Thursday, December 24, 2009

The blogosphere is not above the law

Since the beginning, there's been a meme on the internet that the law doesn't really apply here, and that we can get away with anything. But while there may be practical difficulties (particularly if people are smart and careful), it certainly does, and if the government can track you down, they can certainly hold you to account for any misdeeds.

The New Zealand blogosphere is about to be reminded of this. Earlier in the month, a well-known sewerblogger published the name of an accused rapist, in violation of a suppression order. He is now being prosecuted, and if convicted he could be fined up to $1,000. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy...

But while this may give some bloggers pause for thought, it is not going to solve the wider problem of suppression orders being violated on the internet. Like it or not, we have a free market in legal jurisdiction now, meaning that people can simply view information legally published overseas. And if the government tries to crack down on that (as the Law Commission ahs suggested), the internet will simply interpret their attempted censorship as damage and route around it. It is now, in a practical sense and regardless of the ethics, impossible to keep such information secret. Which means the government is fighting a losing battle.