18-06-06

belgian newsweekly caught in bloggers storm and scandal (freya)

Knack, the belgian 'newsweek' (they claim or think to be) wanted to be very modern and wise by publishing blogs. Contrary to their forums where you have to register to be able to publish comments, you could add comments to their blogs without any filtering, even not on certain words or on IP address (to stop campaigns) so this was only an accident waiting to happen. So it did happen - as any professional blogger could foresee - last week and the fallout will continue for some weeks to come.

 

They published a comment by a socalled satiristical writer (in which fiction and truth and gossip are mixed) but in the context of their serious political blog which changed the context of the accusations. These were that our vice prime minister (the second in rang) which is a 30 something single mother (and also minister of the budget) didn't write herself her endwork at the university (about the role of journalists in the post-dutroux scandals and accusations of high-ranking pedophile networks). She would have been helped by others or it would even be written by others. So her grade would be invalid and she wouldn't be able to keep on functioning as a vice prime-minister (for the record :  the first woman (also single and socialist) from immigrant origin was also blasted from office by such accusations and her incapacity to respond to it and stand the heat).

 

So the foreseeable thing happened (foreseeable because during other pre-electoral periods online discussions also ended in court). The comments on this article on the blog became part of a campaign for and against the vice prime minister and hundreds of comments were getting posted.

 

Saturday after a judicial complaint and some internal editorial discussions the publishing group Roularta decided to retire the publication and all the comments from the blog '" to better defend themselves".

 

They have made some strategic mistakes that may haunt them in the courtcase and that makes them vulnerable to future blogstorms

 

1. You cannot publish personal publications (like an endwork) without the explicit approval of the author (even if there were ghostwriters - a role which many Knack journalist or editorialist played and plays ?)

 

2. If you have a forum on which you have to identify yourself to be able to publish comments, there is no reason to let comments be published without any controls and filters on a blog.

 

3. There is no way they can prove they weren't aware about the scandalous nature of these comments from the beginning of their posting - and there is no objective reason they can give to explain why they didn't intervene from the beginning - as they should if they didn't want to become part of a scandalous (extreme rightwing ?) campaign to descredit the vice prime minister with gossip and trash comments. Technically they had all the possibilities.

 

This is the saddiest of the whole story. A respectable 'neutral' political weekly became during several days a tool in the hands of (rightwing) anonymous commenters and loses a lot of their respectability.

As this will proof (212 pages of comments) http://www.upload2.net/page/download/PXkzvJr526u1vEP/C%3A...

 

They proofed again to be amateurs by not cleaning their google cach and so in fact they changed nothing by retiring the article and the comments from their blog.

 

The thesis itself I will not publish, because for this, you need the rights of the authors. They did, and this is another legal mistake. How would they feel if we would publish their articles for free ?

 

The lesson of all this, surely in these pre-electoral period - is to disable comments if you really do not need it and if you really really need it - limit it and control it. This costs money (in supervisors) but your image will cost you more.

 

The next target in this campaign is the page about Frey at Wikipedia, which can be changed as you which although not anomously. http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freya_Van_den_Bossche (which shows again the dangers of this so-called online encyclopedia)

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