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Europe To Force Right of Reply On Internet Communication 825

Posted by Hemos
from the you-must-be-able-to-respond dept.
David Buck writes "Today, the Council of Europe (an influential quasi-governmental body that drafts conventions and treaties) is to finalize a proposal that would force all Internet news organizations, moderated mailing lists and even web logs (blogs) to allow a right of response to any person or organization they criticize. This would mean that you would be required to post the responses as well as authenticate their origin and make the responses available for some period of time. This will likely have a chilling effect on Internet communication (at least in Europe)."
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Europe To Force Right of Reply On Internet Communication

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  • by CrazyDuke (529195) on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:21AM (#6211898)
    Maybe it is only a US policy, but I thought "We will sue you!" letters from the organization's lawyers was the standard reply.
  • Newspapers too? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by truthsearch (249536) on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:22AM (#6211909) Homepage Journal
    Is this a requirement for newspapers in Europe? If not it seems exceptionally inconsitant. I imagine a lot of people (companies) are worried about their image on the net and want to force web sites to allow public responses in the same place as the source. I thought the US is having bigger problems with free speech, but this sounds very bad.
    • Is this a requirement for newspapers in Europe?

      Not too sure if it is enshrined in law, but newspapers do tend to allow their probe target the opportunity to reply in the letters page. And if the story is proven to be inaccurate the newspaper would tend to provide a public retraction.

      How much is due to this 'right of reply' and how much is due to common-sense courtesy and libel suit avoidance, I do not know. Any Slashdotters work for a European newspaper?

      • Re:Newspapers too? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Hittite Creosote (535397) on Monday June 16, 2003 @11:13AM (#6212571)
        There's a description of the requirement for corrections in various countries here [presswise.org.uk].
        In the UK, the right to reply is generally 'governed' by the Press Complaints Commission [pcc.org.uk] - note that this isn't actually a legal body, it's an independent body set up by the media in a desperate attempt to regulate themselves just enough to avoid the government doing it for them...
      • Re:Newspapers too? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by macrom (537566) <macrom75@hotmail.com> on Monday June 16, 2003 @11:41AM (#6212917) Homepage
        I think it has more to do with the media of a newspaper. There are op-ed columns and places designed for response from both targeted parties and the everyday citizen wishing to express an opinion. Blogs don't follow this same style and I don't think they were ever intended to do so. It's a way for a single person (usually) to voice their opinions on matters of interest. If a particular blog has a forum constructed for feedback, then that's how an offended party should respond.

        Other media forms that don't require the publication of a party's response :

        1. Television. Commericals bash competing products all the time yet aren't required to air a dissenting opinion. It's up to the other party to formulate and publish their own response.

        2. Radio. Same as above. Even further, stations themselves (and the DJs) often trash-talk about the other stations in a broadcast market. There's nothing that says they have to give air time to the competition to respond to their heresay.

        I think it's sad that lawmakers can't treat new media outlets as NEW, avoiding comparision to the old and attempting to impose laws based on unapplicable standards from a differing venue. Hopefully some key lobbyists will help right this ship and prevent it from setting a precedent that we all come to regret and loathe.
      • by stephenbooth (172227) on Monday June 16, 2003 @12:05PM (#6213214) Homepage Journal

        Typically, here in the UK, articles criticising some person or company who is out of favor will appear on the front few pages probably in 16 point print with a 36 point or more headline and a photo to draw attention to it. After the PCC has ruled any correction will typically be printed on page 37 with a 10 point headline, body text 4-6 point, and not graphic between an advert for haemerroid cream and an article about someone who has grown an amusingly shaped vegetable (usually a turnip or swede).

        Stephen

        • Typically, here in the UK, articles criticising some person or company ... appear on the front few pages probably in 16 point print with a 36 point or more headline and a photo to draw attention to it. After the PCC has ruled any correction will typically be printed on page 37 with a 10 point headline, body text 4-6 point ...

          Although some people would like to change this [bbc.co.uk], and rightly so.

    • Re:Newspapers too? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Wudbaer (48473)
      Yes, it indeed is like that. If you feel that you have been misrepresented in e.g. a newspaper article
      they have to print your counterstatement. Usually it is headed by a more or less boilerplate intro of: "The press laws require us to print this, this does not mean it is true, correct etc."
    • by morzel (62033) on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:33AM (#6212058)
      I'm not sure for the rest of Europe, but at least in Belgium there is the so-called "Recht van antwoord" (ie: right to reply).
      Basically, it states that you are always entitled to a response at no cost in the publication that has criticized you, to give the readers both sides of the story.

      If some paper/magazine writes a critical article on your person or organization, this gives you the right to post your rebuttal to the same audience that read the initial article - which seems OK for me.

      • by banzai51 (140396) on Monday June 16, 2003 @11:05AM (#6212461) Journal
        Seems ok until you consider the effect on an individual's website. The true power of the web is that anyone can publish thier thoughts. Imagine you critize a company that you had a bad experience with on your personal website. Imagine them shutting you down because you didn't allow them to counter. Or, you allow them to reply, but they then create a reply that voilates your bandwidth TOS. Either way you're off the net. Your single voice will be stifled.
        • by Randolpho (628485) on Monday June 16, 2003 @11:31AM (#6212802) Homepage Journal
          <blockquote>Your single voice will be stifled.</blockquote>

          Not so. If you do not want the company's reply to be seen, then you are stifling *their* free speech, not the other way round. That's what the right to reply is all about. It *increases* freedom of speech by forcing debate. One-sided spouting-off must have a counter, or it is worthless.
          • by banzai51 (140396) on Monday June 16, 2003 @12:37PM (#6213570) Journal
            Freedom of speech is the right to say whatever you think. Not a manditory debate. You are also free to think and say whatever want even if it is untrue. This is especially important when the truth of the matter is subjective. More to the point, a business is in a far better position to rebut on thier own dime than to transfer that to the individual. Besides, a corporation doesn't have the same rights to speach as an individual.
          • by junkgrep (266550) on Monday June 16, 2003 @01:25PM (#6214030)
            Hello? When I disagree with you, I am not obligated to then repeat your response word for word out loud for all to hear. If you want to respond, you respond in whatever forum is open to you. THAT is free speech, not some ridiculous law that says I have to pay for your response.
        • It is specifically stated in the proposal that a hypertext link to the rebuttal (which does not need to reside on your server) is enough - this is not the type of thing that will kill your TOS or bandwidth.

          The current law for offline media also mandates that the size of such a rebuttal should be 'reasonable' (ie: no free full-page ads) with regards to the media in which it is published.

    • Re:Newspapers too? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Jugalator (259273) on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:35AM (#6212096) Journal
      Is this a requirement for newspapers in Europe?

      From the article (RTFA ;-)):

      "A 1974 Council of Europe resolution says "a newspaper, a periodical, a radio or television broadcast" must offer a right of reply. Most European countries have enacted that right, with a German law--compiled by the U.K. nonprofit group Presswiseâ"that offers a typical example: A publisher is "obliged to publish a counter-version or reply by the person or party affected."
    • Re:Newspapers too? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kris (824) <kris-slashdot@koehntopp.de> on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:46AM (#6212243) Homepage
      In Germany, yes.

      For newspapers, for radio and televisision programmes as well. If you report on a person or company, that person or company has the right to insist on their POV being published in an appropriate form. This works fairly well, and has a very low to non-noticeable actual impact on the content or cost of newspapers or programmes.

      And I think it is a good idea to apply this to non-printed media as well. If you read the text carefully, you'll see that linking is okay. This more or less automatically solves the authentication problem, keeps editing for space out of the way and does generally the right thing network-wise.

      This is not bad at all. In fact, it forces a lot of people into a fair discussion with argument and counterargument, whereas there were only soapboxes and shouting before.

      Kristian
      • Re:Newspapers too? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Otter (3800) on Monday June 16, 2003 @11:35AM (#6212847) Journal
        Well, this is a good example of how different societies can choose to define rights and liberties in different ways.

        You can see where the Americans here are astonished at the prospect of laws "forcing " people into "a fair discussion", whereas Europeans would consider it an infringement of their rights to be denied a soapbox in any publication that mentions them.

        Obviously I'm comfortable with the values of my own society, but it's important for everyone to realize that there are different visions of rights, and that there are different paths you can take without becoming North Korea or Libya.

      • Re:Newspapers too? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Richthofen80 (412488)
        "This is not bad at all. In fact, it forces a lot of people into a fair discussion with argument and counterargument, whereas there were only soapboxes and shouting before."

        This would be all fine and dandy, except that it doesn't matter if you think its bad or good. all that matters is what the company thinks.

        Forcing someone to write or support an idea in their publication that they don't agree with is a form of facism. The beauty of personal ownership is to editorialize, to say what you want to say, and
    • Re:Newspapers too? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      There certainly already is such a requirement for newpapers in some European countries. And guess what: It works out pretty well. Better than most of the "horrendous damages lawsuit against college students"-solution elsewhere.
      (I wonder whether the original slashdot submitter actually has seen European ways of doing things or just has read something and found things unfamiliar and thus outrageous. But that, one wonders with a lot of /. stories about perceivedly ludicrous laws in Europe.)
  • They can write their reply on their check they send me to pay for my monthly web-hosting costs.
  • by danormsby (529805) on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:22AM (#6211919) Homepage
    So if the whole web works like slashdot we're covered? People can comment on any article if it refers to them or not.
  • Two questions. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TrollBridge (550878) on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:23AM (#6211923) Homepage Journal
    1. How will they verify that the person who is replying is in fact the person they are criticizing.

    2. If the answer to 1 is "they won't", does this mean that any EU site will be a juicy target for trolls impersonating the subject of criticism? Sure sounds like an invitation for some nasty abuses to me!

    • Right from the article description:

      This would mean that you would be required to post the responses as well as authenticate their origin and make the responses available for some period of time.

      So the answer is they're required to verify it. My question is, who's going to get the burden of authentication? Can you get away with just not posting responses that don't include some form of authentication, or do you have to go talk with everyone who submits a response letter to find out if they're aurthen

      • That could be a potential pain.

        Bollocks. Every european newspaper has standard terms of reply which already specify the requirements for authentication. There is no problem to require the replying side to offer a valid identity document (or a true copy of) and pay for all postage and handling (and in some countries an identity check). So once again. Bollocks.

  • by salimma (115327) * on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:23AM (#6211927) Homepage Journal
    If I criticise SCO my Slashdot journal, and me being based in Europe, SCO demanded that I give them the right of reply, what does it entail?

    A SCO rep could just reply on the journal entry, but how does the authentication work? Could I require him to PGP-sign his message? Or would it be irrelevant because Slashdot is not based in Europe?

    • by sebi (152185) on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:32AM (#6212055)
      If I criticise SCO my Slashdot journal, and me being based in Europe, SCO demanded that I give them the right of reply, what does it entail?

      When they respond you would have to do a new journal entry. It would start with a disclaimer along the lines of 'according to blabla I have to present the following. The views following express the opinions of SCO and are not mine.' Then you would print whatever they sent you. To actually force you to post their rebuttal they almost certainly need some kind of ruling by a judge. You can clearly mark what is from them and still write your opinions before and after.
  • Wow... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TopShelf (92521) on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:24AM (#6211938) Homepage Journal
    This is a truly idiotic endeavor. While it may be one thing to require professional media outlets to provide such a forum (which they generally do out of good journalistic practice), it is another thing entirely to require it of any and all online content. While this is a long way from becoming law, it's distressing that such a proposal has made it this far...
  • by peripatetic_bum (211859) on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:24AM (#6211939) Homepage Journal
    Of course this could be a good thing or a very bad thing.

    At least the law doesnt say you have to reply to your critics.

    At least you only have to hyperlink to them.

    Of course, what could happen is that we might see a floweing of civil discussion or we might end up back in the stone age if slashdot flamage starts ending up in mom and pop's daily newspaper reading and everyone launches nukes for retaliation

    • Nope (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jefu (53450) on Monday June 16, 2003 @11:15AM (#6212590) Homepage Journal
      At least you only have to hyperlink to them.

      No. The draft proposal says that a link is ok. It does not say that the person or organization that wants to provide a rebuttal needs to provide space for the reply. It looks to me like a statement like "Walpurgis Mart Sucks" could result in "Walpurgis Mart" requiring me to put up a 100 Mb response.

      Even so, I do have a couple questions about links as required here.... If I link to someone's reply from a period (".")in my text, is that sufficient? How about linking from an image map? Or from some fancy javascript? Could my link be set up to popunder a 10 by 10 pixel window that looks like it originates from the people who dont like what I said and that refuses to close?

      Enquiring minds and all that ....

  • For weblogs, that is simple. Use a system that allows user comments.
  • Confused (Score:5, Interesting)

    by m00nun1t (588082) on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:25AM (#6211954) Homepage
    What I've never understood about laws like this is the location of the person vs. the location of the server.

    Let's say I'm in Europe and my server is in the USA (pretty common I would guess). Whose laws am I subject to? And let's say I'm subject to European laws. They may be able to arrest me, but I would assume they have no legal right to force the ISP to remove my content.

    Have there been any precedents around this sort of thing? And what country combination were those precedents?

    Kazaa seems to be depending on this model - clients in the USA (and everywhere else, but USA is where the legal action is around Kazaa), staff in Australia, company & servers in Vanuatu. Maybe they are taking advantage of the confusion?
    • Re:Confused (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hpulley (587866)

      While they cannot force your ISP to remove the content for you if the law in that country does not allow them to do so, they can force you to remove the content from your own website as a court order. If you refuse to obey the court order, you can be held in contempt of court and jailed until such time as you agree to the order.

      Anyone else read _Trouble_and_Her_Friends_ by Melissa Scott? Her novel predates the DCMA but coveres some of the same ideas coincidentally, and some of the ideas in this latest eu

  • Not Weblogs (Score:2, Informative)

    by RazzleFrog (537054)
    According to the draft:

    "Aware at the same time that it may not be necessary to extend the right of reply to non-professional on-line media whose influence on public opinion is limited; "

    I don't think that many weblog scould be considered professional or influencing of public opinion.
  • A BLOG ! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by da5idnetlimit.com (410908) on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:26AM (#6211973) Journal
    So, if you have an open blog; ppl can register and answer whatever they want.

    "The reply should be made publicly available in a prominent place for a period of time (that) is at least equal to the period of time during which the contested information was publicly available, but, in any case, no less than for 24 hours." "

    --Prominent... Like close to the offending comment, offering it the same exposure ?

    â Hyperlinking to a reply is acceptable. "It may be considered sufficient to publish (the reply) or make available a link to it" from the spot of the original mention.

    --ditto

    â "So long as the contested information is available online, the reply should be attached to it, for example through a clearly visible link."

    --ditto

    â Long replies are fine. "There should be flexibility regarding the length of the reply, since there are (fewer) capacity limits for content than (there are) in off-line media."

    -ditto

    So, all I will do is add a small line at the bottom of my Blog that says "Whatever you say, someone else can answer if they feel compelled to!"...
    As in, a blog ?
  • by jd142 (129673) on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:26AM (#6211975) Homepage
    I can still say anything I want. I can say slashdot sucks on my blog. All I have to do is give the slashdot editors a chance to put up a message on my blog that says "no we don't". I can still say anything I want. And since linking to a response is acceptable, I could even tell them, "Fine, I'll put a link up to your response."

    If you look at some of the web pages that make fun of a corporation and got in trouble, they put up the response and then make fun of it, so not much will actually change.

    If anything, this might make free speech *more* available, since anyone who says "wal-mart sucks" has a non-onerous way of placating wal-mart without having to take down the text that offended wal-mart.

    Recently, we saw Penny-Arcade forced to take down a Strawberry Shortcake parody. What if instead, all they had to do was put American Greetings' response to the parody. And then since they've complied with the law, they wouldn't have had to take the strip down. And what if they could use that compliance as an additional defense?

    • by MrFredBloggs (529276) on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:39AM (#6212139) Homepage
      It's chilling because it says that people have to take responsibilty for their actions. Some people don't like that.
      • by Randolpho (628485) on Monday June 16, 2003 @11:03AM (#6212434) Homepage Journal
        If I had mod points at the moment, I'd waste them all on your post. :)

        I agree, this is probably the biggest reason why people are against it. "It will stifle free speech", they say, because "it will keep people from posting what they really feel if they have to deal with the consequences."

        Exactly. You have to deal with the consequences. People in today's society (well, at least the U.S. for you foreign devils out there ;)) want to do what they want in a consequence-free environment.
        • "it will keep people from posting what they really feel if they have to deal with the consequences."

          "People in today's society (well, at least the U.S. for you foreign devils out there ;)) want to do what they want in a consequence-free environment."

          Name one US state or territory that doesn't have slander and libel laws on the books.

          Bearing the burden of publishing a rebuttal isn't about taking responsibility for your own actions, it's about taking responsibility for theirs as well. In the US, you ar
      • It's chilling because it holds bloggers to the same level of accountability as CNN/BBC/FoxNews. They have the time and resources to authenticate and publish the other side. I don't have that luxury since I'm a college student who will probably be working part time soon and taking summer classes.

        Europe should give liberalism a shot instead of finding every single possible way around it. Hey you never know, give your people freedom and you might actually not be inclined to slaughter each other and Jews like
  • wow (Score:2, Funny)

    by Apreche (239272)
    This would make like a reply from MS on every single /. story a requirement.

    But I bet no matter what they say MS's replies will be spelled correctly.
  • by Niles_Stonne (105949) on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:29AM (#6212003) Homepage
    Why should you, or I, or anyone else have the "right" to post slanderous or just plain false comments about companies/people without their ability to respond?

    Frankly, if someone starts posting bad things about me or my company somewhere, I really would like to be able to respond to those comments.

    My only concern about this is the potential for abuse:

    Let's say that I post a "Company X sucks" rant on my web site... Company X sends a response, that according to this law would be required to be posted on my site. Company X's response is in the form of an extremely large file. Company X then has an employee post an anonymous article to Slashdot ( First use of annoying new low in EU! Take a look _here_[annoyingly large file, hosted on my server]). My hosting company kindly then sends me a bill for the bandwidth useage, and I quietly go bankrupt...

    • Let's say that I post a "Company X sucks" rant on my web site... Company X sends a response, that according to this law would be required to be posted on my site. Company X's response is in the form of an extremely large file. Company X then has an employee post an anonymous article to Slashdot ( First use of annoying new low in EU! Take a look _here_[annoyingly large file, hosted on my server]). My hosting company kindly then sends me a bill for the bandwidth useage, and I quietly go bankrupt...

      Or let's s

    • by sebi (152185) on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:43AM (#6212197)
      The response is supposed to be in the same format as the original. So if you wrote something then they should reply with writing. Furthermore you will not necessarily be forced to host their file. The proposal explicitly states, that links will be acceptable. So if someone decides to reply to you in form of a film you can tell them to host it themselves and just post the link. Same for audio. I can't think of any other form that would result in an extremely large file.
    • by PhxBlue (562201) on Monday June 16, 2003 @11:26AM (#6212744) Homepage Journal

      Why should you, or I, or anyone else have the "right" to post slanderous or just plain false comments about companies/people without their ability to respond?

      You don't have that right - and if you do libel another party, they don't just have the "right to reply." They have the right to sue the pants off your arse.

  • This law makes no since because unlike print where as few people have the methods to publish, on the web ANYONE can write something and throw it online for a miminal, or no cost. If you want to reply to something in particular , start a blog, i mean what else are they other than a commentary on a specfic authors take on life...

    The beauty of the web is that everyone has a voice, and there is no need to force others to publish stuff that is not their own.
  • What?? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SuperDuG (134989) <beNO@SPAMeclec.tk> on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:29AM (#6212009) Homepage Journal
    HEhehehee okay lemme get this straight ...

    I live in England (well I don't but bear with me here)... and I write something bad about tony blair on my website.

    I then have to allow an avenue for tony to be able to "Comment" or "Give his side" on MY WEBSITE???

    What the hell? Who comes up with this shit. If someone writes nasty things about you on their blog you write nasty things about them on your blog ... or is this just an American concept?

    So what if I say something bad about someone in public, must I then allow them to speakerphone in and explain it from their perspective to my friends?

    • Re:What?? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tharsis (7591)
      If someone writes nasty things about you on their blog you write nasty things about them on your blog ... or is this just an American concept?

      Well, if President Bush says some nasty things about you in his blog, what good does it do if you say some nasty things about him in your personal blog
  • You folks do understand that this will apply to any online version of a newspaper? Might actually be a good thing, since right now newspapers, even online ones don't do a good job with retraction.

    I don't believe this law will affect blogs that are run like forums (i.e. Slashdot), since there is plenty of opportunity for someone to post a rebuttal. (Might be tough to find once it was moderated into the ground, though... ;-)

    This ruling might become unwieldy when someone decides to provide a multi-terabyte
  • Boundaries (Score:4, Interesting)

    by limekiller4 (451497) on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:31AM (#6212025) Homepage
    Who decides what qualifies as "criticism?"

    Are opinions included? Am I allowed to say "I don't like you" or do I have to post your rebuttal?

    Are business covered? Do they have to post replies from their competitors? If a company claims that their product works, is that tacit criticism of someone who says that it does not? Does that person get to post their complaint on the offending companies website?

    What if the criticism is oblique? "Other products aren't as fast as the Super Widget 2003" Who gets to reply?

    This is capitalistic gentrification. This is some organization planting a flag and claiming the internet as principally a business stomping ground.
  • by CaptainZapp (182233) * on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:32AM (#6212041) Homepage
    In the good old printed press there are certain rules that have to be followed.

    For example you will be in hellish hot water as a paper when you just print accusations without even giving the accused so much as a chance to answer to those allegations.

    Also, if somebody feels unfairly treated he has a right to a counter statement (Gegendarstellung in German). That's not an elaborate article, but the right to set the facts straight from his/her position. The paper doesn't have to agree with it an can explicitely mention that, but they must print it with few exceptions.

    So why the fsck should this be different on the net then in the printed press? Should Mr. Drudge have the right to smear around his rumours, without the right of a potentially badly harmed person to even respond to it? I think not.

    By the way: This right to a counter statement is based on Swiss press laws. think Germany is quite comparable.

  • Council of Europe (Score:3, Informative)

    by Dot.Com.CEO (624226) * on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:34AM (#6212079)
    Council of Europe is NOT a "quasi-governmental" entity. Indeed, it is an intergovernmental one and is the closest thing there is to a central, federal, European government. Calling it "quasi-governmental" is a gross inaccuracy. More info here [coe.int]
  • by snarkh (118018) on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:35AM (#6212098)
    For better or for worse, Europe lacks a First Amendment and the respect for limited government, private property and free enterprise that America still enjoys.

    Talk about being biased. Such absurd and ignorant generalizations from one, admittedly seemingly ill-conceived, law proposal.

    One might as well look at the American health care and say, for better or for worse, US lacks all respect for well-being of its citizens.

  • Bad Idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EQ (28372) on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:38AM (#6212125) Homepage Journal
    So, lets see, you have the Holocaust Deniers who can force News sites to link to them every time they are mentioned in a news post, an accused rapist demanding linkage under court order to his victim's web site, Labor Party forced to link to Conservative Party, fascists/communists court-ordered posting every time they get criticized...

    Something fundamentally wrong about that. What ever happened to the Marketplace of Ideas? Thomas Jefferson championed it in the USA, but the original idea came from European philosophers (Locke, etc).

    Its my web space, I pay for it, why should I be forced to give credence and publicity to someone I am opposed to, on MY dime? They can use their own site and post there.

    To parphrase an old hyper-mach-military saying (Kill them all and let God sort them out):

    Post them all, and let Google sort them out.

    Vox populi, and all that jazz...
    • Re:Bad Idea (Score:4, Insightful)

      by michaelggreer (612022) on Monday June 16, 2003 @11:22AM (#6212683)
      1) An accused rapist should be able to refute public accusations. Does accusation immediately condemn them? I thought we used courts for that.
      2) This does not address statements of fact. If the rapist is convicted, stating so would not be arguable.
      3) Your private website is not covered by this law, only professional on-line media.
      4) This sounds very much like the marketplace of ideas to me (which, by the way, is a phrase from Karl Marx, not Locke). It allows those with fewer resources to respond to those who own (and market) the presses. Far from chilling, this opens up free speech to those with fewer means.
  • by SubliminalLove (646840) on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:43AM (#6212203)
    What's up with this at the tail end of an otherwise relatively well-written essay?

    Europe lacks a First Amendment and the respect for limited government, private property and free enterprise that America still enjoys.

    Item 1: Of course they don't have the First Amendment. They don't have the Declaration of Independance or the Proclamation of Emancipation, either; the First Amendment is part of the American constitution. This intentionally emotion-provoking phrase intends to say "they don't have freedom of speech", which may be true in limited ways (I understand, for example, that Nazi references are regulated in Germany), but I've never heard of extreme censorship in Europe. Am I wrong? Is Europe secretly a band of neo-nazi fascist authoritarians? My bad...

    Item 2: No respect for private property. Really? This reads like a third-grader's "your momma's so fat" joke; it seems like it's just there to try to make Europe seem bad, without any justifying context. Again, am I wrong? Did Europe turn Commie when I wasn't looking? I hate it when they do that...

    Item 3: Free enterprise is disrespected by Europe too? Okay, I don't actually know anything about Europe on this one. If we let Microsoft to continue to operate a monopoly, let the RIAA run the music industry as an oligarchy, and let the oil industry run the government (all of which practices are extremely discouraging to "free enterprise" in that competition is made more difficult), we don't get to bitch about Europe.

    Item 4: "... that America still enjoys". With the implication that in pursuit of respect for Free Speech, Respect For Small Government, and Respect For Free Enterprise, America is the shining star that all other nations should look to for inspiration. Get real; the states aren't any better at any of this than their peers in democracy. College kids don't get their life-savings yanked for producing search engines in free-speech respecting nations. America rocks; it's my favorite country by far. But don't go trying to make it sound like it's got all the problems licked, and if the rest of the world would just look at what we're doing over here...

    Stop trying to cram pro-American sentimentalities down our throat. There were two pages of informative and interesting writing before that line, why'd you have to ruin it by trying to make America the moral of the story?

    Sheesh...
    • by Ngwenya (147097) on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:58AM (#6212380)
      Item 1: Of course they don't have the First Amendment. They don't have the Declaration of Independance or the Proclamation of Emancipation, either; the First Amendment is part of the American constitution. This intentionally emotion-provoking phrase intends to say "they don't have freedom of speech", which may be true in limited ways (I understand, for example, that Nazi references are regulated in Germany), but I've never heard of extreme censorship in Europe. Am I wrong? Is Europe secretly a band of neo-nazi fascist authoritarians? My bad...

      Well said. Most of the EU member states have enshrined the European Convention on Human Rights [hri.org] into law. Article 10 of this convention sets out the right to free expression (although qualified in section 2 to include responsibilities).

      Your well thought out expression gives me some confort that not all Americans subscribe to the foolishly jingoistic notion that the American construction of liberty is the only valid one.

      As a European, I rarely feel myself groaning under the oppressive weight of our democracies, nor do I feel the oxygen of liberty suddenly fill my lungs during my many visits to the USA. It's perfectly possible (indeed admirable) to take pride in your country and culture without sneering at the achievements of others, whose efforts and results may reflect a history of which one is not aware.

      --Ng

    • by kisak (524062) on Monday June 16, 2003 @12:00PM (#6213154) Homepage Journal
      Europe lacks a First Amendment and the respect for limited government, private property and free enterprise that America still enjoys.

      EU is build on the foundation [eu.int] of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [un.org] (the national states in the EU have to make sure that their national laws don't conflict with the Human Rights, and EU citizens can take their case to the European Court of Human Rights [coe.int] if they feel that their Human Right is violated by an European country (for instance, free speech). This document is of course also the foundation of the UN [un.org] and has its philosophical basis in the philosophers of the enlightenment (the most important of them being French philosophers) which lead to the French revolution and the American Constitution. Paragraph 19 of the Human Rights Charter states:

      Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

      So, it is very wrong to state that EU lacks a "First Amendment".

      The other claims are equally absurd.

  • by k98sven (324383) on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:48AM (#6212267) Journal
    First up, I don't agree with this proposal at all, but it seems apparent that there are some exaggerations here.

    First, this proposal seems to be aimed at protecting the individual from slander by business, not vice-versa.

    Second, I don't see how this relates to blogs.. the draft specifically says "professional on-line media":
    The right of reply, and in particular the principles of Resolution (74) 26, should apply not only to the press, radio and television, but also to professional on-line media.

    and in the "definitions":
    the term "professional on-line media" means any natural or legal person or other entity whose main professional activity is to engage in the collection, dissemination and/or editing of information to the public on a regular basis via the Internet

  • by Randolpho (628485) on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:48AM (#6212273) Homepage Journal
    Having read the article and digested the meaning, I have to say I like the idea.

    Many people here are taking the stance that the article writer has: Bad Idea(tm). Most seem concerned that this will somehow hamper free speech.

    I call bullshit. This will *foster* free speech. Let's be honest; how many of us have gone to blogs or forums where the prevalent opinion is different from our own and been shouted down, had our posts edited or deleted? Apparently not many of you. Well, I have. Almost always it's "It's my site, you'll play by my rules. If I don't like what you have to say, tough shit, you're deleted." Forcing the issue legally allows discussion to take place. Without a right to reply, you merely have one person/group spewing whatever they wish without a dissenting voice.

    To deny a right to reply is what will really hamper free speech.

    Don't believe me? Well then, don't reply; you don't have the right. ;)
  • by fname (199759) on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:49AM (#6212279) Journal
    The Slashdot headline is misleading, this is far from set in stone. The Council of Europ has only influence, it has no legislative authoriity. There already is Right-of-Reply for most print publicaitons in Europe, but some countries, such as Great Britian, have not enacted those laws.

    This is just a suggestion of an influential body. The proposal may be accepted in part or in whole by all, some or none of the European member countries.

    Personally, I hope it dies a painful death, and maybe the Europeans can eliminate right of reply all around. Print and the internet aren't TV-- there's no scarcity involved. This just sounds like a bureacratic (sp!) nightmare, a feel-good proposal that has the government meddle where there is no need.

    Thank goodness for the 1st amendment, which keeps silly laws like this (we have other kinds of silly laws) out of the USA.
  • by Death Owl (661455) on Monday June 16, 2003 @11:05AM (#6212450) Homepage
    I suspect the motive behind this legislation is to allow spammers to be prosecuted. Europeans (encouraged by the press) are currently outraged at spammers sending hardcore porn to their children. Most of these spam e-mails do not have a valid return e-mail address. If its illegal to send out mail without a valid reply-to address, it would help combat spam (at least spam originating in Europe.) That has to be a good thing.
  • by reallocate (142797) on Monday June 16, 2003 @11:07AM (#6212480)
    Media is media. This won't have a "chilling effect" on Internet communications because any publically available Internet publication is not private communication, but a public medium. If a nation enforces right to reply in regard to media such as newspapers, radio and television, why should it not also enforce right to reply in other media?

    Internet publications should not draw a pass simply because they use a different technology. Nor should weblogs, mailing lists, etc., expect an exemption because they are "personal" or often operated by only one person.

    If you want what you say to be considered private communications, you wouldn't print it in a newspaper or broadcast it on radio or TV. Likewise, if you want what you write to be seen as private communications, don't put it on the Internet.
  • by Jack William Bell (84469) on Monday June 16, 2003 @11:08AM (#6212497) Homepage Journal
    They can post their own response to the Internet just as easily as anyone else. It isn't like the Net makes it hard...

    This is the kind of thing about the European 'way' that gets me; all the crap they do that seems to level the playing field, while the real power remains concentrated in a very small number of people. No wonder the American Jacksonians and Jeffersonians give them fits!
  • First and obviously, it will weaken the tendency for people to build isolated self-referential extremist commmunities of delusion, like fundamentalists, deconstructionists, ultralibertarians, etc., without linking to contrary evidence.

    Secondly, it will of necessity force adoption of mechanisms to authoritate message sources, something long overdue and which we shouldn't wait much longer on, lest Microsoft declare itself the authority, as is clearly its intent.

    I don't see the basic idea as a threat to free speech at all. On the other hand...

    I see potential for enormous practical problems. How can we avoid this mechanism being spammed? Suppose scientology sets up a spider/bot to search for every instance of scientology words on the web and to demand a link to their propaganda?

    This could be quite a hassle for many low-resource high-controvery sites and subject them to a coordinated denial of service attack by opponents demanding links that would need to be added manually.

    It could also nicely defeat the whole Google algorithm. It's easy to get my site highly rated if I can force inbound links!

    In other words, while imho the idea has some basic merit, a great deal of thought needs to go into protecting it from abuse.

  • by Vajsvarana (238818) on Monday June 16, 2003 @11:19AM (#6212642)
    You'll find the latest draft here [coe.int]:

    Note what the trollish C/Net editor skips in its article:

    Reaffirming that the minimum rules in the appendix to Resolution (74) 26 do not go beyond granting a right of reply with respect of factual statements claimed to be inaccurate and that, as a consequence, the on-line dissemination of opinions and ideas falls outside the scope of this Recommendation;

    "Reaffirming" refers to the Resolution (74) 26 where it is well specified that only false statements are affected by this "right to reply".

    So the rest of the article is just C/Net trolling.
  • Hold on a minute! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Noryungi (70322) on Monday June 16, 2003 @11:24AM (#6212727) Homepage Journal
    People, you have to remember that EU citizens have a healthy habit of just plain ignoring idiotic laws such as this one. And law enforcement people usually don't... ahem... enforce them...

    Which is why I cannot too worried about it. Crypto was outlawed in France for years, for instance, but getting PGP was as simple as calling your firendly neighbourhood BBS and firing up that ZModem (I know, this happened to me!).

    Besides, I doubt SCO (or Microsoft, or ...) are stupid enough to attack something like Slashdot (or your personal web site), so we are all probably safe for the moment.

    Finally, if you have juicy information on, say, a clear violation of the GPL by Microsoft, you'd better back it up with some serious proof, so that MS can't sue you into oblivion...

    In short: nothing to see here. Carry on.
  • by Daetrin (576516) on Monday June 16, 2003 @11:41AM (#6212911)
    This will likely have a chilling effect on Internet communication

    Because well all know that having to listen to the other guy talk back to you totally kills that whole communication thing. Nothing like having to consider both sides of an issue to ruin your pleasant complacency.

    Besides, everyone would rather pay up or remove offending information due to libel suits instead, right?

  • by Daetrin (576516) on Monday June 16, 2003 @12:04PM (#6213200)
    Who exactly has the right of free response? What happens when a person or group slanders a generalized group?

    For example, the next time the RIAA goes on some spiel on a European website about how people who d/l mp3s are evil pirates who are destorying the recording industries profits, robbing artists of house and home, and eat babies on the side, who has the right of response?

    Can any person who is willing to admit that they have traded mp3s force the RIAA or whichever site hosted the article to include a counter-response? If so, just the first person who responds? Or every response they get? Or would the file-traders need to form some kind of official group to make the response? Or does the RIAA get away with it because they're slandering a nebulous group rather than a specific individual?

  • by HiThere (15173) * <charleshixsn@ e a r t h l i nk.net> on Monday June 16, 2003 @12:31PM (#6213498)
    If posting a URL to the information that the respondent provides, perhaps with a "govt approved" icon next to it, so that it will be easy to locate, is sufficient, then I seen nothing at all wrong with this. In fact, it seems beneficial.

    (Then you can demand that they link to your reply to their reply, etc.)

    If you are required to supply them with bandwidth, then this opens the gates to many abuses.

    So implementation is the key. This could be either good or bad, but it sounds to me as if the probability is that this will mainly benefit society and individuals. (After many recent govt. actions, some cynicism is quite reasonable, however. But I wouldn't want to jump to an assumption that this will be bad against the evidence.)

  • by saforrest (184929) on Monday June 16, 2003 @01:13PM (#6213927) Homepage Journal
    I don't understand all this fuss about blogs, etc. The recommendation, as presently worded [coe.int], clearly applies only to 'professional on-line media' (see below).

    Unless you blog for a living, this won't apply to you. Not that I don't think it's overly restrictive, but believing it would apply to all varities of online publishing seems completely against the authors' intention.

    Definitions

    For the purposes of this Recommendation:

    the term "professional on-line media" means any natural or legal person or other entity whose main professional activity is to engage in the collection, dissemination and/or editing of information to the public on a regular basis via the Internet;

    the term "information" means any statement of fact, opinion or idea in the form of text, sound and/or picture.
  • by hellfire (86129) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `vdalived'> on Monday June 16, 2003 @01:22PM (#6214004) Homepage
    First, I'm an American, don't go calling me some stupid European who knows nothing about the USA. I'm a smart american who knows how stupid americans are ;) (ment with humor).

    Secondly, American's are saying this is "unconstitutional" or "it shifts costs of replies to the owner of the site."

    Show me an amendment that grants the right of the original poster of a comment on the internet the right to not have to display a rebuttal? That's insane. There is no such constitutional amendment preventing this. In fact this is more constitutional than unconstitutional. I would be guarenteed the right to "free speech" in responding to my accusers. It would have a chilling effect on media, but this is a GOOD thing. People should not go around accusing others of poor decision making without proof. If fact, would media be better if it were about multiple parties sitting down and discussing the issue rather than getting one editorial point of view?

    Also, this is from an editorial point of view. Note in the United States if I said "Michael Jackson is a child molester" and this had serious effects on his reputation and I had no proof, Mike can already sue me under Slander/libel law. If I come out and say "George Bush has made terrible decisions and here is what they are," I would be rather elated to find George posting on my website a rebuttal. I could then engage him in direct discussion. If I reported on some joe shmoe down the street who had an internet connection but no site and criticized him for his lawn care, then perhaps he should get the right to rebutt so he can tell everyone why rather than get just one point of view.

    Finally, if you are posting about your people in your neighborhood and how dumb they are for doing this or that, and they don't have the ability to reply on your website, who does that hurt? It hurts them! You shouldn't be posting such information without proof to back it up and if they can rebutt you they should have the right. Otherwise its a one sided publication, and not a discussion.

    What's nice about this proposal is that it would turn media into an open forum. Yanno.... like slashdot.

    And you would think Slashdotters would be all over that idea.
    • by xutopia (469129) on Monday June 16, 2003 @01:41PM (#6214241) Homepage
      I couldn't agree more with you there my friend! :)

      I'm half/half North American/European and lived half my life in each continent so I see how things work on both sides of the Atlantic.

      Right of reply is the most constitutional and democratic thing ever! I'll tell you why Reagan said it didn't promote free speech.

      He started out in the media industry : radio host and actor. His friends in the media would say whatever pleased him to get him elected in return of favors like politcal protection.

      Bush and his CNN/Foxnews friends certainly played the Americans latel. All forms of democratic dialogue was quelled by the Bush administration and their media friends.

      Outside the US we've heard Rumsfeld has ties with Halliburton (even gets a few millions every couple years) and Bush in oil and media. We also heard the facts regarding Bush's grandaddy and the Nazi family ties. We also heard about the forged documents the Bush administration came up with way before it even made news in the US (I heard about it two days after the US had given it to UNMOVIC).

      People in the US are blatently disinformed and laws like ROR are only meant to stop misinformation from happening.

      When you have corruption (ala Microsoft and SCO) Slashdot gives the ROR to the people and that is why it is so popular. Actually the papers in France (there are a ton just in Paris) love the ROR on editorials. Their sales go up whenever they have a reply in one of their papers. They make more sales because people love listening to a dialogue rather than a mind numbing CNN/Foxnews.

      In most European countries the head of state often goes on TV to talk to people and often live. They answer questions from the public and sometimes have to admit their own fallacies.

      Has anyone seen Bush accept a challenge from the people? The only interviews he had were as close as rigged as you could have. He has all his answers readied for the prepared question we ask him. This is not dialogue, this is organized monologue.

      ROR is for you the people.

  • The article cited Dalzell's opinion in the CDA case, but didn't explain the most important part: the difference between the internet and radio. If I don't like your weblog entry, I can post my own entry in my own weblog criticising it. If I don't like your radio comment on me, what can I do? I can't start my own radio station, because there's limited spectrum. The limited amount of spectrum is only reason the FCC can regulate the content of radio in the first place. So, a right of reply make sense in the radio context, where otherwise you might have no forum. But on the internet, everyone has a forum, so a right of reply is unneeded.

    I've also seen some people here claim that it's not an imposition on freedom of speech because you can still publish what you want, or that it *is* an imposition because it will have a "chilling effect." I think these people miss the point. The reason it violates freedom of speech, is because it's *compelled speech* -- it's the government mandating that I have to publish things I disagree with. In radio, where there's limited spectrum, everyone has to sacrifice. But on the 'net, there's no need for that.

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