Some of you may remember the story I wrote last year in this blog about a lifestyle columnist who was forced to resign from her job, after bloggers expressed outrage over comments she made about overseas Filipino workers. That episode demonstrated how blogging has emerged as a new and powerful medium where ordinary folks can air their opinions and grievances, regardless of whether they're legitimate or not.
There's now a new issue that is threatening to put a real test on whether blogging is indeed a revolutionary communication tool, or just merely a tech scourge that does nothing to help clear the air of confusion.
The case I'm referring to is the controversial blog of Australian Brian Gorrell, whose account of an ill-fated relationship with his Filipino ex-boyfriend, coupled with juicy criticisms of some members of the so-called high society, has attracted thousands upon thousands of curious visitors daily.
The word controversial is an understatement. The blog has actually created a firestorm in the local scene, with the media, the legal community and the public all keeping a close watch and eager to find out the conclusion of this real-life soap-opera.
Lawyers who have been interviewed on the subject are unanimous in saying that the accusations hurled by Gorrell in his blog are downright libelous. In fact, a local television show which tackled the issue said providing a link to the site can be construed as something like abetting a crime and is therefore illegal.
Although I find this notion quite puzzling, perhaps it's better that I also choose not to publish the site's URL here...but, no doubt, you'll be able to Google the guy and get more information.
I'm not about to comment on the arguments raised by Gorrell because I don't have any personal knowledge on those issues. I'm not a lawyer either so I'm not in a position to point out the legal infirmities in his blog.
However, as a member of the news media, I find it both amusing and disturbing that bloggers like Gorrell are being threatened with libel suits--something that was once applicable only to media entities. Not only is the legal action difficult to implement, especially for someone like Gorrell who is located outside of the Philippines, but any attempt to do seems counterproductive to me.
In my view, a blog is merely a personal journal or diary. It just so happens that it is on the Internet and has the capability to generate feedback from the people who read them. The trouble starts when we treat them as a member of the media, which, unlike the general blogging community, are bound by journalistic rules.
Except for some few bloggers (perhaps like the ones here in ZDNet Asia, which, by the way, is a news media company), most bloggers don't pretend to be reporters or sources of legitimate news. It is actually the general public and readers who treat their stories as hard news--and that shouldn't be the case.
Blogs, as far as I'm concerned, are no different from text messages or e-mail messages passed on or read by many people. It's primarily a technology tool that enables messages of any kind to be broadcast, but that's just about it to blogs.