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Bloggers’ letter to the Guardian raises Leveson concerns

Our editor, Jon Lansman, was a signatory to this letter in today’s Guardian, which raises concerns about the inclusion of not-for-profit multi-authored blogs on the same level as newspapers within the new press regulation framework. Other signatories include the editors of LabourList, Conservative Home and Left Foot Forward.

The Leveson inquiry was set up to address “the culture, practices and ethics of the press, including contacts between the press and politicians and the press and the police” (Comment, 19 March). Our views diverge on whether the outcome of the Leveson process – and the plans for a new regulator – are the best way forward. But where we all agree is that current attempts at regulating blogs and other small independent news websites are critically flawed.

The government has defined a “relevant publisher” for the purposes of press regulation in a way that seeks to draft campaign groups and community-run websites covering neighbourhood planning applications and local council affairs into a regulator designed for the Guardian, Sun and Daily Mail. Even the smallest of websites will be threatened with the stick of punitive “exemplary damages” if they fall foul of a broad range of torts, encompassing everything from libel to “breach of confidence”. The authors of these proposals should reflect on their remarkable achievement of uniting both Tom Watson and Rupert Murdoch in opposition.

This appears to be the outcome of a botched late-night drafting process and complete lack of consultation with bloggers, online journalists and social media users, who may now be caught in regulations which trample on grassroots democratic activity and Britain’s emerging digital economy. Leveson was meant to be focused on the impact of “big media”. In the end it may come to be seen as a damaging attack on Britain’s blogosphere, which rather than being a weakness in British politics, has proved time and time again that it is a real strength.

We will all continue to write, campaign, cajole, amuse and irritate online. But we consider the current proposals a fundamental threat to doing just that.

Mark Ferguson LabourList; Tim Montgomerie ConservativeHome; Stephen Tall LibDemVoice; Laurence Durnan Political Scrapbook; Paul Staines Editor, Guido Fawkes’ Blog; Harry Cole News Editor, Guido Fawkes’ Blog; Alex Wickham Reporter, Guido Fawkes’ Blog; Sunny Hundal Liberal Conspiracy; Jag Singh Messagespace; Neal Lawson Compass; Nick Pickles Director, Big Brother Watch; Jim Killock Executive director, Open Rights Group; Emma Burnell Scarlet Standard; Adam BienkovLuke AkehurstJames Bloodworth Left Foot Forward; Jon Lansman Leftfutures

You can also read Jon’s article on the subject from earlier in the week – and LabourList have news of a Lords amendment on the subject from a Labour peer.

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