On July 23, 2010, CNN anchors Kyra Phillips and John Roberts discussed on air the idea that bloggers should be somehow “held accountable” or perhaps regulated in some way. Here’s the video of that exchange.
It’s no secret that CNN and other so-called mainstream media outlets, both broadcast and print, have had for some time now an ongoing loss of viewers and readers. A number of traditional journalists from time to time have had and expressed an almost open hostility towards bloggers and the Internet. They perceive the Internet as a threat to their business models, and their vaunted self-appointed job as information “gatekeepers.”
If you look back over the past few years, almost every major story, particularly scandal stories, originated first on blogs. In many cases the mainstream media were dragged kicking and screaming into reporting stories. The clearly forged National Guard documents that ultimately ended up forcing CBS to fire evening news anchor Dan Rather comes to mind from a few years ago. Bloggers quickly picked up on the fact that the supposed National Guard documents had been typed up in the default template for Microsoft Word and then ran through a fax and/or copy machine a number of times to make the documents look dirty and/or old. The trouble was, Microsoft Word didn’t exist in 1973. If it weren’t for bloggers, this story would have likely never come to public light, and what is clearly a forgery and a made-up story would have passed into the public mind as the truth.
Should free speech be curbed? Should bloggers somehow be licensed or officially regulated in what is purportedly a free country? Should we be forced to get our news from “professional” or even “licensed” journalists?
The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced, in a public report, that a system of monetary rewards would help improve the enforcement of the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2002 (CAN-SPAM Act.) That Act, which became effective on January 1, 2004, required the FTC to conduct a study and provide a report to Congress on a CAN-SPAM “bounty system.” While the fact that bounties may be offered to those who help authorities in nabbing spammers doesn’t unusual, what is very much out of the ordinary is the projected bounty amounts necessary to make them effective.
The FTC reports three hurdles exist in enforcing the CAN-SPAM Act: 1) identifying and locating the spammer, 2) developing sufficient evidence to prove the spammer is legally responsible for sending the spam, and 3) obtaining the source of funding for the bounties. The report states that those with the information most helpful to authorities are whistleblowers and insiders: those who have had personal or business contact with the spammers, themselves. Because of the real possibility of retaliation, the monetary awards encourage the whistleblowers to come forward. The FTC thinks that awards of about $100,000, upward to $250,000, are reasonable, with funding for the bounty program to come from federal taxes.
I wish I knew a spammer; for a quarter of a million, I could by RV my kids are clamoring for and go on the road for a few months. Why do we need an incentive to do the right thing. Turning in details of bona fide spammers is just a good thing to do. Why should we expect to be bribed by the government?
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