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Press Complaints Commission director Tim Toumlin has called for a voluntary code of practice to be introduced for bloggers, according to a report on the BBC website . 

Speaking at a race conference in London yesterday, Toumlin said the lack of a code of practice for blogs means there is no means of redress if people are upset by their content.

He added: "If you want to see how the newspaper industry would look like if it was unchecked, then look at the internet."

The PCC currently oversees a code of practice for UK newspaper and magazine publishers, covering issues such as accuracy, discrimination and intrusion.

But extending a similar scheme to the blogosphere seems pretty ambitious at best.

As Ian Delaney at twopointouch says: “I really don’t understand the point of a voluntary code of practice in this environment.

“Only people who think carefully about the ethics of what they’re doing are going to bother signing up.”

“When you’re dealing with a dozen or so large institutions, like UK newspapers, then it’s reasonably likely to [work].

“When you’re dealing with 57m bloggers, many of whom are barking mad, then I’m not so sanguine, to say the least.”

Bloggers are essentially people, unshackled by editorial constraints and unburdened by big-budget advertisers. So they tend to say what they want, for good or ill. When you talk about changing bloggers, you're trying to change people. And that's a much bigger - and equally unworkable - task. If some idiot expresses racist views on a blog then it is because he or she is a racist in the real world. And politicians have been trying to tackle that for many years.

We're not sure if Mr T is being ironic when he holds up the newspaper industry as a shimmering example of best practice and ethical behaviour. Just look at some of the tabloid headlines during the World Cup for examples of borderline racism.

And are we to believe that all newspaper articles or columnists are editorially sound? Disclosure and transparency is the norm on many top blogs, yet anybody who has read Andrew Marr's 'My Trade' or indeed Private Eye will know that advertisers influence editorial on newspapers, not to mention the publishers, the editors, or the views of any given journalist / columnist. There is no such thing as truly objective journalism. 

There have already been futile attempts to regulate blogs. This is another one. How about we better regulate other forms of media with far greater reach, before we start picking fights with bloggers?

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Published 29 November, 2006 by Richard Maven

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