Here We Go Again

Via the Exile, I see that the issue of blog control has, yet again, reared its ugly head.

Internet users will be protected from abusive bloggers and malicious Facebook postings under proposals to set up an independent internet watchdog, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.

The body, made up of industry representatives, would be responsible for drawing up guidelines that social networking sites, the blogosphere, website owners and search engines would be expected to follow.

This, presumably, will be the model that has worked so well with newspapers, will it? The reasoning given is thus:

A source who has seen the report said that the committee wanted to give the public “a form of redress” “At the moment consumers don’t know where to go if they want to complaint about something they have seen on the internet,” the source said. “The absence of any industry body is leading to a great deal of confusion and to widely differing practices.”

Oh, give me a fucking break, please! You’d have to be a politician to be so fucking stupid as to not know how to complain about a site. For example, if you read something on this site that you object to, you click on the “comments” link and make yourself known to me – there you are, an instant right of reply. There is also a contact form, should you wish to communicate privately. If I have said something that is materially inaccurate, then I will retract it and apologise. If, however, you are merely offended because I have said something that you do not like, you can whistle. I believe in free speech and that is more important than hurt feelings. There is no right not to be offended by the things people say.

People can become animated when discussing politics or religion and will doubtless make intemperate remarks from time to time. If people are so thin skinned that they want this censored, then tough. Either grow a thicker skin or don’t read it.

I am not, under any circumstances whatsoever, succumbing to any such nonsense.

Under the proposals, the new internet watchdog would operate in a similar way to other industry bodies such as the Press Complaints Commission, which enforces a code of practice for the UK newspaper and magazine industry, covering accuracy, discrimination and intrusion.

The watchdog would not have any statutory powers to impose fines but would investigate complaints and most likely publish its decisions in instances when its guidelines have been breached.

If this body has no statutory powers, how, exactly, can it enforce its rulings. If someone complained about my blog – because, for example, I said something rude about a politician (as if). Then what?

It is understood that it would also be able to order bloggers and social networking sites such as Bebo and MySpace to take down offensive messages or photographs.

Oh, I see… They will order me to take it down. I don’t do orders. No one gives me orders and I don’t obey them. My response to such an order will be an impolite instruction about where, exactly, they can stick their order. Then what? They could try the host, but as it’s in the USA, they will be reluctant to contravene the first amendment.

The idea is that a self-regulatory body like the Advertising Standards Authority would be set up to make sure that members, including, internet companies and search engines, subscribe to the code and abide by rulings.

Nothing, then. Not least, given that I have no intention whatsoever of joining up with any such body. I decide what goes here, not the government and not some quango. If I am guilty of libel, then the law already provides redress. In the case of blogs, it is usual that an apology and retraction is a simple matter as one deals directly with the author. Try getting it sorted as efficiently with a newspaper and see where it gets you. If I libel you, I will deal with it immediately and it will cost you nothing in legal fees and any damage done will be limited by the speed of response and unequivocal retraction. If I merely offend you – get over yourself.

The proposals follow a rash of complaints about malicious and inaccurate postings on Facebook and other social networking sites.

A British businessman was last week awarded £22,000 libel damages from a school friend who made false accusations against him on a fake Facebook profile.

Mathew Firscht launched the High Court action after inaccurate claims about his sexuality and political viewers were posted on the site.

All of which rather suggests that people do have the ability to work out how to obtain redress.

Late last year, I discovered that one of my images had been hotlinked by one of the scrotes who contributed to the B3ta message boards. That image was subsequently vandalised by another contributor without my permission. I contacted the site owners and they dealt with the matter – very efficiently in my opinion. It really isn’t that difficult. At least, it isn’t if you are a normal, rational person with a grain of common sense. If you are a politician, you need an unwieldy quango to sort it out for you.

Just in case I have not made it abundantly clear – I will not be subjected to any censorship by an “industry body”. I decide what is published here and my word is final. That word is, to the twats in New Labour who want to censor me; fuck off!

Oh, sod it, that was two words.


Update: Tim Ireland doesn’t get it.

Iain Dale’s idea of self regulation

“I’d be interested in your views on this. In my view, self regulation works perfectly well. I someone makes a complaint to me about an abusive comment – or something I have writen which they believe is incorrect or offensive – I look it up and then decide whether to remove it, amend it or leave it as it is. If people don’t agree with my decision they don’t come back to my blog. It’s a simple, free market, and it works.” – Iain Dale

There you have it… straight from the horse’s arse.

If Iain Dale publishes something on his ‘blog’ that you don’t like (up to and including anonymous comments from people who wish to undermine your reputation without risking their own) and you complain about it, one of two things will happen:

1. Iain will kindly* and graciously** remove or alter the content that you believe “is incorrect or offensive”

2. Iain will refuse to change it, and you will be free to walk away and leave him to it, thereby fixing the problem.

Wait… what?

How does that fix the problem for anyone but Iain?

(*Isn’t that big of him?)
(**Yeah, right.)

Sigh… if Iain publishes something that is materially incorrect – i.e. it is libellous or defamatory, the law already covers it. It isn’t gracious of him to remove it, it is a legal obligation.

On the other hand, if you complain about something that is offensive, then yes, it is entirely up to him to choose what action (if any) to take. I repeat – no one has the right not to be offended. If someone comments and uses insulting language or common abuse and you feel that this undermines you then grow a thicker skin or don’t read it. That’s how private property and freedom of speech works. As a general rule – I will remove such comments, but not everyone will do so and I’ve had to put up with trolls on other sites making derogatory and untrue comments about me and the blog owner has left them in place as they have a policy of not removing any comments. Somehow I’ve managed to cope.

There is a time and a place for cheap partisan political shots. This is not one of them. This proposal threatens all of us. Just for once, we are all on the same side. Let’s try to remember that… Please?


  1. “to the twats in New Labour who want to censor me; fuck off!”

    I couldn’t agree more. However, the creeps who are suggesting this are – according to your quoted report – the “House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee”. It’s not just Labour, it’s the rest of the slime too.

  2. “If, however, you are merely offended because I have said something that you do not like, you can whistle. I believe in free speech and that is more important than hurt feelings. There is no right not to be offended by the things people say.”
    Those who are easily offended eg the religion of peace won’t need a new body to complain to when the new murder laws come in to force and this clause is used:

    “And in “exceptional circumstances” a defendant could successfully claim they killed in response to words or conduct that left them feeling “seriously wronged”.”

    As I say in a blog, just wait until the next time someone publishes a cartoon of the prophet.

    The Great Simpletons last blog post..on this day

  3. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a country as keen to regulate every single fucking aspect of people’s lives as this one. When the upchuck comes, it’s going to be special.

    I’m hoarding piano wire already.

    Obnoxio The Clowns last blog post..Beep! Beep!

  4. Well, of course Tim Ireland ‘doesn’t get it’. This is what he’s been pushing himself for so long. I suspect even he never dreamed in his most fevered imagination that the proposals would go so far.

    “..they are now after YouTube as well.”

    And harmless roleplaying sites – because people (including paedophiles, who everyone knows are all over the net!) might have virtual sex…!! And we all know where that leads. Well, you do if you’re a Conservative MP like Whittingdale, apparently. Perhaps someone should check out his PC…?

    God, what a bunch of clueless, authoritarian know-nothings.

    JuliaMs last blog post..Bergerac Would Have Gotten To The Bottom Of It!

  5. Well, of course Tim Ireland ‘doesn’t get it’. This is what he’s been pushing himself for so long. I suspect even he never dreamed in his most fevered imagination that the proposals would go so far.

    You learn something new every day. Tim isn’t one of my regular reads, his puerile spats with Guido being enough to make me move on very swiftly. Therefore, I missed that one.

    So, we can presume that in this case, we are not all on the same side? Unless my conclusion can be corrected?

    My response remains – I will never, ever, sign up to or abide by, any form of regulation or code of conduct. Tim can apply one to his site if that’s what he wants; but not here, not ever.

  6. LR

    “I will never, ever, sign up to or abide by, any form of regulation or code of conduct.”

    That’s all very well but your “host” ISP (or whatever) might sign up (voluntarily or otherwise) and then you (and all the rest of us) are stuffed. The scum will follow the money to exert control. It’s not you they’ll hit, it’s those who are providing the underpinnings of the internet who will be pursued and persecuted.

  7. My current host is in the USA and therefore outside UK jurisdiction. They are likely to cite the first amendment. However, should they cave, I’ll seek another host and keep doing it for as long as I am able to do so. Godammit, I’ll print it out on paper and send it to subscribers via the post if I have to. It’s been done before.

    If people wish to communicate ideas, they will. The more totalitarian control exerted, the more determined people will become to subvert it.

  8. “You learn something new every day. Tim isn’t one of my regular reads…”

    You’re a sensible man… 🙂

    But yes, he’s been pushing for a ‘blogger code of conduct’ forever. Hence his attack on Iain over this. So no, he’s not on the right side over this.

    “I’ll print it out on paper and send it to subscribers via the post if I have to. It’s been done before.”

    Ahh, yes. Communist Russia, wasn’t it…? ‘Samizdat’?

    JuliaMs last blog post..Bergerac Would Have Gotten To The Bottom Of It!

  9. Yes, Samizdat was exactly what I was thinking of.

    If Tim Ireland is pushing for a bloggers’ code of conduct, then he is pushing a gargantuan rock up a very steep hill. A wise man knows when to quit.

  10. Longrider: You’ve based this call of yours on others speaking of me, and not for me.

    (FFS, the moment I suggest that someone should stop cheating their readers and treating other people like dirt, someone fits me up with a pair of jackboots. You’d almost think it was deliberate.)

    If anything, I’ve warned people that high-profile bloggers taking the piss once too often would lead to this sort of thing, which I’m just as wary of as you.

    Besides, this latest report is mostly about children. So far, my main problem has been with adults acting like children.

    I note that you got caught up in some childishness on B3ta recently. Imagine how you might feel if, instead of simple cooperation from the people behind B3ta, you had your emails ignored and were banned from posting anything to the board. Then imagine that, to add insult to injury (and cover their tracks), they lie about why you were banned. *That’s* the Iain Dale experience. And the more he allows anonymous bullies to do as they please on his site (to anyone but him and his mates) the more bloggers in and around him are forced to play the game his way. There’s more than one way to take over a show, y’know….

    Tim Irelands last blog post..Our second editor on deck

  11. “I’ve warned people that high-profile bloggers taking the piss once too often would lead to this sort of thing, which I’m just as wary of as you”

    That’ll be why there’s a huge post at your site condemning these moves then? Oh, wait… There isn’t, just the usual swipes at the bloggers you have an internet feud with. My bad…

    “Besides, this latest report is mostly about children.”

    And we must do everything ‘for the children..!!’, mustn’t we…?

    JuliaMs last blog post..It’s For The Chiiillldddreeeennnn! (Part 657)

  12. Feuds: Iain can’t possibly have done anything wrong, so it must be a feud. And it’s not as if I’ve posted about Iain’s approach and attitude because I think it’s more important than any overly hysterical reaction to a slightly hysterical report.

    (there you go; some sarcasm right back atcha)

    Children: WTFAYBOA?

    Tim Irelands last blog post..Our second editor on deck

  13. Tim, you will notice that I used the word if given that you’re not one of my regular reads, and pointed out that I had missed the issue being mentioned. I left myself open to correction quite deliberately. As I’ve said earlier – there is the right of reply. People can read your response and come to their own conclusions. My comments about your spat with Guido stand as I did read some of that (but gave up). I’ve got a life to lead.

    “Its for the chiiiillldreen,” is where this type of heavy handedness tends to start, unfortunately. It’s a small step from protecting children from unsuitable content (the duty of parents not government) and censoring all content. My reaction is therefore hardly hysterical. Given eleven years of micromanagement and binge legislation, it’s almost restrained.

    Iain isn’t one of my daily reads either, so I really can only comment on the statement that he made and it’s one with which I concur – given that, my criticism of your response stands. Whatever may have happened before, his statement is spot on. Ultimately, though, if you believe that you were bullied and cannot obtain redress, then walk away. If you were libelled, you have the option of legal redress. Yes, I know, that’s generally for those who can afford to. But; if you were not actually libelled, then simply don’t go back.

    My experience with B3ta does tend to support my original premise; that there is a means of redress and that site owners will take the appropriate action – in that instance, I had no problem with the image being used providing it was credited and unaltered and people hosted it locally.

  14. Thanks, Longrider. I did notice that you were open to correction, and I was encouraged by that.

    Iain’s statement is a deceiving one; what I describe above is just one way in which he actively seeks to avoid self-regulation while claiming to be one of its champions. I don’t think I’m wrong to point that out.

    Another way Iain seeks to avoid/undermine negative responses to his behaviour is to spin those objections as a personal vendetta or partisan attack. If there are any personal issues I have with Iain, they have resulted from the incredible lengths he has gone to on this front.

    Tim Irelands last blog post..Our second editor on deck

  15. Sorry. Was in a wee hurry earlier, and neglected to say:

    Hysteria: Was in a comment addressed to Julia, and not a response to your post.

    Children: I know how this works, thanks. I was uncertain why Julia would be suggesting that I was hand-wringing along with the rest of this crowd. But now that it’s come up…

    Just as there are people with an agenda who exploit the inclination to protect children, so too are there are people who exploit the inclination to protect free speech. Take for example the people who bully* others during a debate and/or seek to disrupt debate (often using more than one personality when they do so). On some sites (like Iain’s) they get away with this. On sites where they don’t, they scream ‘censorship’ and bang on about their right to free speech… when all that’s been deleted is a clear attempt to undermine or disrupt the right of others to speak freely.

    That’s just one example that shows how I can disagree with Iain Dale but also stand firmly on the side of free speech.

    (*For the record, the only time I’ve said anything about children on this issue was when Iain Dale’s mate Phil ‘Dizzy’ Hendren called my house after 9pm and woke my kids. This was after he published my ex-directory number on his website in an attempt to bully me into silence because I dared to contradict him. Oh, and there was also a Tory activist and friend of Anne Milton who took it upon himself to publish an anonymous website about me, claiming that he had been talking to my kids and hearing what a neglectful father I had been. And I am not about to shy away from my long-held position that a reaction to a stunt like this from the ‘champions’ of free speech will be what finally triggers some form of ill-thought-out attempt at regulation.)

    Tim Irelands last blog post..Our second editor on deck

  16. Tim, the examples you cite are just the sort of thing that this committee is likely to be banging on about and yet they are already covered by existing law. In the event of personal and sensitive information being published without permission; if the site owner doesn’t do the decent thing, the host in most cases, will.

    The issue of censorship and free speech on blogs is a regular source of complaint – a site owner owns the space. There is no right to free speech when commenting; we are on private property; the owner’s rules prevail. If, therefore, the site owner decides to delete an inappropriate comment (as I have on occasion), then that’s too bad. Those who cry “censorship” do so in vain.

    Again, I really can’t comment on Iain’s management of this as I don’t go there often enough to notice for myself.

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