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I've been online since 1971 and I like to smoothe the way for everyone else. Among other things I co-founded Sympatico, the world's first easy-to-use Internet service (and Canada's largest).

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

One risk of participating in Web 2.0

Jon Newton (at right) performing at his fundraiser on August 5, 2006, at The Rivoli in Toronto
Tonight I went to a fundraiser for Jon Newton who’s being sued for libel because of a blog post on his site p2pnet.net. Despite his taking down the post, and offering to let the aggrieved party post a response without any editing, the lawsuit continues.

He performed a song he’d composed for the occasion, possibly entitled Freedom of Speech and containing the great line “you might as well not think”.

In a short speech about what the event was all about, Newton made the point that “it could happen to you”. Anyone who has a blog at risk. Even if you’re ultra-careful about what you write, if you allow comments you are open. One of the things the lawsuit demands is the identity of someone who left a comment on Newton’s blog — even though the comment was submitted anonymously and Newton has no idea who it was (not that he’d reveal the identity if he did).

There was a petition to the Canadian government, but I didn’t sign it because I wasn’t sure about everything it said, especially the request that “defamatory libel” be removed as an offence from Canadian law. How should I know? I’m just a blogger. But that’s Newton’s point: we, the members of the participatory Web, Web 2.0, run risks we don’t even understand.

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