Osbourne: dealing with web scurrilousness…

Of course, with the democratisation of the old ‘information is power’ adage, there is a dark side. Endless sources of ‘knowledge’ create difficulties that the regulated mainstream media have managed through regulation and ultimately, the law. The sheer multiplicity of the new online networks make it difficult to impose such regulation. George Osbourne reckons the media is still sleeping.

This is profoundly liberating. But it also brings dangers. For not all information is equal. Some is wrong, some is malicious, some is dangerous.

The traditional media, operating sometimes uneasily within a rule of law, acted as a filter. That filter has gone.

Is it right that everyone can access sites that tell you how to commit suicide? Is it right that libellous rumour can be flashed across the world by an obscure website based abroad that leaves its victim with no recourse? Even if it is wrong, what can we or should we do about it?

The media is waking up to the democratisation of information, but the government – particularly in this country – is still fast asleep.

I recall Tony Benn at a Hansard Society seminar in Westminster a couple of years back singing the praises of online diarists, when he paraphrased Mark Twain’s famous line: “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on”. He argued that blogs provide the best way to deal with it is to ‘get your boots on and get after it”.

Previously: Plugging into the “seamless continuum”..

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty