Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Responsible Blogging

In recent times, there's been a developing trend in Malaysia of spreading so called 'rumours' through high-tech means, either through the Net or mobile communications media. This has resulted in the phenomenon called 'e-layang'.

Now, as with any other form of 'surat layang', things should not always be taken seriously. There are, of course, some that are perfectly legitimate and damaging. However, the vast majority of these 'e-layang' will mainly be baseless and harmless rants or 'rumours'.

The Net is a prime place for spreading these 'rumours' as it is cheap and easy. Where the letter was once limited by the amount of paper, envelopes and stamps a person could afford, the Net has leveled this cost to nothingness.

In addtion, the Net provides a wider audience than ever before.
The only trouble is that, many Malaysians are still not savvy enough to differentiate between truth and fiction online. A lot of people tend to assume that there is an air of truth to whatever they find online. This can cause certain problems, especially with the government and politicians.

Governments are worried, because they no longer has a monopoly on information. Since the dawn of governments, they have always sought to maintain control and manipulate information. In the old days, it was much easier as there weren't many sources of credible information. These days, the Net has leveled the playing field, allowing anyone to run an dormroom publishing empire.

The Malaysian government is particularly worried as it has a lot of recent dirty laundry aired in the public by bloggers. It is under more intense scrutiny than it has ever been before. And, it is not doing very well in the public eye. Therefore, it is trying to discredit bloggers.

That is why you have articles such as this one, that try to tell the people not to believe everything you read on the Net as any anonymous person can set up a blogger/wordpress account. I would have gone one step further and told everyone not to believe *anything* that they read or hear from *any* source. Please evaluate everything for yourself and decide what you want to believe in. There is a reason that we were all born with a brain.

The article goes further and tries to paint bloggers as 'sneaky people', who can try to hide their identities and spoof IP addresses to cover their tracks. It tries to paint bloggers as 'irresponsible' while implying that traditional journalists have a 'responsibility' for their own work. The question one has to ask then is: who are these people responsible to? A responsible journalist has to answer to the powers that be, while an anonymous blogger answers to nobody but themselves.

However, this is a fairly simplistic view of the situation. Bloggers, like journalists, are human. Both can be coerced, bought and manipulated by third parties. There are well documented cases of Microsoft buying off bloggers to blog positively on their company's products. There are also bloggers that are blackballed by companies who want to control the flow of information.

This article did bring up an interesting fact though. In order to prosecute someone under the CMA, 'intent' has to be proven, not just the identities. So, that's probably why bloggers are currently sued under defamation laws, which cover a wider scope.

In conclusion, when reading anything online, please read it with both eyes opened. Do not believe anything that you read anywhere. Use your brain to analyse the information and decide for yourself, what is true and what is not.

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