Will Increased Government Regulation Ruin Blogging?

Photo cred: Tuffer
Photo cred: Tuffer

I recently read this article about the Vogue model Liskula Cohen model suing the anonymous blogger (and winning).  There have also been talks of the FTC implementing disclosure regulations to ensure that “sponsored” content is always disclosed.  Seems that blogging may be coming under the legal spotlight.

How will increased legal regulation affect the blogosphere?

Well…it could have a positive impact:

  1. More responsible blogging. With no one to answer to, bloggers have been able to write anything and everything, whether or not it hurts others.  With a legal regulation in place, bloggers will be forced to blog responsibly.
  2. More respect for bloggers. With more responsible bloggers comes more respect for the blogosphere.  Blogs are increasingly becoming a go-to resource for news and information.  Respect will only catalyze this trend.
  3. Less noise. More restrictions usually means less content.  Legal regulations would eliminate a lot useless or repetitive content.

It could also have a negative impact:

  1. Less freedom. The beauty of blogging is the freedom it allows.  All someone has to do is set up a blog, and speak their mind to the masses.  Regulation would put a boundary on this freedom.
  2. Fear of punishment. Like any other law, the vast majority of people won’t actually read it in detail, but just understand the concept.  This means that a lot of people might not understand clearly, what they can or cannot say.  If bloggers are afraid to write for fear of being sued or punished, they may just not write at all.
  3. Removing a source of income. Regardless of whether or not people like sponsored blog posts, it has proven to be an effective source of income for many bloggers.  Enforcing disclosure may hurt the sponsored blogging market.

There are also a number of issues with these kinds of regulations:

  1. Enforcement. Pretty much impossible, without the investment of a great deal of money (more than should be spent on this issue).  It would have to rely on people reporting violations, and I’m not even going to get into how messy that can get.
  2. Grey areas. If someone reposts sponsored content without disclosing, are they also liable?  What if they repost content ruled as libel, can they also be sued?  It will be really hard to justifiably determine a line within these kinds of grey areas.

To this point the blogosphere has been largely self-policed.  While this has allowed for a very free and open platform, there is no official and effective system in place to ensure that the content is abiding by moral and legal standards.

Will government intervention impact blogging negatively or positively?  Are there better alternatives?  Share your thoughts.