendetta against a journalist who dares reflect the public’s view, instead of what the public’s view should be.

Interestingly, the far right are gaining support all across Europe, and lord help us if they ever get in (things can change pretty rapidly as history has shown), they will have all the apparatus ready to shut down blogs like this one.

All for a petty vendetta against Rupert Murdoch who publishes a few stories about immigrants and single mothers. How incredibly pathetic that we would throw away our freedom for that.

I am salivating over the next scandal post-reg to show exactly why it doesn’t work….by that time the machine will be working for another purpose and won’t be stopped.

The horsemeat scandal is an example of why regulation never works, the FSA didn’t stop it, for all those millions they devour. The papers reporting on it did….without a free press we have lost everything. It takes a while for people to forget what they fought for, much like it takes a generation to forget the horrors of war. People looking back at the idiotic lefties which lost the gold standard of a freedom in a free press and laugh……”it was all about some bloke called Rupert Murdoch….who? Some bloke who printed some stories against immigration and benefit cheats….???”

What’s the point of this regulation again? What will it cover that isn’t already covered?

Is this a small comment or large? Not many letters, but quite a big question.

I’m seriously tempted to take on a guest blogger simply so that I can tell the regulators to fuck off.

Which is what this whole thing deserves, concerted outbursts of the purest Anglo Saxon.

“Rather revealing that the BBC is exempt, is it not?”

And Sky, and ITV, and Channel 4, and Channel 5….

“What’s the point of this regulation again? What will it cover that isn’t already covered?”

It provides a means for regulators to be shut down and has clearer legal processes expected of all parties to follow to help expediate matters AND keep costs/conflict down. Technically it does nothing that regulators couldn’t already do, just has some teeth to ensure that they *do* it, and that those regulators aren’t functioning as a nepotistic organisation.

“Any blog that copies or refers to any content from an organisation that is covered by the Leveson censorship rules will doubtless find they are judged as an accessory to the facts”, or some such.”

Legally they will be determined to be publishers if they copy it (as well as copyright infringers) since they have published the content.

Loving the hyperbole though guys, not quite West End performance yet but practice makes perfect!

@8

But to incur the wrath of the regulator one would have to publish something that threatens The Establishment… You can sleep easy, Tim.

11. Charlieman

Well you should ask whether it is long term beneficial to participate in the exercise.

If you are active, your words may be used in court in the future. Your words may be used to describe intent of a blogger about whom you know nowt. You may even love the blogger, but your words in an official document may be used against that person.

So don’t touch it. If you say anything, use weasel words.

And while you’re thinking about it, turn everything that you have said about censorship on its head. Just say no to censorship.

It’s a big back flip; you are guaranteed a job at most aquaria. Think for a minute: Was any government decision carved up after midnight whilst consuming pizza any good?

Just say no to censorship.

12. Charlieman

@9. Lee Griffin
“Rather revealing that the BBC is exempt, is it not?”

Lee didn’t say that, but broadcasters are more or less exempt.

So go on down for your broadcasting licence to obtain a get out of gaol card.

This is Lee: “Legally they will be determined to be publishers if they copy it (as well as copyright infringers) since they have published the content.”

There’s a classical legal yes you may be up the creek or not answer to that conundrum.

Somewhere on the shelf above me is a biography of Raymond Chandler which, at time of publication, libelled a person. The second edition is slightly different.

If I had quoted the pertinent words from the first edition, I would have been wise to qualify them. With the advantage of foreknowledge, I might pick the second edition.

I am able to quote from a book, so long as I don’t use too many words. I can quote from any newspaper story and in that industry free quotation is interpreted very generously.

In the case of a Raymond Chandler biography, I can actually pick the libellous and safe versions.


But if you pick up a newspaper — virtually or from the news seller — that is the story that you have in your hand. You can quote it and you can rewrite it. You never know if they are going to retract the story.

Rewriting old stories gets you into trouble — Christopher Jefferies won and (deservedly) earned the press cashback by following every newspaper that used the first stories. That is not good news; it is horrible because the character of Christopher Jefferies was besmirched.

Where we are is a mess and it gets messier by continuous debate. Shut up and think.

I’m not sure the provisions as currently drafted (in the Crime and Courts Bill) succeed in exempting lone bloggers, as intended. The definition of a “relevant publisher” seems to me to potentially to have all sorts of unintended consequences, for instance in the way it treats professionals who blog (is a freelance journalist’s unremunerated blog written “in the course of a business”?), comments and guests posts. The special provision for “special interest titles” also raises questions: is a GP’s blog about a profession, and so outside the definition? Might you need to think hard about whether it’s a blog about health policy or medicine? I think this needs looking at.

More importantly, though, we need to be clear that this legislation offer publishers a big carrot, as well as sticks. I absolutely understand bloggers wanting to be exempted from the sticks. But I fear that, because of misunderstandings about what’s proposed, we might end up asking to be exempted from the carrot too. So we need to be really careful about what we want exemption from.

The most important provisions relate not to exemplary damages (that’s of vanishingly small relevance to almost everyone) but to costs.

Under the “Awards of costs” clause, if a relevant publisher is sued for (say) libel it won’t normally have to pay the other sides costs – whoever wins – if either it’s regulated, or it couldn’t reasonably be expected to sign up. This is the carrot.

On the other hand, it will normally have to pay the other side’s costs – again, whoever wins – if it’s not regulated, but could reasonably have been expected to sign up. This is the stick.

It seems to me that bloggers should *not* want be exempted from the carrot (even if we want to be exempted from the stick). If we’re covered by “costs protection”, this helps limit the risk of libel and privacy claims against anyone who chooses to be regulated – or who can’t reasonably be expected to sign up because they’re too small, or not dealing with news, or because subscription to a regulator is too expensive.

On the costs “stick”, it seems to me we could want one of two things. Either we want to be covered, in which case those blogs who could reasonably be expected to sign up for regulation would feel the stick if they didn’t, and were sued. Those would be the bigger, press-like operations. We could lobby for the “line” here to be more clearly defined, or (I think probably better) for judges to be given more guidance in the legislation about the factors to take into account.

Alternatively, we could argue that blogs should be exempted altogether from the costs stick if they fall below the “line”.

I’d like to see bloggers agree on two things if we can, in arguing about this over the next three weeks.

First, I’d like us to want each other to have the choice whether we want self-regulation or not; those who know they don’t want it should be free to do as they wish, but not deny the chance to others who might. Second, I’d like us to agree that bloggers (regulated or not) should be treated no less favourably than the press are in the same situation.

I’m going darknet.

The free internet is fatally compromised.

Delicious to watch you hoist by your own petard, Sunny.
You really are a useful idiot…

This is nonsense: what consultation? One meeting organised with Media Reform & Hacked Off with me,Carl Gardner and one other blogger? Mid April is less than a fortnight away: I think whatever our differing views on the outcome, we must surely agree that there should be full and open consultation before the legislation is finalised.

http://wwwbrokenbarnet.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/mrs-angry-gets-hacked-off-creative.html


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