One of the other quite full-on debates that came out of the Travel Blogcamp last week was directly in relation to a slightly facetious comment I made about being able to 'write whatever I like on my blog.'
Kevin May commented on the Travolution blog:
bloggers (I not going to say here for fear of bringing him to the
attention of the legal community) said as a blogger he could get away
with saying things about travel companies.
This is a critical
point. As blogging continues to position itself as an increasingly
influential information source for consumers, travel firms will soon
intervene when they do not like the message.
This is not heavy
handedness. Bloggers - as publishers of information - are governed by
the same laws as media companies to protect individuals and
organisations from libel and ensure fairness and accuracy is maintained.
smugness which some bloggers have - thankfully, not at the event on
Tuesday - is that they are above the law. Perhaps at the moment they
have been lucky - but some trigger-happy lawyer make decide to turn his
or her attention to them at any time."
I'm guessing he meant to say "as a blogger he could get away
with saying defamatory? things about travel companies." Otherwise the sentence doesn't really make much sense...
As a trained journalist I'm well aware of libel and
slander laws. (And they are the ones that matter.)
The point I was making was not that I could indulge in illegal activity, but that as a blogger, freed from the constraints of
editorial policy, a need to keep advertisers on board, concern about the opinions of fellow writers/sub editors, I
can say what I like - as long (of course) as the opinion is honestly held and
can be substantiated.
That for me is the fantastic thing about
The other fantastic thing about blogging is the comments
box. It's a right to reply... where any company or person who feels I
haven't described a situation accurately can state their case in the same place as I've stated mine - again with no recourse to an editor. They can just do it (I leave the comments completely open on my blog.)
I certainly don't plan to be the one to try posting a load of completely made-up stuff about someone just because I don't like them but legal actions taken in the context of libel (in my limited experience and understanding) are often when someone has said something libellous or defamatory about someone or an entity in such a way that they can't set the record straight. The fact that a blog offers any individual or company the opportunity to state their side of the story as well, in the same enviroment, means that I personally don't think there will be that many libel lawyers taking legal action against bloggers - trigger happy or otherwise.
(As an aside... you could make similar arguments about websites too. There are lots out there saying all sorts of outrageous things about big brands like Starbucks, Ryanair and McDonalds. For the most part companies seem to prefer to just leave them be.)