Opinion: Blogosphere

POSTED: 07/23/14 12:15 PM

Could the blogosphere – that realm where bloggers rule – indeed contribute to more transparency and openness and to public debate? A darn good question that is.

The internet did not literally burst onto the scene – it evolved over a long period of time. In 1991, the Swiss computer programmer Tim Berners-Lee designed the World Wide Web; a year later the first internet browser cane on the market. Remember the name? Mosaic – later renamed Netscape.

Like with the introduction of the personal computer ten years earlier, the world was full of visionaries who foresaw a future wherein all information was accessible for all people. In the eighties, tech-visionaries predicted the rise of the paperless office. We all know that the opposite happened: paper consumption in offices exploded because of the computer.

How is it then with the internet? It is true that anyone with half a brain is now able to start a blog about her or his favorite subject – be it cooking, politics, skydiving, crocheting or health. This is also happening. The World Wide Web has become that enlarged shoebox we all had in our closets filled with useless and soon forgotten odds and ends.

That electronic shoebox is full of surprises, but it is also full of pitfalls. The main question in this age of overkill in the field of information is this one: how trustworthy is the stuff we are reading? Is it really true? Does it serve a particular agenda? Are they blatant lies, designed to damage someone’s reputation?

These questions of course also apply to traditional media like newspapers, but there is a difference. Newspapers have a physical presence and that makes editors more conscious of what they put out in print. Defamation lawsuits are rare in St. Maarten (though this newspaper was subjected to one a couple of years ago, but the plaintiff lost his case). But a defamation lawsuit against a web site? We do not remember any significant case in this field, even though some blogs are crammed with dubious information.

How cool is it to steal someone’s identity and parade all kind of nonsense under that false flag? It were more appetizing to readers if bloggers stood for what they put out there by stepping out of their paradise of anonymity and false identities.

As long as bloggers are not prepared to do that – for whatever reason – their attempts at being part of the public debate will remain in that obscure corner where they belong. The right to be forgotten does not only apply to malodorous information some bloggers distribute –the public has also the right to simply forget that those bloggers exist.

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