The Parliament has launched its new web portal with a series of round table talks on the information society, the first of which was about ethical questions arising from the emergence of millions of weblogs.
The discussion, entitled “Weblogs – competition, challenge or chance? Who’s afraid to open Pandora’s blogs?” took place on 12 September 2005 and was chaired by Guido Baumhauer, the editor-in-chief of Deutsche Welle‘s online service.
Blogging has become of interest to EU institutions because some of its more formal features are increasingly being adopted by the institutions themselves. The Parliament’s new start page looks like a blog, and Commissioner Margot Wallström runs a a blog on the Commission server.
All four panelists run blogs of their own; however, as the discussion showed, their backgrounds were quite different.
Karlin Lillington is a technology journalist with the Irish Times, who said that for her the main difference between blogging and traditional journalism was that bloggers need not care about presuming to be neutral. However bloggers should not think that they are exempt from libel laws: “These court cases are waiting out there.”
Aidan White is a journalist also, and the Secretary General of the International Federation of Journalists. He runs a blog on the IFJ’s web site which features mainly issues on which an IFJ official position would be difficult to reach. For him, blogging is a positive development, because it has raised for the first time a widespread public discussion on questions of quality in journalism. There is no contradiction, Mr. White said, between blogging and journalistic standards. But bloggers should learn to adhere to the principles of quality – most importantly to state their sources.
Thomas Burg is an academic at the University of Krems in Austria and the initiator of the BlogTalk conference. He stressed that blogging is not so much about content but more about building networks and forming groups. Blogs, he said, are a tool which in itself is neither positive nor negative, but some basic principles would be needed.
Richard Corbett is a British Labour MEP, who was also the first Member of the Parliament to launch a blog. He used the blog first as an online dairy, illustrating what an MEP’s life was like, but has now switched to a more topical approach, reaching out to voters and rebutting eurosceptics. Mr. Corbett thinks that there is indeed a lack of control for quality in the blogosphere, but that there was not much that could be done about it: “I am not optimistic there.”
At the launch of the Parliament’s web page, President Josep Borrell said: “We are all aware that the improvement of the EU institution’s communication cannot be achieved by waving a magic wand. We have to take a step-by-step approach. Today, we are taking one important step forward. Our institution replaces its old web pages with a new website. And we want it to be ambitious. In 20 languages, this new dynamic site has the ambition of making the Parliament’s activities more accessible in both senses of the word: easier to reach, and more understandable.”
Latest & Next steps
On 13 September 2005, the Parliament hosts two more round-table debates on “the internet and political communities” and on e-government.