Blogs make the Internet an even less safe place for information

Bill Thompson strikes again in a new article for the BBC, concerning Google and blogging; he criticises the idea of blogging as superior to journalism, and the reputation metric ideas which support it. Despite saying nothing particularly new or unobvious, he has provoked criticism from bloggers.

This predictable retort from the denizens of the Distributed Republic of Blogistan interests me less than the application of Thompson’s comments to Usenet.

To take Thompson further, blogs don’t undergo the same level of rigorous scrutiny as the editorial process, and have less legal exposure motivating such rigour, therefore if we want information which has been rigorously assessed, we have to do this assessment ourselves. Blogs externalise scrutiny onto the reader, and thus cost us more than information from a newspaper. Other things being equal, we should disprefer blogs to journalism.

The most frustrating thing about Usenet, which is why I gave up on it in 1997, was that you couldn’t force people to admit they were wrong. They’d just stop posting for a while. They’d come back again after sufficient time had elapsed that references to their past inaccuracies were dismissable as dragging up ancient history or being off-topic. Consequently the space was abusable by those who wished to propagate incorrect information unaccountably – in a courtroom or a legislature, just disappearing or falling silent is immensely harmful to one’s interests. On the Internet, such tactics are rewarded, and thus can become part of strategy.

Any forum so unaccountable is unsuitable for democratic discourse. Blogs must always be considered in this light, whatever their merits for permitting people to express themselves to a wide audience.

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