Regulators now take blogs seriously

The free press is making news this week in England and Australia. The Guardian’s UK editor, Alan Rusbridger was summonsed before a UK Parliamentary Committee to justify his and his papers actions in relation to the Snowden files.

In Australia, the ABC’s General Manager Mark Scott has received similar criticism for the ABC’s involvement with a Snowden leak that impacted Australian politics. Rusbridger and Scott are both subject to a level of hostility not seen since the McCarthy Hearings in the United States.

Transparency is the heart of this energetic discussion and the growth of social media causes us all to examine our own views on this issue. The enormity of the argument about the Guardian and the ABC can make our own blogs and social media accounts seem insignificant in comparison.

It’s just that they’re not. The ideals of transparency filter down.

It used to be that only the ‘media’ were subject to transparency rules simply because citizen publishers didn’t exist – at least not on the mass scale seen today. For example, advertising should not be misleading and any benefits or conflicts disclosed; don’t defame.

These stretch to social media users along with the all too real consequences as Sally Bercow discovered. We are all now wrapped up in the broad definition of media. We are all publishers.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has reminded Australian bloggers and website operators about the need for transparency and diligence in patrolling for false and misleading information on our sites. Similarly, the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK has issued guidance to UK based publishers to not blur the line between blogging and advertising.

Various Australian radio stations and broadcasters were sanctioned in 1999 for not disclosing payments received for comments made or withheld – this was the so called ‘cash for comment’ affair (this is the final report issued in August 2000). It’s difficult to see bloggers facing such grand allegations on such a public scale, but the regulators will at some point make an example of someone.

Online publishing didn’t get harder, it just got taken seriously.

Published by Brett

Brett is an experienced lawyer and business executive who focuses on commercial outcomes. He has worked across three sectors in England & Australia advising and leading initiatives in digital, media and technology

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