Bloggers Win A Lot Of Lawsuits

In an article concerning insurance and blogging, Christopher Boggs tosses out an interesting bit of information concerning lawsuits against bloggers:

Nearly 77 percent of ALL civil cases were found in favor of the blogger or saw the charges dropped by the plaintiff. And 92 percent of blog-related suits making it to trial end in blogger triumph (additional information availble at Media Law Resource Center). Odds at trial are overwhelmingly in the blogger’s favor, but there is no guarantee that this propensity towards blogger victory will continue.

As Boggs notes, nearly all of these victories have been on the grounds of the First Amendment. But that will only hold up as long as the bloggers themselves are responsible:

First Amendment protection requires, among other standards, bloggers, like journalists, to practice and prove due diligence in the gathering and reporting of “factual” information. Bloggers must also prove that no actual malice was intended by statements or information ultimately found to be incorrect or untrue. Opinions, stated as opinion and not fact, published by bloggers are also potentially immune from charges of libel under the First Amendment since there is no such thing as a false opinion.

The article specifically looks at a SLAPP, a lawsuit that is meant not necessarily to win but to scare others out of the conversation.  A “don’t talk or we’ll sue you, too,” type thing.  There are anti-SLAPP statutes in 27 states.  Virginia is not one of them.

But Is The Sentiment Genuine?

Yesterday I commented on Turkey’s recalling of their ambassador in face of a House resolution calling the Armenian Genocide an actual genocide (read the resolution here). The post pulled a good number of anonymous responses that tried to create excuses that either fell into the “what about the others that have suffered?” or the “they deserved it” categories as a defense for Turkey.

The second point has been based merely on accusations that have not been backed up by any links or citations. It is not even conjecture and, barring evidence to support such claims, is easily dismissed as propaganda. Besides, the non-binding resolution does nothing to blame the current Turkish government for what happened, though it does shed light on Turkey’s denial of the events even occurring and attempt at white washing their own history.

The first point is a bit more touchy and understandable, yet fails in the face of “two wrongs don’t make a right”. If an error has been made in one area, is it wrong to try and correct a similar area elsewhere? When someone says “what about the others that have suffered?” you’re absolutely right. That others have suffered the same should be addressed as well. Certainly that might keep us busy for a long time to come, but we should not ignore it. That we haven’t addressed every human atrocity over the last 100 years is unfortunate, but that does not mean we should avoid addressing any of them. One thing at a time. This time it’s Armenia.

One point the comments failed to make against the resolution is the political one.

Why now?

Many see this as a political ploy by Democrats in Congress to slow bleed our military in Iraq and force an early withdrawl. As the CNN article noted:

Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Missouri, sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opposing the resolution, and said the backlash threatened by Turkey could disrupt “America’s ability to redeploy U.S. military forces from Iraq,” a top Democratic priority.

Turkey, a NATO member, has been a key U.S. ally in the Middle East and a conduit for sending supplies into Iraq.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday that good relations with Turkey are vital because 70 percent of the air cargo sent to U.S. forces in Iraq and 30 percent of the fuel consumed by those forces fly through Turkey.

U.S. commanders “believe clearly that access to airfields and roads and so on, in Turkey, would very much be put at risk if this resolution passes and the Turks react as strongly as we believe they will,” Gates said.

Bagis said no French planes have flown through Turkish airspace since a French Parliament committee passed a similar resolution last year.

This massacre occured 90 years ago. Why are we only now drafting resolutions calling it a genocide? Certainly they’re overdue, but if this is happening merely as a method of draining our efforts in Iraq, is the sentiment really genuine? Are the Armenians and Ottoman Christians who suffered merely to once more be political pawns?

I find myself torn. On one hand, a genuine recognition and discussion of what happened needs to occur. It was our failure to remain involved and care about the Armenian genocide that inspired Hitler’s plans in Europe.

Yet to remember what happened and recognize it merely to score a backdoor political victory on an unrelated issue is disengenuious and does nothing but dishonor the memory of those who suffered through these horrible events.

A recognition and discussion of the Armenian genocide needs to occur, especially within Turkey itself. But if this is merely an opportunity to grand stand on an issue that no one cared about until they realized the political victory it could achieve on an issue they can’t seem to win when facing it head on then it is a disservice not only to our soldiers in Iraq but the Armenian people.

If it is not happening for the right reasons is it worth happening at all?

Turkey Still Denying Genocide

Turkey has recalled its ambassador in protest of a House resolution that recognizes Turkey’s massacare of Armenians for what it was: genocide. The Armenian Genocide saw the Ottoman Empire kill anywhere from 500,000 to 1.5 million Armenians and Ottoman Christians during forced round-ups and deportations, measures that are thought to have inspired Hitler. What happened needs to be recognized, whether or not Turkey wants to face it’s own history.

UPDATE: The issue was large enough to be front page news at the time and pull American’s into the international community. See New York Times articles from the era, using the search terms “armenians massacre”.

The History Place has a summary of the 1915-1918 events.

Shirky On Data

Relating to my last post, Clay Shirky follows up yesterday’s essay with one that concludes as such:

As Scott Bradner put it, the Internet means you don’t have to convince anyone else that something is a good idea before trying it. The upshot is that the internet’s output is data, but its product is freedom.

What Andrew Keen seems to be trying to argue through “The Cult Of The Amateur” is that the data is not the problem but that there is no one filtering it. There are no editors or publishers to ensure quality or even accuracy. And it is dangerous to assume the general public can judge this themselves. If all you get is unfiltered, flawed data, at what point can you craft a solid, well rounded, well founded opinion or even begin to get the actual truth or definition of something?

Data is subjective and selective. The audience needs to have a source of solid, certifiable information that presents something as close to the truth as possible or it will never learn.

Data is not bad. It is the lack of a filter that is dangerous.

Currently Reading: The Cult Of The Amateur

Andrew Keen discusses the dangers Web 2.0 and mob rule. While I’m only a little ways into the book, so far his talk so far on blogging and Wikipedia and what it can do at its worst is very interesting. I don’t agree with some of his statements in the introduction on matters such as declining music sales related to piracy but I’ll give the rest of the book to flesh that out.

Excerpt available here. Choice cut:

Out of this anarchy, it suddenly became clear that what was governing the infinite monkeys now inputting away on the Internet was the law of digital Darwinism, the survival of the loudest and most opinionated. Under these rules, the only way to intellectually prevail is by infinite filibustering.

I’ve spent the last two years observing the Web 2.0 revolution, and I’m dismayed by what I’ve seen.

I’ve seen the infinite monkeys, of course, typing away. And I’ve seen many other strange sights as well, including a video of marching penguins selling a lie, a supposedly infinite Long Tail, and dogs chatting to each other online. But what I’ve been watching is more like Hitchcock’s The Birds than Doctor Doolittle: a horror movie about the consequences of the digital revolution.

Because democratization, despite its lofty idealization, is undermining truth, souring civic discourse, and belittling expertise, experience, and talent. As I noted earlier, it is threatening the very future of our cultural institutions.

I call it the great seduction. The Web 2.0 revolution has peddled the promise of bringing more truth to more people—more depth of information, more global perspective, more unbiased opinion from dispassionate observers. But this is all a smokescreen. What the Web 2.0 revolution is really delivering is superficial observations of the world around us rather than deep analysis, shrill opinion rather than considered judgment. The information business is being transformed by the Internet into the sheer noise of a hundred million bloggers all simultaneously talking about themselves.

Read the NYTimes review here.

Since contributors to Wikipedia and YouTube are frequently anonymous, it’s hard for users to be certain of their identity — or their agendas. Postings about political candidates, for instance, can be made by opponents disguising their motives; and propaganda can be passed off as news or information. For that matter, as Mr. Keen points out, the idea of objectivity is becoming increasingly passé in the relativistic realm of the Web, where bloggers cherry-pick information and promote speculation and spin as fact. Whereas historians and journalists traditionally strived to deliver the best available truth possible, many bloggers revel in their own subjectivity, and many Web 2.0 users simply use the Net, in Mr. Keen’s words, to confirm their “own partisan views and link to others with the same ideologies.” What’s more, as mutually agreed upon facts become more elusive, informed debate about important social and political issues of the day becomes more difficult as well.

Visit Andrew Keen’s site here.