Sunday, July 20, 2008

BPN 1164 A weblog register for the EU: bad idea Ms Mikko

I read this week about the excitement around a proposal of a member of the European Parliament (MEP) to start a webloggers’ register. Ms Marianne Mikko main recommendations in a report on media called on the European Commission and EU member states to apply competition law to the media to ensure media pluralism and in a sideline remark she proposed a weblogger’s register. She wants to know about the reliability of a weblogger. If she proposed a register – and I have my doubts about the context -, the lady must be a stranger in the Wired Wide World.

The postings I have read so far, have it, that Ms Mikko likes to see a register indicating the reliability of a weblog and its producer(s). It does not necessarily mean that the weblogger has to be registered with full name an address with a CV and a profile of the weblog... However the name of the weblog could also suffice with a register mentioning the weblog’s name and voluntary labelling of blogs by their authors (whatever that may be). I guess that she wants some keywords. This is strange as every serious blog uses tags, making it easy for Ms Mikko to search a weblog and ascertain the reliability. In an interview with the EU Observer she said: “We need some credentials, a quality mark, a certain disclosure of who is writing and why. We need this to be able to trust and rely on the source”.

Just the thought about a register, is ridiculous. Internet started as a free internet not bound to any rule or law, just to netiquette. Gradually it I integrated in laws, rules and measures. Just look at the music downloading; illegal downloading was a problem, but now it is becoming a sin, with letters sent straight from the confession box. Weblogging started as a freer form of journalism. Where journalist normally bound t a publication by contract or by association, a weblogger could publish whatever, whenever and wherever he/she wants.

I wonder why the MEP wants to have a register with or without the name of the webloggers. The blogs are there and most of the professional blogs have tags. So searching on a tag will give the reader already an impression on the seriousness or the ill will of the weblogger.

Brussels, i.e. the European Parliament and The European Commission, has many ritual dances and registers. Journalists have to get registered with the press office and the press office decides who is an accredited journalist. Also lobbyists have to register with the European Commission, just as they have to do with many governments. Are the lobbyists now more reliable since they registered and do the MEPS and EC officials now only see registered lobbyist and consultants? Of course not. When non-registered lobbyists want to meet a MEP, the MEP does not invite them on EU premises, but in Belgian or French restaurants and caf├ęs or in O’Reilly, the Irish pub in Brussels.

The question of reliability does not come about with the institution of a register. It lies of course with the MEPS and EC officials, and their use of journalists, lobbyists and consultants. Perhaps Ms Marianne Mikko should look into another direction and start a European counterpart of Maplight.org, an organisation mapping the correlations between money and politicians in the USA.

Blog Posting Number: 1164

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