2003 June 18 Wednesday
Council Of Europe Proposes To Compel Internet Linking To Defenses Against Criticism

Declan McCullagh reports that the quasi-official Council of Europe is proposing a law for European countries to enact that would require anyone who criticises someone on a web site to offer that person who was criticised a way to respond to the criticism.

The all-but-final proposal draft says that Internet news organizations, individual Web sites, moderated mailing lists and even Web logs (or "blogs"), must offer a "right of reply" to those who have been criticized by a person or organization.

Say you criticise someone in a blog post. If that person posted a response to your criticism then under this proposed law you'd have to link to their response. How stupid. Showing a wisdom that the Europeans could learn from, in 1987 Ronald Reagan axed the more limited US equivalent for broadcast media called the Fairness Doctrine.

I see a proposal like this as an obvious violation of free speech because it compels someone to speak when they do not want to. If you do not want to link to someone (and linking to someone is a form of communication) then you shouldn't have to. The people in European countries really have no protection against this sort of nonsense. European nations really could use strong constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech. But in Europe the concept of rights has gotten so confused with the concept of entitlements that when they sit down to think of ways to protect rights they inevitably instead end up coming up with entitlements that others become obligated to support.

Think about where this could lead. Suppose one criticises US policy in Iraq and in the process of doing so one states that the Islamists are a real threat to US efforts to make the place better. Well, just how many people might think they've been criticised even if they haven't been mentioned by name? Islamists, US government administrators, top government officials, and perhaps any Iraqi who thinks he and his fellow citizens are ready to run their own country might all perceive themselves to have been criticised.

The effect of such a rule would be to intimidate people from offering criticism. Who wants to deal with the hassle of having to read thru one's email looking for demands that one adds links to responses to things one writes? Suppose you want to make a critical post and then go on a one month vacation. You'd have to periodically check in during vacation to see if anyone is upset enough to demand a link to a defensive response to your post.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 June 18 01:01 AM  Europe and America

Lance Jonn Romanoff said at June 18, 2003 7:48 AM:

If this does become European law, one would imagine a wholesale evaculation of European web servers in favor of ones located in countries with greater freedom of speech protections - assuming such a law could even be enforced.

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