21 September 2007

Swearing is not the biggest threat to bloggery

All the way back in November, I said this:

We shouldn't fear blogs, we should be excited by them. For the first time outside the newspaper letters page (and even that is subject to editorial control), the people have a medium to present their opinions to a wide audience, and to discuss ideas with people from across (and outside) the country. Now we are all journalists. We are all commentators. We all have access.

It would appear that Alisher Usmanov disagrees with me. Usmanov is a billionaire from Uzbekistan, who is clearly unaccustomed to, and uncomfortable with, criticism. Therefore, he is able, and willing, to turn that disagreement into action. He is also buying a stake in Arsenal FC.

Following criticism from Tim Ireland and Craig Murray's blogs - I would link to them but there's no point right now - Usmanov's lawyers, Schillings, have managed to get their host shut off, taking out not only their efforts, but also those of many others.

I am spitting mad. I would say exactly how mad, but I might provoke another wave of letters from Schillings - such an appropriate name. Suffice it to say, I am livid that the whole concept of the internet, and Web 2.0, has been hit badly - yesterday we could post our opinions freely, and dare to publish information that otherwise wouldn't see the light of day. Now, a madman with money has put a stop to that. He claims that he has been libelled, but has not made a formal complaint, simply got his lawyers to throw their weight around. They have done so successfully, which should remind us all that regardless of whether or not we're in the wrong, if someone powerful says we are, that's it, the blog goes down. So much for free speech. So much for access. Web 2.0 has gone down the toilet, and I can only hope that Tim O'Reilly, who a while ago was worried that we might be getting too sweary, might now understand that a couple of bloggers (or commenters) saying "Fuck Alisher Usmanov, the power-crazy cunt," might not be problematic because of the two swearwords, but that Usmanov might threaten to sue off the arses of the people who provided those bloggers with the means to put that phrase online. Not actually sue them, mind, just threaten to. I hope that he realises that the threat comes from Usmanov for forcing the plug to be pulled, not from me (or anyone else) for using naughty words.

Many others have written - you'll find a good number of blogs that I link to (if I went through them all I'd be here all night) have a post on this, and they'll have links to others besides. Take a look: most of them will have put it better than I have, but if I had to choose one for you to look at, I'd say it was Mr. Eugenides.

PS A welcome back to Mountjoy, who after choosing to shut things down himself, responded to the public pleas for a change of heart and picked things back up again. A shame that he has to come back to a blogosphere that has been neutered by cold, hard cash and an army of lawyers.

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