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Blogging

In: Social Issues

Submitted By prenggy
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THE “BLOG” EXPERIENCE:
WHEN FREEDOM BECOMES INVASION

INTRODUCTION Francois Voltaire, one of France’s most famous philosophers became well-known for this often quoted phrase: “I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it.” The phrase summarizes the spirit of the freedom of speech – one of the inventions of the 18th century Enlightenment, a time when discussions among the upper class were construed as constituting the public sphere. Although they belonged to the sophisticated members of society, their conversations highlighted social equality and everyone was given the chance to speak and be demanded to listen. With free and frank conversations, people became acquainted with points of view that were not familiar; they discovered strengths and weaknesses in their personal arguments, and subsequently became moderate in the expression of their views taking into consideration the arguments of others. With this small light ignited in the intellectual realm, the idealism of free communication of thoughts and opinions spread and became one of the trademarks of democratic societies. During the next century, John Stuart Mill affirmed that societies progress when people freely express themselves because errors and misconceptions are exposed, and alternatives were proposed. These sentiments became the backbone of the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948 and of the European Convention on Human Rights adopted in 1950: that everyone has the right to opinion without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. But, alas, as people’s right to express themselves became the norm of the day, access to information became limited. Woodrow Wilson expressed his belief that wars are mere machinations of statesmen and that in a democracy, young men can’t be asked to die in battles for reasons that are not made public. The people in power started to keep secrets protecting incompetence, prejudice and corruption. The promise of public debate and public collection of reasons were broken. The masses – the ordinary people – were shut out of discussions. The minority, the marginalized, the unschooled were taken out of the equation. Even former U.S. President Adam Smith, pointed out that a person needs to have “leather shoes and starched white shirt” in order to be taken seriously in political meetings. It did seem though that when the early proponents of democracy were advocating freedom of expression, they only had the educated and the propertied in mind. (Ringmar 2007) Today, the same divide that separates the elite and the masses still pervades. Economic power is a factor to contend with. For example, the ordinary people are made to be satisfied with what the media – through its gatekeepers, the editors and publishers – feeds them. They decide what is newsworthy, what is fit to be printed, what is grammatically correct, what is substantial. The rest of us had to be content with editorial crumbs.

The Advent of New Media All this is now being challenged with the advent of technological advances. Foremost is the now-ubiquitous Internet – that worldwide collection of interconnected networks sharing resources and network connections with one another – and the global effect it has on humanity. There is no aspect in the everyday life of both the cosmopolitan and the plebeian man that is not influenced and shaped by the computer. The period of new media has arrived. Consider the following: the electronic mail (e-mail) has substituted the now antiquity-bound snail-mail via an electronic e-mail address where one sends and receives message in a flash; the websites market everything anyone can think of and therefore, the necessity to leave the house for shopping has become a voluntary, not compulsory, decision to make; the audio-video downloads are feast to both the ears and the eyes in the comforts of the home; the transactions that are normally conducted over bank counters for payments of bills and loan applications can now be done in a click of a mouse; the additional camera and microphone accessories allow anyone to place and receive telephone calls, attend to transatlantic job interviews; the rich sources of libraries, television and cable networks, books, magazines, newspapers all provide research materials ready to be browsed at any given time. Indeed, the Internet has revolutionized modern-day living.

On top of all these, networking among people from all walks of life in all the corners of the globe has been made easier with the introduction of such popular websites as Friendster, Multiply, Flickr, MySpace, Google, Twitter, etc. along with their chat rooms, photo exchanges, instant messaging, and blogs.

The Blogging Phenomenon In an article written by Sarah Boxer of The New York Book of Reviews, she narrates how the word “blog” was born: In 1997, Jorn Barger, the administrator of Robot Wisdom, a website full of writings about James Joyce, artificial intelligence, and Judaism, coined the word "Weblog." Two years later, Peter Merholz, the keeper of a blogsite called Peterme, split the word in two —"We blog"— creating a word that could serve as either noun or verb.

Wikipedia defines blog – which is an abridgement of web log – as a website, usually maintained by an individual, with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other materials such as graphics or video. It can also be classified as an online diary.

According to Blog World Expo statistics, as of April 2007, almost 1.4 million posts and 120,000 new blogs are created everyday. As the internet revolution took off in the first years of the new millennium, the number of bloggers grew exponentially. Duncan Riley of Blog Herald writes that as of July 2007, “there are now at least 70 million blogs in existence with 63 million blogs having been created on 8 leading blog hosting sites that host 1 million or more blogs alone.”

Blogging as Medium of Self-Expression The blog, unwittingly becomes a forum for self-expression, albeit, without the editorial snip. True to the spirit of the early Enlightenment period, it levels the playing field once again as far as freedom of expression is concerned. For example, a company blog wearing corporate badge will be no different from a blog page designed by an amateur student. Both become a venue for expression however different their contents. Thus was born another tool by which citizens are able to enjoy their freedom of expression. But there is something curious about the word freedom. For in it, the denotation that a person can do something at will and at whim is provokingly manifested. It encompasses power. It encompasses strength – not merely in its physical sense, but in all the faculties that can be unleashed and left out of control. It encompasses discipline – the ability of knowing the difference between the inside and outside boundaries. With freedom, as we oftentimes hear, comes responsibility, too. The same is true when freedom is particularized to freedom of expression. There, too, lays the wisdom required in knowing the difference between what is expressible and what is better left unsaid. The freedom to efficiently communicate ideas of whatever persuasion – be they in the field of politics or literature or social realism, even personal beliefs and experiences – without the encumbrance of deterrence, is embraced in one’s freedom of expression. However, it must be noted that such freedom, insofar as our Constitution is concerned – is offered only in matters affecting public interest. To express personal opinions about matters involving our very lives as citizens is sanctioned by our political institutions, and we have every right to question the affairs of how we are governed as a people. But, it is altogether a different matter where personal freedom to communicate opinions concerns stepping on other people’s equally protected right of privacy.

That independence – for better or worse – is further abetted by how easy it is nowadays to communicate and express our opinions. The advent of technological advancement brings with it communication innovations that make the world a smaller dwelling place. Where in the past the communication cycle takes a longer detour before feedback is received, the same is no longer true in a quick-paced, fast-moving, and electronically-charged society.

Since people these days tend to express their feelings in different ways, the blog has been quite a useful venue for self-expression, not to mention promotion of political, religious or social agenda. Others use blogs as excuses for creative expression or documentation of personal experiences. Still others hold that blogs are storage sites and spaces for memories. It then becomes a means through which we describe and explain our lives to ourselves by creating and narrating our identities. (Ringmar, 2007)

Blogging as Medium of Abuse This is where the problem in blogging comes in. While it becomes a stage from which any writer finds articulation of his innermost thoughts, it also becomes a stage from which infractions to limitations on freedom of speech are exacted. For all its stepping into the limelight, the emergence of blogging has also brought with it a wide range of legal liabilities and other often unanticipated consequences. (www.wikipedia.com) With the use of blogs and the exercise of the blogger’s right to express his ideas, insights and emotions, some things that are supposed to be kept in hidden like skeletons in the closet are unearthed and exposed which somehow ruffles a few feathers. While writing the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth can keep you out of trouble — both in your personal and public life — it does so only up to a point. For example, truth is not a defense for libel and slander, and it is not a defense for invasion of privacy – especially for Pandora’s boxes being opened at the expense of exploiting Pandora herself. The Internet is the new frontier where not everything is clearly defined, particularly in matters drawing the line between what is the free expression of opinions and the misstepping into the protected rights of individuals and entities. Hence, the question is raised: Is the blog merely a platform through which one can write freely – in a personal capacity – about anything or anyone under the sun? Is it good or is it evil? This is the focus of this policy paper. It will attempt to enumerate the various advantages of blogging. It will also underline the possible abuses that this new medium can wreck in the public sphere. It will explore the laws that govern the medium of blogging as a means of expression. And in the end it will lay down policies that the group hopes will remedy whatever conflict arises in blogosphere.

CHAPTER 1

From the School of Information and Computer Science at the University of California, Bonnie Nardi volunteers that, “bloggers are driven to document their lives, provide commentary and opinions, express deeply felt emotions, articulate ideas through writing, and form and maintain community forums.” People become transparent in expressing their ideas, insights and emotions through blogging. Still, scientists have also long known the therapeutic benefits of writing about personal experiences. Research shows that doing so improves memory and sleep, boosts immune cell activity and reduces viral load in AIDS patients, and even speeds healing after surgery.

In the Philippines, blogging does not lag too far behind its Asian and Western counterparts. Among the leading bloggers of the country are those which cover politics, punditry, history, news. Manuel L. Quezon III’s “The Daily Dose” is a regular fare among political science students and those who like to get insights about the government with a historical perspective. “JessicaRulestheUniverse.com” is Jessica Zafra’s – of Twisted fame – personal web-cum-blogsite which offers a closer look at her personal and mental state. The blogsites of rival channels – ABS-CBN and GMA 7 – are also popular among netizens.

Blogging has become a welcome news especially for those who like to break the monopoly of media, those who refused to be told what to think about, those who repudiate the agenda being set by the very powerful media. It disseminates information, unfiltered and unedited, and it becomes the public voice that clamors to be heard. It advocates debates and encourages the public to speak up and in a sense – both awesome and dangerous – the chorus of new voices seem to be far more interesting and better articulated. It is not difficult to deduce that in blogging, there is a real sense of democratizing the freedom of expression.

Types of Blog Most blogs are nothing but personal journals that provide commentary on the blogger’s chosen subject. They become displays of creative multi-media presentation that combine text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. Blogs usually have a space where readers can post their comments in an interactive format. Other than being textual, blogs also offer art, photos, sketches, videos, music, and audio.

Wikipedia enumerate the different types of blogs, differing not only in the type of content, but also in the way that content is delivered or written.

• Personal Blogs are the most traditional and the more common type. It is an ongoing private diary that takes pride in its posts even if it is not read by anyone but the writer. More than just a means to communicate, the blog becomes the platform of expression, reflection and sentimentality. • Corporate Blogs are used for business purpose. It enhances the image of a corporation or an entity. Internally, it provides for communication within the cultural context of a company. Externally, it helps in the marketing, branding, and even public relations.

• Media Blogs are those that are categorized according to medium used. A blog comprising videos is called a vlog; one that comprises links is a linklog; one that contains portfolio of sketches is a sketchblog; one that is composed of pictures is a photoblog. A blog with short posts and mixed media types is called a tumblelog while an artlog has a predominant use of art than text.

• Genre Blogs are characterized by what they focus on as subjects. There are political blogs, travel blogs, house blogs, fashion blogs, project blogs, niche blogs, classical music blogs, quiz blogs, poetry blogs, and legal blogs.

• Question Blogs are those that answer questions submitted using a form or through e-mail. Questions range from menu tips to sports rules – in fact about anything.

Freedom of Blogging When in the past only media personages are heard and listened to, the general public – those with access to and knowledge of internet usage anyway – has now become a media force to contend with. People are beginning to express themselves with candor and are becoming their own spokespersons, no matter how ordinary, informal and incoherent. The private individuals have started to take over the public sphere.

When in the past the public has been a silent observer of events and activities, they now become part of distinct voices: victims of emotional distress, work force injustice, government bureaucracy, religious persecution, and even repressed social climate. With blogging, secrets are spilled on the internet, whistle blowers come forward, fingers are pointed, vengeance taken.

By maintaining a blog, self-reflective habits are developed. The blogger is able to keep his inner world awake and in tune with the rest of the world. He writes about ideas and events, shape them, draw personal implications, criticize or even articulate them into something productive.

For example, people are now able to sound off their gripes against institutions – employees talk about bosses they hate, students discuss the most disliked professors, consumers write tirades about faulty-advertised products, constituents debate about merits and demerits of politicians. The Iraq war produced some of the best reportages on blogs. Soldiers send videos through their blogs and the world get to see war in living color. The horrors of the abuse of political prisoners by American soldiers in Al-Ghuraib became internationally known and condemned because of pictures released on blogs.

Blogging is also a perfect place for whistle-blowing especially when a company does something that is morally questionable or outright illegal. In the movie, Erin Brockovich, the protagonist had to go through a lot of hurdle in other for her to make her case known. In today’s cyberspace, these findings can be brought to public attention through blogging. On the other hand, blogging also becomes a podium where company secrets are leaked to the public either intentionally or by mistake.

In elections, enlightenment is necessary for the public to be able to make well-informed choices. Political blogs offer such information. The YouTube is a perfect site to be broadcast or help a candidate find support.

Of course, it can’t be helped that bigots and malicious people are also given the floor to air their twisted points of view. This is when misinformation penetrates the Internet. It is no surprise therefore that even in the West where freedom of speech is supremely protected, there are those who advocate blog censorship (Ringmar 2007). Consider their arguments: • Blogging legitimizes dangerous ideas. The children and the gullible are likely to be influenced. • Blogging ideas can be contagious. When it passes from one blog to another, it can be infectious. • Blogging helps coordinate activities of groups that use non-democratic methods. • Blogging undermines deliberation because arguments become exaggerated and no common consensus is reached.

Rights of Bloggers in the United States In the United States, a group called Electronic Frontier Foundation (www.eff.org) spearheads the cause of protecting bloggers against legal liabilities. From its manifesto, it encourages bloggers to fight for their rights in the light of freedom of expression. It laid down rights in accordance with the First Amendment, among them: • The right to blog anonymously as the “author is generally free to decide whether or not to disclose his or her true identity. The decision in favor of anonymity may be motivated by fear of economic or official retaliation, by concern about social ostracism, or merely by a desire to preserve as much of one's privacy as possible. Whatever the motivation may be...the interest in having anonymous works enter the marketplace of ideas unquestionably outweighs any public interest in requiring disclosure as a condition of entry. Accordingly, an author's decision to remain anonymous, like other decisions concerning omissions or additions to the content of a publication, is an aspect of the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment." • The right to keep sources confidential as the journalist-blogger as a vital source of information is “weakened whenever the ability to gather news is impaired. Compelling a reporter to disclose the identity of a source may significantly interfere with this news gathering ability; journalists frequently depend on informants to gather news, and confidentiality is often essential to establishing a relationship with an informant." • The right to make fair use of intellectual property provided that it satisfies the Court’s determining factors of what constitutes “fair use”, i.e. the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion used, the effect on the market or potential market. • The right to allow readers’ comments without fear; the right to protect internet server from government seizure; the right to freely blog about elections; the right to blog about the workplace; to right to access to information.

Philippine Case:
The Brian Gorrell Blog: Freedom of Expression or Invasion of Privacy

How can a person’s freedom of expression in the blogging arena becomes his license to step into the privacy of another? Conversely, how can a person’s private area of blogging be sidestepped by censorship of freedom of expression?

In the Philippines, there was no other blog that attracted too much attention as far as blogging is concerned. The Not So Talented Delfin “DJ” Justiniano Ocampo Montano II is just another blog account in the Blogger site. But here, the boundary between ethics and downright vulgarity has been breached. This blog focuses on a personal relationship gone awry that has spawned a lot of stories that become fodder for gossips. Did the blogger – Brian Gorrell – expressed his grievances too far?

The blog - http://delfindjmontano.blogspot.com – is Gorrell’s personal account of his experiences in the Philippines as he kowtowed with the jetset crowd of Manila. But more than just his personal experiences, he also drops big names in his blog – and predictably, not in a positive light. He blogs about sons and daughters of rich and well-known families, a model cheating on influential husband, an event organizer selling drugs in his parties, drug addiction in high society, and other nasty skeletons in the closets of his former friends.

The blog has gripped the entire globe, so hungry for controversies involving personalities – and logged in more than a million visits in the short span of time that it went online.

The main focus of Gorrell’s popular blog is his Filipino ex-boyfriend, Delfin Justiniano Montano II, who is a society-page columnist and a prominent figure of the so-called Gucci Gang, a group of Manila partygoers that include a host of last names that reek of politics and fame. Gorrell met Montano while he was staying at the Manila Peninsula on a holiday in 2006. They met again in Boracay, he fell in love, moved to Boracay with Montano in 2007, and then his calvary started. In the course of their relationship, Montano allegedly convinced Gorrell to invest in a restaurant business. Gorrell, who owned a flower shop in Sydney sold his share of the business to his partner and planned on making a life in the Philippines. He started sending him money from Australia which totaled to seventy thousand Australian dollars, roughly P2.7 million. He says he was made to believe that the money was going towards opening a Portuguese restaurant in Greenbelt. There was not a restaurant to be.

Gorrell contends that $70,000 was all he had in his bank and Montano took it all. This is the whole point of the blog: Gorrell wants his money back. The fact that Brian Gorrell is now left with a not-so-substantial Australian pension has pushed him to find a way to recover his investment. The blog becomes the means to an end.

Gorrell writes that they Montano and he had a violent fight after he began asking the former lover about his investment. One thing led to another and Gorrell had to fly back to Australia, after a traumatic incident with the police, witnessed by his “friends” who did nothing to help him. And then the blog was born. In an interview, Gorrell said he began the blog while at the airport because he knew he could not do it while here. In almost every post at the beginning of the blog, Gorrell always begs for the ex-lover to pay him back. The sad turn, however, came in the form of the abuse he heaped on the members of Montano’s circle of friends. They were caught in the crossfire of words waged by an angry, vindictive, jilted and swindled lover.

Names in Manila’s Who’s Who like Celine Lopez, Wendy Puyat, Ana Angara, Marcel Crespo, Marco Antonio, Tim Yap – all media personalities and scions of personages of the Manila society scene – became targets of online mudslinging. Matched with these names are allegations about a gay lover from one the Philippines' most influential families, tales of wild parties, explicit photos, a few tyrranical housewives, drug use, philandering, genital size, freeloading against his ex-boyfriend’s friends, and even, cover-up in a suicide case.

The popularity of the blog was unprecedented. People became deliriously curious, and for a few apparent reasons. For one, Gorrell, being an HIV-positive person gains a lot of sympathy from the readers. Randy Dellosa, a resident psychologist of the Pinoy Big Brother show opines that Gorrell, “represents our alter ego, our shadow self. We can identify with him. We’ve all felt his rage. But because we are not as daring and uninhibited as he is, he becomes our substitute. He acts out for us, [allowing us] to release our own repressed anger.”

Dellosa also acknowledged that, “for the common tao, this scandal proves that socialites are vulnerable, too, in spite of their fame and fortune.” The gossip bits becomes the blog’s primary come-on. He defends that gossip “is a normal and natural behavior, which serves a purpose in society, because it is a ‘social glue’ that keeps people together. It’s also a ‘social lubricant’ that gets people to interact with one another.” While it is deemed immoral, “gossip can ironically deter people from committing immoral acts and teach us to keep dark deeds in check and well-hidden,” he said.

For Gorrell, his blogging is justified in his quest to get justice. Whether or not he will succeed is too early to say. Nevertheless, his blog has proven a point. That is has emerged as a powerful media tool for information. The potential to reach millions of people via internet access is staggering. Even if the credibility of the blogs as a source of information may sometimes be questioned, there is no doubt that it has proven its influence in politics, business, and the entertainment industry.

The numbers of visitors to Gorrell’s blog are impressive for a personal blog – more than 2 million in a less than a month! So impressive was the figure that it has attracted the attention of Google, according to Gorrell, to put ads on his blog.

The power of the blog to inform and to influence is only one side to this phenomena. On the other side lies the ethical question of whether or not blogging crosses over from the arena of freedom of expression to the invasion of privacy of other individuals.

In Gorrell’s irrational honesty, he may find his blog becoming the means to an end, i.e. collecting from Montano, but does the end, if it does come, justify the means? The libelous and defamatory remarks splashed onscreen, ready to be viewed by millions, are reasons enough to merit legal cases. A UP Law Professor, JJ Disini, finds the statements towards the famous people libelous and using them as pawns to get his money back is an unfair means.

While the libel aspect of the blog content is meritorious in that there are enough grounds to file charges against Gorrell, the invasion of privacy aspect – bordering on ethics as embodied by Article 26 of the Civil Code – need to be reviewed, too. Gorrell has violated so much of his blog characters’ right to privacy and has damaged their reputation quite severely.

Naturally, the Filipinos maligned in the blog are resorting to legal options to stop Gorrell’s blog. Their lawyers communicated with Gorrell to convince him to bring the matter to the courts, but to no avail. Gorrell even published the entirety of the lawyers’ letter in his blog, too.

According to one report, one of the subjects has called on the Philippine government to cooperate with the Australian police. Gorrell was consequently visited by representatives of the Philippine Consulate in Australia, accompanied by the Australian police. He was not charged with any crime after that visit.

The legal implications of blogging, without constraint and without due respect to the privacy of others, have become an interesting facet to the community of lawyers in the Philippines. The media attention and forum discussions brought about the question on how – if ever – the internet should be put under control.

Can this sensational case be resolved in the court? Lawyers have suggested several options, the easiest of which is for Gorrell to come back to the Philippines – where the alleged crime was committed – file charges against Montano and collect his money. Likewise, Montano can file libel charges against Gorrel for his allegations. Gorrell intimated his distrust of the legal system in the Philippines and vows never to come back here, and instead will continue blogging until he gets his money back.

In his blog, he said that he has “absolutely no intention of spending the next three years of my life battling a liar or thief in your court system in Manila. I have experienced enough of the corrupt process you call law in the Philippines . I’m done. You will never get me into a courthouse in your country. Ever.”

Clearly, an out of court settlement is the only solution. Pay up or “the ugly revelations will continue,” he says in his blog.

Meanwhile, the defamed Filipino characters may file a civil case against Gorrell here in the Philippines – like what Montano supposedly did – and ask for his extradition from Australia. That is unlikely to happen as the Australian government will surely protect its citizens. They may also file charges against Gorrell in Australia but aside from being expensive, the setback is the unfamiliarity with Australian law.
CHAPTER 2

In the case of Brian Gorrell’s blog and the invasion of privacy he has wrought on his Filipino victims via his libelous allegations, the questions that bear answering is this: Can foreign courts hear defamation cases involving online material published on persons from another country? Or if you’re writing in one country online are you subject to another country’s laws? Or if your host is in a different country, which country’s laws are you writing under and will your country enforce a judgment against you?

The power of the blog is not confined to invasion of privacy alone, nor to its ability to libel and defame. The question remains, thus, what can be written in blogs? What are the parameters? Truths may not present much of a problem but what about other information? Can a person get back at a boyfriend who milks her of her lifetime savings? Can anyone pass false information about a political opponent? Can anybody besmirch the name of a corporate rival? Can someone reveal company’s bargaining position? Can an employee vilify a boss who turned you down for promotion? Can somebody spread unverified humors and outright lies? Can a soldier blog about the military’s unfitness for war?

Restrictions in Blogging To be sure, insofar as blog censorship is concerned, there is no such thing as absolute freedom. The Blogging websites make sure that these restrictions are understood when they ask people who sign-up on free blogsites to confirm their agreement to the terms and conditions. The website owners reserve the right to remove comments, videos, artworks that the public might find offensive. Not all blogsite owners are conscientious though. And the problem that really bogs down the web administrators is in monitoring the uploaded posts.

The blogging woes have not really penetrated our islands. In other countries however, particularly where freedom of expression is repressed, the proliferation of “underground” blogs being harassed by law enforcers have become international news. Many cases have been reported internationally about bloggers rubbing respective local laws with regard to breach of their personal interpretation of freedom of expression.

Blogging, particularly in the political setting, is a dangerous trapeze act, more especially in countries with sensitive political ideologies. Since blogs are much harder to control than broadcast or print media, the consequences for bloggers who go afoul with the sensitivity of the country sometimes face unforeseen consequences. Repressive regimes oftentimes seek to suppress blogs or punish those who maintain them.

Here are a few noteworthy examples:
China
In China where political bloggers are censored, filmmaker and blogger Hao Wu was arrested and detained by Chinese officials, allegedly in connection with information he has pertinent to the national Communist Party. His editing equipment and videotapes were removed from his apartment. Many believed that the arrest was connected with Hao’s knowledge of "underground churches" in China, a phenomenon that the communists feel threatened by. Chinese officials have been trying to crack down on for some time now popular institutions whose ideologies are different from their own. Many high-profile bloggers are encouraging readers to get in touch with China's embassy in Washington to protest the arrest. Hao writes in Beijing or Bust, a blog that flirts with the fine lines between Chinese state censorship and the U.S. Fifth Amendment, a habit that he may have picked up from his education in the United States.

Singapore Gopalan Nair, a US citizen, was charged with insulting a Singapore judge Belinda Ang Saw Ean in his blog by saying she was “prostituting herself”. In the blog, Gopalan Nair criticized a recent legal hearing at which Singapore founding father Lee Kuan Yew and his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, testified in a defamation case they filed against an opposition party where he contended, that Ang prostituted herself during the entire proceedings, “by being nothing more than an employee of Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his son and carrying out their orders," a court document said. Justice Ang presided over the hearing. Further, another charge accused him of calling Singapore judges “corrupt.” If convicted, Nair, a former Singaporean lawyer now based in California, faces up to one year in prison and a S$5,000 (3,630 US) fine.

Egypt The Egyptian government sentenced Abd al-Karim Nabil Sulaiman, blogger, to four years in prison for his writings, charging him with insulting Islam, defaming the president, and “spreading information disruptive of the public order.” Sulaiman, a 22-year-old former student of Islamic jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University, is better known by his pen name, Karim Amer. Prosecutors ordered him detained pending investigation. According to Saral Leah Whitson, Middle East Director at Human Rights Watch, the sentence, “sets a chilling precedent in a country where blogs have opened a window for free speech.”

Russia Savva Terentyev, a Russian musician in Syktyvkar, 1,000 km northeast of Moscow, is the first Russian being prosecuted – as an extremist – for blogging. He spoke about the corruption in Russian law-enforcement insulting local police as low-lives in a user’s LiveJournal blog and was jailed. In his blog, he conjured up images of Nazi detention camps, suggesting burning bad cops twice a day in city squares of Moscow. He was charged with inciting violence, hatred, or enmity against a social group. Moscow is trying to gain further control over free speech by expanding state access to all telecommunications and by proposing tight regulation of the Internet and its users. While a person’s right to speak does not imply an endorsement of his views, Terentyev’s blog certainly cannot be seriously taken as a genuine call to violence, in a distant region with a small readership. It did not pose a severe danger to the public, as Russian law requires. His blogs were hardly read and no one found it worthy of comment even before they were deleted by the owner. He was merely ranting as what other bloggers do. Terentyev’s case sets a critical precedent that could allow widespread censorship in a country where free media are already dying a slow death. Iran Tehran’s judiciary tried four men, Roozbeh Mirebrahimi, Shahram Rafizadeh, Omid Memarian, and Javad Gholam Tamimi, on charges of “participation in formation of groups to disturb national security,” “propaganda against the state,” “dissemination of disinformation to disturb public opinion by writing articles for newspapers and illegal internet sites,” and “interviews with foreign radio broadcasts.” These four were charged along with 17 other bloggers and staff of internet news sites known to be critical of the Iran government. They were since released following international protests. But the release of the four came only after they were forced to sign written confessions. According to Human Rights Watch, “the laws on which the government has based its case are themselves incompatible with international human rights law.” The Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information (1995) provide that “no one may be punished for criticizing or insulting the nation, the state or its symbols, the government, its agencies, or public officials, or a foreign nation, state or its symbols, government [or] agency.” The principles are based on international law and standards and have come to be widely recognized as an authoritative interpretation of the relationship between legitimate national security interests and the right of free expression and right to information.

Tibet The first Tibetan writer inside the mainland who openly raised in Chinese critical questions regarding China’s role in Tibet and who urged Beijing to negotiate with the Daily Lama was Oeser. Her blog was recently closed by Chinese authorities, which highlighted the crackdown on media regarding Tiber-related issued. Oeser is the author of Notes on Tiber, two books on the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution which were not distributed in China, and a book of collected poems. She was removed from her position at the Tibet Cultural Association in Lhasa in 2004 after China’s United Front Department and its Publications Bureau determined that her writings contained “political errors” due to the positive references in Notes on Tibet to the exiled Tibetan leader. Because readers in China have no access to her books, Oeser began to make extensive use of the Internet to disseminate her writings. In February 2005, Oeser established her first blog which set a new standard for frank discussions on a number of highly sensitive issues, such as HIV/AIDS in Tibet, the Tibet railway, the 40th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution, the anniversary of the events in Tibet in March 1959. Oeser’s blogs prompted an increasing number of Tibetan and ethnic Chinese intellectuals, and many from other minority groups, to publicly debate topics relating to Tibet, including ethnic discrimination, environmental degradation, and cultural dilution as a result of migration. In recent years, the Chinese government and Communist party officials have moved aggressively to shut down websites, blogs, and other electronic forums that discuss what the government considers sensitive topics, using a sophisticated network of human and technological controls. Journalists, bloggers, webmasters, writers, and editors who sent news out of China or who even debated among themselves about Tibet, Taiwan, and human rights, among other subjects, have faced punishments ranging from sudden unemployment to long prison terms. These political blogs, while personal expressions of opinions and viewpoints toed the line of infringing the reputation of the governments of the respective countries, if the latter were to be believed.

Legal Liabilities of Blogging However, sensitivity to blog contents are not only confined to political issues. Most of the contents that warrant prosecution by the courts are those that go beyond public matters. These are the private blogs that discussed private lives.

Indeed, the emergence of blogging has brought a range of legal liabilities and other often unforeseen consequences. In the United States from where much of the local jurisprudence are based, bloggers are subject to the same liability issues applicable to those making a publication available to the public and they also receive the same freedom of speech and press protections (www. eff.org). The main legal liability issues include: • Defamation • Intellectual Property (Copyright/Trademark) • Trade Secret • Right of Publicity • Publication of Private Facts • Intrusion into Seclusion

Court Cases In the United States, the Sixth District Court of Appeal ruled that Internet postings were considered libel, not slander, under California law.

In the case of Varian Medical Systems, Inc, v. Delfino, H024214, "two former employees [of Varian Associates, Inc.] posted a series of messages on an Internet bulletin board devoted to the company's publicly traded stock. The messages maligned the company's products and suggested that the two executives were incompetent and dishonest and that one of them, a woman, might have obtained her position by having sex with a supervisor." A jury found them guilty of libel, invasion of privacy, breach of contract and conspiracy and were fined $425,000 for general damages and $350,000 in punitive damages.

A Durango Herald article held that a "Fort Lewis College honors graduate was sentenced to a total of 23 years in prison ...after being found guilty of 26 felonies, including criminal libel." David Temple Stephenson “...instilled fear and terror into his victims' lives by spreading lies over the Internet, creating fake posters and sending phony letters. He usually targeted anyone in a position of authority: jail guards, a police officer, a landlord, a college newspaper editor and several Fort Lewis College professors.”

Stephenson created a Web site in a professor's name, identifying her as a sexual deviant and asking anyone reading to come rape her. He then posted the professor's home address. He also sent a fake obituary to an Alaskan newspaper announcing that a jail guard had died of AIDS. The guard was actually alive and well. His claim that the First Amendment protected his actions was turned down.

On a smaller scale, a Wisconsin Web site, FullofBologna.com, was temporarily shut down by a judge in a case that involved anonymous messages on a bulletin board on the site. Judge Diane Fremgen claims those messages included libelous, sexually explicit comments. The lawsuit is against the Dennis Payne who operates the site and "the anonymous participant who went by the pseudonym, Mr. Imperfect."

Also, Senator Mike DeWine’s former counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Robert Steinbuch, filed a complaint against former Senate Aide Jessica Cutler, charging that the latter invaded his privacy in 2004 by publishing facts about their sexual relationship. This case may hinge on whether the case was filed too late.

The strict legal question to be decided by a federal court in Washington, D.C. is this: Can a blogger's blow-by-blow description of consensual sex give rise to an invasion of privacy claim, given that her partner also shared in the office discussions about those activities? The case presents some interesting legal issues for bloggers and the underlying factual issue (where is the dividing line between what is public and what is private) suggests that the lawsuit may be exploring new areas of liability.

In January 2007, two prominent Malaysian political bloggers, Jeff Ooi and Ahiruddin Attan were sued by pro-government newspaper, The New Straits Times Press over an alleged defamation. The plaintiff was supported by the Malaysian government. Following the suit, the Malaysian government proposed to "register" all bloggers in Malaysia in order to better control parties against their interest. This is the first such legal case against bloggers in the country.

In the United Kingdom, a college lecturer contributed to a blog in which she referred to a politician, who also used the same blog, using various uncomplimentary names, including referring to him as a "Nazi". The politician found out the real name of the lecturer via the ISP and successfully sued her for £10,000 in damages and £7,200 costs.

In general, attempts at hiding the blogger's name and/or the place of employment in anonymity have proved ineffective at protecting the blogger. Employees who blog about elements of their place of employment raise the issue of employee branding, since their activities can begin to affect the brand recognition of their employer.

In fall 2004, Ellen Simonetti was fired for what was deemed by her employer, Delta Airlines, to be inappropriate material on her blog. She was fired by the airline for photos of herself in uniform on an airplane and comments posted on her blog "Queen of Sky: Diary of a Flight Attendant" which her employer deemed inappropriate. This case highlighted the issue of personal blogging and freedom of expression vs. employer rights and responsibilities, and so it received wide media attention. Simonetti took legal action against the airline for "wrongful termination, defamation of character and lost future wages".

In the spring of 2006, Erik Ringmar, a tenured senior lecturer at the London School of Economics was ordered by the convenor of his department to "take down and destroy" his blog in which he discussed the quality of education at the school.

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, was fined during the 2006 NBA playoffs for criticizing NBA officials on the court and in his blog.

Mark Jen was terminated in 2005 after a mere 10 days of employment at Google for discussing corporate secrets on his personal blog.

In India, blogger Gaurav Sabnis resigned from IBM after his posts exposing the false claims of a management school, IIPM, led to management of IIPM threatening to burn their IBM laptops as a sign of protest against him. Catherine Sanderson, aka Petite Anglaise, lost her job in Paris at a British accountancy firm as a consequence of blogging. Although given in the blog in a fairly anonymous manner, some of the descriptions of the firm and some of its people were less than flattering. Sanderson later won a compensation claim case against the British firm, however.

And throughout the coming days, it is not improbable that the list will go on. Freedom of speech, the public diary-style of some blogs and the publication of truth isn’t enough to protect bloggers from lawsuits of libel and invasion of privacy and those charges could come from readers in nations that are governed by different laws.

CONCLUSION

Fortunately for the Philippines, although it now seems inconceivable when a person says he has no personal blogsite, the pervasiveness of this media has not reached scandalous and controversial proportions. Aside from the Gorrel blogging issue, there is no other blog case that has merited public attention. Todate, after rigorous research in newspapers and Internet search engines, nothing comes close to the controversy that the Gorrel blog evoked.

Blogging Precedents in the Philippines But does mean that blogging – insofar as these islands are concerned – is a harmless feat? If that were the case, then this study will amount to nothing. At best, what it will elicit is a lukewarm ho-hum that tends to put the whole thing under microscopic scrutiny – trying to find something that is not there, and our group is reduced to forging very hard towards stretching what seems to be a flimsy topic to discuss. After all this is only about blogging. Compared with other issues that pervade mass media these days, the blogging experience seems to be a fleeting fancy that has taken the whole world wide web into a frenzied storm and is doomed to fail in the days to come. Compared with the issue on freedom of expression using traditional media which comes in multifarious forms, blogging is nothing. In fact, there is so much freedom to be had in this new medium. So much freedom that the repercussions are not so far evaluated todate. The issues related to freedom of speech, the right to association, the right of public assembly are the stuff that traditional media like to highlight on. People passionately defend their rights to these. Compared with the issue on the right to public information, nothing is more important than word wars being waged in the name of disclosure. Writers and media practitioners harp on the government’s efforts to conceal in the guise of national security and public order those information that warrant public knowledge. There is so much to be covered and even more issues to be raised on the matter of the government being open to the public. Compared with the issue on the right to privacy against which blogging is pitted, the protection being given to shield the privacy of private citizens and even the private lives of public officials merit even more worthy pages of expositions. The right to be left alone – when dissected – leaves more space to expound on the importance of our own private space. Compared with the issue on the freedom of religion and the seeming conflict of interests being projected by the government tending to rationalize that it does favor a certain religion, there seems not much to be gained from the study of blogging. Compared with the salacious discussions that obscenity tend to cultivate and encourage, from the government’s control of our taste and preference towards distinguishing between art and pornography and the parental stance of the state in censoring what might or might not be immoral for the sake of the purity of our own conscience, blogging is quite dismissible. Compared with the notion of libel, the topic on blogging being libelous – especially in the light or especially because of the controversial Brian Gorrell blog – it did seem to end before it started because the whole Brian Gorrell thing has come to a standstill. We have attempted to define what blogging is, endeavored to define the serious implication of the blog being used for vindictiveness, dwelt on the conflict arising between traditional media and this new medium that has taken over as a prominent fixture in mass media. We have done research that covered blogging cases slowly getting hauled into courts worldwide for various breaches – at the same time feeling futile and useless because to this day nothing is concretized as far as laws on blogging on an international scope is concerned. Also, there are no precedent cases in Philippine setting has so far attracted public consciousness. So where does this policy leave us? Almost back in the drawing board with nothing much to show for it. But bear this out. In the early 1970’s, the Dean of the College of Law of the University of the Philippines, Justice Irene Cortes, delivered a monumental treatise on The Constitutional Foundations of Privacy where she noted that even if the use of computer was at its infant stage in the Philippines, the government must “provide protection to individual privacy against threats arising from computerization.” Justice Cortes’ foresight could have never hit a more precise target! Thirty years later, in the light of the notorious love bug “invented” by a Filipino no less, the first Philippine law affecting computers and cyberspace was passed on June 14, 2000. The Philippine courts heard cases on the computerization of the ID system which was rejected on the technicality of the law being passed off as Administrative Order by then President Fidel Ramos and the Court decided against the constitutionality of the system violating the right to privacy. No one can be compelled to give information on his private business in the guise of a law. But that was just about it. Nothing more. Nothing less. This is the frustrating thing about the current limitation of the law to address the privacy issues being brought about by the media highway that includes blogging as a potential havoc-wrecker. Privacy does not concern personal information alone. Privacy concerns private reputation. Privacy concerns private sources of information. Privacy concerns itself with concealment of private things or affairs not meant for public disclosures. And these private matters are not respected by the blogging medium. This early, blogs have shown latent characteristics of being the root of possible adjudications. Consider the following: The blogs – being personal in nature and devoid of editorial and media censorship – can overstep issues in the right to free expression. There are no boundaries limiting the bloggers to freely express what they believe in. We all know that the freedom of expression is not absolute, but who is to stop the blogger in wrecking havoc in cyberspace? Issues that can titillate the public, whet their appetite for disorder, induce them to sedition, and even give information that could jeopardize national security. Who will monitor these postings and entries? And even if they are monitored, who can control the domino effect it brings about once the postings are absorbed in cyberspace. The blogs can be used as a means through which religious advocacies can be aired, and cyber-wars as far as religion is concerned cannot be far behind. The blogs – as in the case of Gorrell and the now defunct Chikkatimes – have become good sources for gossip and scandals. Imagine the damage to the reputations of people that can no longer be repaired as a result of vengeful tirades that are normally heard only in whispers? What protection do the rest of lesser mortals have against being the center of blog attention? The blogs – with all the multimedia contraptions that can be attached to it like audible conversations and the ubiquitous You Tube video streams – can be an uncensored tool for showing obscenity – even private ones. The recent case of the doctors in a Visayan hospital uploading in You Tube the rectal insertion of a patient smacks of lack of professional ethics. The blogs – when unmanned, can be a time bomb waiting to explode when items connected with security of the state are revealed, or for misinformation about court cases, or misuse or infringement of copyright laws. The blog can go on and on and on as a perennial harbinger of bad tidings and there is nothing in the word PRIVACY that can stop it as far as our laws are concerned. Locally, lawsuits against breachers are not impossibilities. But how does one control it, if the source of blog postings come offshore? What guarantees are there?

Absence of Laws Governing Blogs Notwithstanding the fact that the word “cybercrime” has been coined to define “offenses committed using a cyber tool such as a computer, web site, e-mail, or any other electronic document,” there are no concrete laws governing the use and regulation of blogging. The Philippine IT Law Journal, the official journal of the Arellano University School of Law’s e-Law Center and IT Law Society noted that cybercrimes are classified into three major categories namely cybercrimes against (a) persons, (b) property, and (c) government. Cybercrimes are committed against persons in the “transmission of child pornography, harassment with the use of a computer, and cyber-stalking where the victim is repeatedly flooded with threatening messages. Harassment with the use of a computer usually comes in the form of e-mail bombing where messages are sent to a target recipient repeatedly thus flooding his mail box with junk mail; spamming which is often used for trade and promotion; spoofing which refers to the faking of the e-mail sender’s identity and tricking the target recipient into believing that the e-mail originated from the supposed sender; linking/framing which involves displaying one’s site content on another’s web page without permission; denial of service which is an explicit attempt by attackers to prevent legitimate users of using the service.” On the other hand, cybercrimes against property are those “unauthorized computer trespassing through cyberspace, computer vandalism, creation and transmission of harmful programs or viruses to computer systems, hacking and cracking which refers to the unauthorized access or interference in a computer system/server or information communication system, and software piracy.” And finally, cybercrimes against government can come “in the form of cyber terrorism in which the cyberspace is used by individuals and groups to threaten governments and to terrorize all citizens of the country. This can take the form of cracking into a government or military web site.” The journal infers that “any activity which offend human sensibilities using computer systems can be within the ambit of cybercrimes. It can also be gathered that cybercrimes make use of the same resources as the Internet and the offenders are no ordinary individuals or groups but are those who have a thorough understanding of this superhighway of information. This makes it easy to commit even in a jurisdiction that does not require physical presence and oftentimes are varied in their design posing difficulty to make an electronic trail. Furthermore, due to their intellectual prowess, the offenders commit crimes and make them appear not clearly illegal.” However, there is no definite category where invasion of privacy through the blog is explicitly outlined.

Budapest Convention The first international treaty that seeks to address the multiplying growth of cybercrime and Internet crimes is the Convention on Cybercrime which was signed in Budapest, Hungary on Noverm 23, 2001. The treaty which was drawn up by the Council of Europe in Strasborg aims to harmonize national laws, improve investigative techniques and increase cooperation among nations. Canada, Japan and the United States also actively participated during the convention as observers.

An interesting part of the treaty’s preamble notes the following: “…Mindful of the need to ensure a proper balance between the interests of law enforcement and respect for fundamental human rights as enshrined in the 1950 Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the 1966 United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other applicable international human rights treaties, which reaffirm the right of everyone to hold opinions without interference, as well as the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, and the rights concerning the respect for privacy…”

Unfortunately the Convention failed to include provisions on the protection of privacy inasfar as blogging is concerned.

United States Resolution In the United States, a Congress resolution under RA 2370, held that the rapid development of the Internet and other interactive computer services availale to Americans represent an ordinary advance in the availability of educational and informational resources to her citizens. The services offer a forum for a true diversity of political discourse, unique opportunities for cultural development and myriad avenues for intellectual activity. It also finds that the Internet has flourished with minimum government regulation and that the American public are relying on interactive media for a variety of political, educational, cultural and entertainment services.

As a consequence, it finds noteworthy to adopt the policy of promoting the continued development of the Internet and other interactive computer services and media. It also encourages the development of technologies which maximize user control over information received by individuals, families, schools and the enforcement of criminal laws to deter and punish trafficking in obscenity, stalking and harassment by means of computer.

As for the service providers, they were given protection for actions taken in good faith restricting access to or making available materials considered to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, violent, and objectionable.

Critique Todate, unfortunately no international agreement along this line has been proferred. The context of privacy inasfar as cyberlaws are concerned focus mainly on access to private information of invidivuals being sourced through computerized electronic data and the like. Most of the laws passed had concerns on electronic commerce. When Justice Cortes envisioned the protection of privacy of individuals against the obvious misuse of computerization, we can laud her prudence in actually thinking ahead of her pack. But what has been so far established are minimal coverage as far as privacy is concerned. The freedom to blog does not and must not include the freedom to step on the lines that are drawn to shield other people’s privacy. This is a case that should be looked at and be given consideration. To some, blogging – at the moment – may only seem as an occasional incursion to forbidden zones of our day to day existence, and therefore not too serious to even merit attention. But a day will come when it will take over as a source of ill-will and litigation matter when left unregulated. This group believes that while other mass media concerns are of utmost importance in the establishment and promulgation of laws, the blogosphere arena should not be taken for granted for its equal importance. We need another Justice Irene Cortes to help us curb the notoriety that blogging poses in the cyberworld.

SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATION

SUMMARY The proliferation of new media paved by the opening of the Internet highway has brought so much adjustment and has advanced the means through which messages can be communicated. This advancement has quickened the demolition of international walls and has helped put up bridges to get to the global village – at least, in so far as mass communication is concerned – where cyber citizens get to speak a common language and adapt to a common culture. This policy paper has emphasized the utilization of one of the newest mediums of mass media borne out of the Internet: blogging. In examining this latest trend, we have taken the task to introduce what it is and what it does, what advantages it serves, what mayhem it may cause when not regulated, what it has currently done among citizens of blogosphere, and what legal boundaries need to be set. To review, this group has established that:
As to Definition Blog – which is an abridgement of web log – is a website, usually maintained by an individual, with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other materials such as graphics or video. It can also be classified as an online diary. Since people these days tend to express their feelings in different ways, the blog has been quite a useful venue for self-expression, not to mention promotion of political, religious or social agenda. Others use blogs as excuses for creative expression or documentation of personal experiences. Still others hold that blogs are storage sites and spaces for memories. It then becomes a means through which we describe and explain our lives to ourselves by creating and narrating our identities.
As to Its Relationship with Freedom of Expression The emergence of blogging has also brought with it a wide range of possibilities but with still unanticipated consequences. With the use of blogs and the exercise of the blogger’s right to express his ideas, opinions, insights and emotions, some things that are supposed to be kept within the sphere of what is legal may be overstepped. While writing the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth can keep anyone out of trouble, it does so only up to a point. Freedom walks hand in hand with responsibility. When the freedom of one person infringes on the freedom of another, an “invasion” is launched. Like other mediums that become subject for regulations and re-emphasis of the fact that freedom of expression is not absolute, the phenomena of blogging must likewise be carefully studied in order to give it the legal perspective that it must clothe itself with.

As to its Advantages Blogging offers free communication of thoughts and opinions – something considered precious among the rights of human beings. Except when the liberty of expression is abused in cases determined by law, everyone is free to speak, to write and print freely. Self-expression is easily fulfilled. The blog gives a voice to the previously voiceless and power to the previously powerless. There are no editors to filter the message. Everyone is given a fair chance to speak freely to a larger audience than ever before.

As to its Disadvantages Blogging can overstep issues related to the right of free expression. The freedom of expression is not absolute, but there are no parameters that govern ethics in blogging. The blogger is free to write about issues that can titillate the public, whet their appetite for disorder, induce them to sedition, and even give information that could jeopardize national security. There is no monitoring available. Restrictions are set but not frequently checked, if they are checked at all. And even if they are monitored, the message has already been sent to cyberspace for the early birds to prey upon. The blogs can be used to wash dirty linen in public, divulge company and trade secrets, upload obscenities, induce to sedition and even social revolution, ignite religious wars, influence the fair administration of justice and do other possibilities to invade the areas limited to freedom of expression.
As to Real Dangers Posed The notorious Brian Gorrell blog which spilled beans on the private lives of Metro Manila’s high society as a result of one scorned man wanting to get even with an ex-lover has caused so much furor among its victims. But it has faced a blind corner because Gorrell cannot be prosecuted in absentia. There are no laws, as yet, that govern this sensitive area of blogging. Several international cases have also been cited to underline the destructive nature of this medium. From political expressions that resulted in subsequent jail terms for the bloggers, to company whistleblowers, to dejected lovers, to promiscuous confessions, to libelous incursions. These cases were sensational in that they gave indications as to what to expect in the legal arena in so far as blogging is concerned. Indeed, the very public nature of blogging opens doors towards prosecution especially when legal bounderies are breached. The fact that each country have its own laws governing crimes committed in the Internet is not too helpful. At the moment, blogging may seem to be an innocent lurker that does not merit even a wee bit of attention, but it is the belief of this group that a day of reckoning will come when these legal rough edges may need to be smoothened.
As to Legal Laws Governing Blogging It is common knowledge that since there is really no such thing as a place called cyberspace, cyber citizens are still bound by laws applicable to humans. After all, laws are not meant for space but for human beings. Unfortunately, even the Budapest Convention on Cybercrimes does not cover penalties for infractions of privacy of individuals using the blog. In the Philippines, the e-commerce law was commended in international forums because its scope covers both commercial and non-commercial activities. The act also applies not only to electronic data messages but also to electronic documents. So far text messages and e-mail exchanges have been used as evidence in court. Also, the Philippine legislature is in the process of reviewing provisions for a cybercrime bill that will include definitions of cybercrime, punishment of such crimes, provisions on cooperation with international community among other things. As of July 2008, two major cybercrime cases involving Internet libel and qualified theft have been filed by the National Bureau of Investigation.
Policy Recommendation Societal interactions, even if it has taken various shapes and forms, are still premised on common social grounds, that is, courtesy and respect. In the absence of clear-cut rules governing blogging – and although blog posts can presumably be used as evidence against erring individuals – it is but prudent to observe genial ethics in the medium of blogging. This group stands by the following policy (1) Blogging as a medium of expression must be encouraged. The ability of the mind to think, to opine, to imagine, to be creative must find fulfillment. (2) Self-regulation among bloggers must be promoted. While this seems to be a thoroughly absurd thing to suggest, it would be wise for blog servers to reiterate time and again the need to observe mutual respect in blogosphere. (3) A Code of Ethics for Bloggers must be established. The code must be included in the Terms and Conditions that are agreed upon prior to signing-up in blogsites. Such code of ethics (www.cyberjournalist.net) can be organized, thus:

Honesty and Fairness Bloggers should be honest and fair in gathering, reporting and interpreting information. Bloggers should: • Never plagiarize. • Identify and link to sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources' reliability. • Make certain that weblog entries, quotations, headlines, photos and all other content do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context. • Never distort the content of photos without disclosing what has been changed. Image enhancement is only acceptable for for technical clarity. Label montages and photo illustrations. • Never publish information they know is inaccurate -- and if publishing questionable information, make it clear it's in doubt. • Distinguish between advocacy, commentary and factual information. Even advocacy writing and commentary should not misrepresent fact or context. • Distinguish factual information and commentary from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.

Minimizing Harm Ethical bloggers treat sources and subjects as human beings deserving of respect. Bloggers should: • Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by weblog content. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects. • Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief. • Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of information is not a license for arrogance. • Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone's privacy. • Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity. Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects, victims of sex crimes and criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.

Accountability Bloggers should: • Admit mistakes and correct them promptly. • Explain each weblog's mission and invite dialogue with the public over its content and the bloggers' conduct. • Disclose conflicts of interest, affiliations, activities and personal agendas. • Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence content. When exceptions are made, disclose them fully to readers. • Be wary of sources offering information for favors. When accepting such information, disclose the favors. • Expose unethical practices of other bloggers. • Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.

(4) Proponents of the cybercrime bill must include studies on the implication of blogging in mass media as to the limitations, regulations, and scope of materials to be posted; the responsibilities of blog server and the blogger themselves; the penalties for overstepping the boundaries of limitations that freedom of expression imposes. (5) Laws covering traditional media, insofar as infringement of the freedom of expression, must be reinforced towards new media. Constitutional provisions covering libel, obscenity, national security, contempt, copyright and intellectual properties must be reviewed.

References:

Boxer, Sarah. Blogs. The New York Book of Reviews. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/21013

Nardi, Bonnie A. School of Information and Computer Science at the University of California, Irvine

Ringmar, Erik. A Blogger's Manifesto: Free Speech and Censorship in the Age of the Internet (London: Anthem Press, 2007).

http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/amendment01/ http://www.chanrobles.com http://www.blogherald.com/2005/07/19/blog-count-for-july-70-million-blogs/ http://en.wikipedia.com/ http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/blogspotting/archives/2006/07/vulnerability_w_1.html

http://www.marketingterms.com/dictionary/blog/

http://www.quezon.ph/916/proclaimed-a-national-artist-not-awarded/

http://www.quezon.ph/1808/no-blog-is-an-island/

http://delfindjmontano.blogspot.com/

www.abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak http://blogcritics.org/archives/2006/04/18/043121.php http://www.inquirer.net/

http://www.thebloggingjournalist.com/2007/01/cybershaming_is.html

http://itlawjournal.arellanolaw.net/

http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/EN/Treaties/Html/185.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convention_on_Cybercrime

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Blogging

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