There is no doubt the Lebanese blogosphere is united against the law-proposal of the Minister of Information Walid Daouk to regulate online websites in what has became known as LIRA (the Lebanese Internet Regulation Act).
I already gave my opinion about the very initial idea of this proposed law here (in a post featured in the Communicate Levant magazine). The draft law, which doesn’t differentiate between news websites and blogs requesting all websites to register with the ministry to gain ‘protection’ (yeah, sure!) is outdated, non-applicable, full of gaps, liable for abuse and a threat to freedom of expression.
Many Lebanese bloggers well covered the subject and wrote why they are against it (here, here, here and here in Arabic – among others), and I stand by their stances without going into repetition here. Ontornet published an update for their visit to the minister which gave the impression that the law-proposal will go ahead despite the outcry of the online community.
And by the way, it showed the minister had no idea – yet – why there is even an outrage against LIRA! Moreover, he kept talking about the protection of my copyrights if I register, but he didn’t say how he will protect my rights when it is stolen by an unregistered website, or how the private information won’t be abused by our great government.
But in addition to the ongoing campaign/efforts, I want to suggest something the Lebanese bloggers can collectively do. Something like a voluntary Lebanese Bloggers Code Of Conduct (LBCOC) – yes, already another acronym!
The point of this Code of Conduct is to self-regulate the Lebanese blogosphere rather than wait for the government to do it. Ideally, it could replace the government regulation if the lobbying efforts were successful, but if not, this code can run concurrent with the new laws .
I picture this LBCOC to contain some basic common-sense provisions. It could show the commitment and the credibility of the blogs signing up to it as well; these blogs would show the LBCOC badge on their home pages to convey to the reader they are part of a community which cares for its standards.
I would nominate few bloggers to take on the role of community manager(s). They can be a panel of bloggers who had the oldest online presence or higher traffic stats, or who are already taking certain coordinating role. They can represent the community, maintain the code and discreetly ‘police’ the code in case of any complaint/breach.
The Code of Conduct could include good practices that deal with sectarianism or other types racism, spreading false information, plagiarism, reproducing news stories, ‘ambush marketing’ and other non-commercial conflict of interests.
I urge fellow bloggers to debate this idea loudly. We might end up with something totally different, but at least this is a starting point. We shouldn’t just wait to see what the government would do on its front. I think it is a good time to formalise the organisation of this growing and rich community, and raise its standards, and we would better do it for ourselves.
Photo credit: trella.org