Tag Archives: public sphere

Blocking content sites by ‘self-regulation’ – a recipe for easy censorship

At the start of this month I said that journalists were failing to “protect the public sphere”. Well, here’s just one example of this in action that we need to be watching.

Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, has confirmed to the Open Rights Group “that discussion are ongoing between rights-holders and Internet Service Providers about ‘self-regulatory’ site-blocking measures.”

For journalists any move in this direction should be particularly concerning, as it provides a non-legal avenue (i.e. without due process) for anyone to suppress information they don’t like.

The point is not blocking sites, but the ease with which it might be done. If distribution van drivers ‘self-regulated’ to stop delivering newspapers whenever anyone complained, publishers and journalists would have a problem. An avenue to appeal doesn’t solve it, because by then the editorial moment will likely have passed – not to mention the extra costs it incurs for content producers.

Here are some precedents from elsewhere:

If you want to write to your MP, you can do so here.

Is Ice Cream Strawberry? Part 5: Protect the public sphere

This is the fifth part of my inaugural lecture at City University London, ‘Is Ice Cream Strawberry?’. You can also read part one, part two, part three, and part four.

Corporatisation of the public sphere

The public sphere used to be our territory, but we are failing to protect it online.

The difficulties experienced by Wikileaks last year were the most visible demonstration yet of just how far the corporatisation of the public sphere has become. Some people described it as the beginning of the first Internet war. They’re just being over-dramatic of course, but it was one fight in a whole series of turf wars over who controls online spaces.

We are thankful that our printing presses are not shut down without due process. But from Mastercard and Visa to Apple, Paypal, Amazon and even data visualisation tool Tableau – company after company pulled out of the production chain without a court order in sight.

In that case national security was given as the reason. In other – less publicised – examples relating to other content producers and distributors it has been copyright, where the mere accusation of infringement can lead to legitimate content being taken down. Continue reading

Blogs and investigative journalism: publishing

Part four of this draft book chapter looks at how blogs have changed the publishing of journalism through its possibilities for transparency, potential permanence over time, limitless space, and digital distribution systems (part one is here; part two here; part three here) . I would welcome any corrections, extra information or comments.


Traditionally, news has always been subject to the pressures of time and space. Today’s news is tomorrow’s proverbial ‘fish and chip paper’ – news is required to be ‘new’; stories “have a 24 hour audition on the news stage, and if they don’t catch fire in that 24 hours, there’s no second chance” (Rosen, 2004). At the same time, part of the craft of journalism in the 20th century has been the ability to distil a complex story into a particular word count or time slot, while a talent of editors is their judgement in allocating space based on the pressures of the day’s competing stories.

In the 21st century, however, new media technologies have begun to challenge the limitations of time and space that defined the news media in the 20th. Continue reading