Breaking the boundaries and breaking the law

November 23, 2008 at 4:02 pm (new age journalism) ()

The world of journalism is a more open one; it is one that has become more accessible to everyone who has access to the internet.

Blogging has really thrown journalism into a spin. It has made traditional journalists panic that their trade is at stake and put them into a state of fear if they feel they cannot keep up with the changing pace in technology. The Bivings Report highlighted these fears in its article on newspaper and provided suggestions for what newspapers need to be doing to keep up with the pace of the internet.

However, the problem with the proliferation of blogging among member of the public is that it is a risky business. Shane Richmond says that the key to successful blogging is to find a niche and make you blog different in some shape or form. But what if this niche is a dangerous one, where people end up putting false information out there, or break the law through libel? Or even, in the extremist level, they are aggressive and make threats that are deemed to be dangerous.

Most members of the public are not aware of media law and do not know what can be defined as libel or slander. This makes it easy to create content that breaks these laws, and affect people’s reputations. In some cases, this content is more dangerous than what is published in a newspaper, as the internet it quicker, available to be seen by more people and can be seen by users all over the world.

And media laws are not the only laws that can be broken through the increasing use of publication by the public on the internet. Laws regarding threatening behaviour can be broken so easily, whether it is plausible that it could be carried out in real life or not.

Over the past couple of months, there have been two cases which have caught my eye, that show the dangers of the internet, one related to blogging, and one related to social networking.

The first case is the case of Darryn Walker, who threatened to rape and murder Girls Aloud. Some may put it down to harmless comment on the internet, but looking at the content, it does not appear that harmless. The man who wrote it may not have wanted to actually carry out the acts he described, but that does not make it any less threatening. He also seemed to have misplaced the power of the internet; how many people it could reach and how seriously some of the readers would take it.

The second one is more sinister. This case involves a mother, whose daughter had fallen out with her friend, 13 year old Megan Meier. She signed onto msn, pretending to be a young boy and made a relationship with the girl, and then started to send her abusive messages. Megan then committed suicide after her online relationship ended.

I’m not saying that the increase in social networking and blogging is a bad thing. Generally, I am in favour of it. It provides people with a voice and allows us to get a different perspective of things. But I think we need to keep in mind that, as with most things, it is open to abuse. It can be very dangerous and we need to be wary of the content that is given to us


1 Comment

  1. Glyn said,

    We can always find horror stories in both print and online that show we should be careful. This doesn’t take away from your point, which is a very good one, but does mean that we need to keep our brain engaged on the net.

    There are ways of checking websites and their owners, Google whois to find out some more about one of these tools.

    Keeping an open mind is important, it means that you judge the information in front of you and don’t just accept it.

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