Why blogging really matters

I noticed on Rick’s blog that the FTC is starting to look at whether blogger recommendations should incur liability.  This is a very dangerous direction to go.  Why does blogging need to be called out as a particular form of speech?  Ultimately I think what matters is the same as for dead tree journalism: transparency and ethics.  My concern however, is that increased regulation will start us down a road that treats every blog the same as a newspaper.

Blogging is important because it decentralizes and undermines the power that “the media” have held for a long time.  For the very same reasons that the Soviet Union controlled printing presses and photocopiers so must we go out of our way to stifle individual publishing rights.  Dave Winer has understood this for a long time.  I’m actually surprised he missed this one. 

What I write in this blog is not important.  It’s a nice way for me to compose a few thoughts and flatter myself that my readers, both of them, are interested.  What is important is that I am just one of thousands of citizen journalists exercising our first amendment rights.

Creating regulatory burdens on blogging will create a world of haves and have nots.  Just as the capital to run a printing press divided the people from the power, so can the regulatory hassles imposed by the FTC.

We don’t need new regulations or laws here.  We just need to enforce the ones we have.  I don’t envy the FTC the balancing act they must perform between 1st amendment rights and the desire to protect the people from misleading advertising.  I think it’s a mistake to believe that they can regulate the problem away.  Ironically the solution is actually to encourage more bloggers.  The blogosphere has always been better and faster at catching deceptive practices anyway.