Leveson: So who will regulate the bloggers and tweeters?

 

The press, Lord Justice Leveson observed in his presentation today, “operates very differently from blogs on the internet and other social media such as Twitter.”

That statement will certainly be true if the judge’s recommendations are implemented, leaving newspapers and magazines (and their increasingly important websites) under a watchdog regime enshrined in law – and the rest of the Internet as an unregulated Wild West.

Leveson was careful to set his inquiry in the context of the long and troubled history of press regulation, but his report hardly differed from David Calcutt’s version in 1990 in the sense that there was almost no mention of online media.

Reading the 2,000 pages, it was almost as if the World Wide Web never happened.

Yet many of the most recent media scandals – from the naming of Ryan Giggs in breach of privacy laws, to the publication of topless photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge, to the gross misidentification of Lord McAlpine as a paedophile – have involved online publishers as key players.

While print media organisations are likely to have to operate under considerable new constraints if Leveson’s recommendations are enacted, it will be business as usual for big online publishers such as Google, Facebook and Twitter.

A Google search of Lord McAlpine and other prominent Conservatives named earlier this month in relation to a BBC Newsnight report on child abuse still offered a series of blogs which carried the unsubstantiated slurs.

One British blogger who had previously written about the “evil” Lord McAlpine, has just published a long apology. “Absolutely no-one should have to live with such terrible stories, none of which are founded on one jot of evidence, circulating about them,” wrote “Scrapper Duncan”. “I hope that he is successful in closing this ugly chapter and can swiftly return to enjoying life, free from the frightening scenario that social media has dragged him into.”

Leveson, as he attempts to right the perceived shortcomings of Calcutt, appears like a general preparing to fight the last war. He wants regulation to apply to all “significant news providers”, but even bloggers, tweeters and gossip sites with vast followings will be happy to be seen as “insignificant” if they can remain outside the system. And as most British print news groups transition to Internet publishing models, they are likely to find themselves playing to rules which are wholly ignored by their competitors.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Games Developer - HTML5

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Product Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to on-going expansion, this leading provid...

Recruitment Genius: Shift Leaders - Front of House Staff - Full Time and Part Time

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a family ...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works