The very worrying establishment of a UK news and internet censor has been rushing through parliament with the
lack of scrutiny and consideration that you would expect given a 3 party stitch up.
See Hansard transcriptions of the latest debate
See Bill amendments containing the new laws [pdf]
Press regulation deal sparks fears of high libel fines for bloggers
Bloggers could face high fines for libel under the new Leveson deal with exemplary damages imposed if they don't sign up to the new regulator, it was claimed on Tuesday.
Under clause 29 introduced to the crime and courts bill in the Commons on Monday night, the definition of relevant bloggers or websites includes any that generate news material where there is an editorial structure giving someone
control over publication.
Bloggers would not be at risk of exemplary damages for comments posted by readers. There is also a schedule that excludes certain publishers such as scientific journals, student publications and not-for-profit community newspapers. Websites
are guaranteed exclusion from exemplary damages if they can get on this list.
Kirsty Hughes, the chief executive of Index on Censorship, which campaigns for press freedom around the world, said it was a sad day for British democracy. This will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on everyday people's
web use, she said.
She said she feared thousands of websites could fall under the definition of a relevant publisher in clause 29. Hughes said:
Bloggers could find themselves subject to exemplary damages, due to the fact that they were not part of a regulator that was not intended for them in the first place.
There does seem to be two exclusions to signing up for censorship. Solo bloggers seem to be excluded as the law only applies to websites with multiple (presumably two) authors. There is also an exclusion for single interest publications, but definition
are vague enough that this will be worthless when courts get involved and interpret the rules to suit the authorities.
Offsite: An in-depth examination of the bill's clauses about liability to news censorship
There are doubts that the censor will be able to address all the issues anyway
The Leveson-inspired draft bill deals with the past, not the future, of the press in failing to address the myriad ways we now receive news' What Miller seems to want to define is a news business , which fails to admit
any complexity at all in the news ecosystem as it is presently constructed.
The press is melting before our very eyes, and the public it served is trickling away in a thousand different streams. The impact a story has now is as much dependent on the network it travels through as on the news brand
that presents it.
The sole blogger , or even a person in possession of a microblogging Twitter account, can have as devastating effect on any number of lives as the front page of a tabloid newspaper. Under Miller's definition of press
, the richest and most powerful publishers of all, Google, Facebook, and Twitter, are arguably exempt because they do not seek to exercise editorial control or indeed report news as part of a business model. It would be interesting to know whether
Miller views an algorithm as editorial control . I suspect not, even though by most definitions it is just that. It was once the case that to reach a broad audience you needed an industrial publishing complex behind you, whereas now, you just need
a mobile phone.
And the buzzards are already circling
'Cut the wire ' Max Mosley calls for websites to be closed down if they flout new Press watchdog rules
His remarks were condemned by anti-censorship campaigners claiming it would turn Britain into a totalitarian state like China or Iran