My blog title is a bit more dramatic than the reality behind it, but it does echo the thought that ran through my mind as I read about the EU suggestion to register and quality-control bloggers. The member of the European parliament (MEP) who made the proposal, Estonian Marianne Mikko, sounds like she wants to ensure the right free speech without inviting slander or outright lies published by unaccountable bloggers due to anonymity. But the reactions in Sweden and Norway suggest that Mikko’s desire to monitor the blog world may end up throttling it. From the EU Observer May 2:
Ms Mikko also worries that who the authors of weblogs are is not always made clear to readers, and that there are regular concerns regarding the impartiality and reliability of blogs. What is the legal situation of bloggers regarding source protection? Should they adhere to journalist ethical codes? Where is liability assiged [sic] in the event of lawsuits?
As a result, the MEP also calls for a clarification of the legal status of weblog authors and wants to see a disclosure of interests and the voluntary labelling of weblogs. Interestingly, the UK’s National Union of Journalists new media section – who recently signed up the world’s first unionised professional blogger – is currently drafting a voluntary code of conduct for bloggers that can be applied as a widget on any blog, similar to a ‘fair trade’ sticker on a bunch of bananas or packet of coffee.
And from an EU Observer article June 4:
The committee found that the increased use of the users own videos and photos on the internet does not always respect the privacy of citizens and public figures, and they believe that legal means need to be provided in order protect those concerns.
MEPs were also worried that the legal situation of bloggers regarding source protection is unclear, as where liability should be assigned in the event of lawsuits, and recommended that blogs and their authors be taken out of this legal limbo.
In addition, the deputies want to see a disclosure of interests and the voluntary labelling of weblogs and the establishment of a right to reply to those felt unjustly portrayed in a blog.
If any of the above gets passed into law in the EU, it may end up pertaining to EFTA nations and that means that Norwegian and Icelandic bloggers would be affected, too, if there is no protection of the right to free speech no matter the media or method. I don’t like the idea of being forced to watch myself or even give up my blog just because someone else happily invades other people’s privacy.
There is something else bugging the Scandinavians in all this, too: Sweden recently passed a rather un-Swedish law allowing its armed forces to monitor any electronic communication (the US’ latest export: paranoia). And I mean any. Since a lot of Norwegian electronic communication to the rest of the world gets routed via Swedish servers, Swedish defense could intercept Norwegian e-mails, like the ones between Norway and the US regarding fighter jets, for example (the Norwegian Department of Defense is currently negotiating plane purchases with both Sweden and the US). Swedish-Finnish telecom giant TeliaSonera has already started to reroute its Finnish internet traffic around Sweden.
So I watch and wait – and hope that both Norwegian and Swedish (and EU) legislators stop and say, “This isn’t us, this isn’t how we do things. Let’s go back to being the annoyingly idealistic democracies the US has always hated us for.” Heh. I never thought I’d want the left to come out swinging again, but the world doesn’t need McCarthyism Part 2. Or “1984”.