The term Web 2.0 has been doing the rounds since around 2003 and during this period the way that we interact with the internet has become a more collaborative process. While some user generated content is taken more seriously now than in the early days, there is a general consensus that many in the blogoshere would like to attain the same amount of credibility that is afforded to conventional online information sources like bbc.co.uk or the sites of mainstream media organisations. Despite this desire, some news-based blogs may be shooting themselves in the foot by taking an irresponsible approach to serious issues.
Political blogger Guido Fawkes writes one of the UK’s most popular independent blogs and is often scathing about the content and approach of his mainstream rivals. While Fawkes is clearly an influential and respected news source, his approach to the recent Israel Palestine conflict has been somewhat contentious.
For example, his 9 January caption competition invited readers to comment on a picture of Israel Defence Force soldiers sharing a pizza sent by Fawkes (Fawkes has been supporting a campaign to send pizza to the IDF for a few years now). Predictably this led to a number comments being posted, some of which could be considered to be in bad taste or even overtly racist.
Of course Fawkes isn’t directly responsible for these comments and, in fairness, you get offensive comments on mainstream news sites as well. The difference is that Fawkes is intentionally asking users to make “humorous” comments about a situation in which over a thousand people (many of them innocent) have lost their lives and he does little to filter out posts that may offend.
Freedom of speech is one of the central principles in the Web 2.0 world and it is important that censorship is kept to a minimum. However, bloggers who like to think of themselves as journalists (as Fawkes does) may need to exercise some self-restraint, otherwise they could just end up providing an easy platform for the ignorant to vent their bile. And if this happens, what hope does the blogging movement have of attaining the level of legitimacy enjoyed by mainstream media?