Thursday, March 10, 2005

HR581: You have the Right to Remain Silent

Wending an insidious path on capitol hill, is the legislation I've been dreading. Throughout the blogsphere, I've mentioned my fear of control of blogging, the silencing of the small voices for truth. To me, blogs represent a web of interconnected thoughts, a forum for exchange and change. Blogs are places where I look for information, like minds, and an education on the opposition.

Under the misnomer of "Free Flow of Information Act", Bloggers will be punishable. They will not be accorded any of the protections provided to Journalists. In the California courts, Apple is currently winning in their efforts to force three blogs to reveal their sources. I want to go on record here that I think leaking information against your company is extremely unethical. If that was all this is about and resolving the Apple issue would be the end of it, I wouldn't care all that much. Nobody want their ideas stolen. I don't want my writing taken without getting credit for it. Most people get that.

Unfortunately, that's NOT the end of it. Here's the scary stuff:

In the HR581 Bill:

(1) The term `covered person' means--

(A) an entity that disseminates information by print, broadcast, cable, satellite, mechanical, photographic, electronic, or other means AND that--

(i) publishes a newspaper, book, magazine, or other periodical;

(ii) operates a radio or television broadcast station (or network of such stations), cable system, or satellite carrier, or a channel or programming service for any such station, network, system, or carrier; or

(iii) operates a news agency or wire service;

(B) a parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of such an entity; or

(C) an employee, contractor, or other person who gathers, edits, photographs, records, prepares, or disseminates news or information for such an entity.

(2) The term `document' means writings, recordings, and photographs, as those terms are defined by Federal Rule of Evidence 1001 (28 U.S.C. App.).

(3) The term `Federal entity' means an entity or employee of the judicial, legislative, or executive branch of the Federal Government with the power to issue a subpoena or provide other compulsory process.

(4) The term `third party' means a person other than a covered person.

The emphasis is mine. That one little AND is the fatal word. Bloggers, as individuals, have no parent company, are self published, and aren't functioning as newsletters for their employers. They publish for themselves, as provided under their right to free speech. HR581 is the initial step to begin to undermine the small voices. If passed, you can continue to blog, continue to provide access to stories the big news machine doesn't have space for, but you do so knowing that people who don't like what you do can apply some heavy pressure on you -- you have no protections. They can sue you claiming you libeled them. How many bloggers will lose their houses and cars before the silencing begins?

There's a link on the sidebar. Let your rep know how you feel. Unless, of course, you'd like to meet up here this time next year and have a recipe swap.

One Blogger who is taking the bull by the horns is Garret M. Graff. The White House said that press passes were easy to obtain. Graff tested that theory.

He made 20 phone calls and got nowhere. Bigger blogs picked up on his saga, and traffic on FishbowlDC increased tenfold, he said. But it was not until the traditional media joined in, Mr. Graff said, that the White House relented.

"USA Today started making calls on Thursday. CNN mentioned it on 'Inside Politics,' and Ron Hutcheson, president of the White House Correspondents Association, raised the issue with the White House Press Office," he said. "I think a combination of all of that made the White House pay attention and decide to let me in." -- NY Times

And guess what? Once past security, they handed him a PRESS PASS. Just like the journalists.

Blogging is an evolving media, as radio and television were in their day. Bloggers break stories and keep the heat on. They are undisciplined, opinionated and some are liars. We read blogs. We all know this. But many blogs are labors of love, well researched and determined for the truth. They can be exciting, disturbing, and beacons against the mainstream media that so many bloggers find disappointing.

But, what is important here is that we get the opportunity to refine our media niche and not be silenced before that can happen.

Preserve your voice. It is the voice of true democracy.

You have the right to remain... for now.


At March 10, 2005 5:42 PM, Blogger ThomasMcCay said...

Damn these nazi fools.

This amounts to putting special rules regarding freedom of speach, on bloggers. A law that will be a pick and choose political weapon.

A clear message from the Republicans and the neocons, crush everything we don't control. Americans only need to know what the corporate media and their masters think they 'need' to know.

It may be that expats, situated in other countries, will be the only American bloggers left.

I'm glad I'm in Canada but I don't feel all that secure about it.

One curse is, we will have to switch to using Canadian servers, that are more expensive.

I've heard bloggers refered to as the 'New Minutemen". Suddenly the phrase has more meaning than it did a couple of days ago. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder, on the bridge, for this one.

At March 11, 2005 3:01 PM, Blogger Deek Deekster said...

very interesting. we'll see the UK laws develop along similar lines eventually i suspect.

At March 13, 2005 8:05 AM, Blogger frstlymil said...

Excellent post...and ironic that the party that tries to claim that they are against big government, is currently doing whatever possible to make sure that the government has ultimate control and final say on everything. How very Hoover and McCarthy. Now it's bloggers, next year - what? Thought crime?


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