The EFF’s recent release of a legal guide for bloggers gives bloggers in the US a great tool for assessing and managing the legal risks of blogging. But as the EFF itself acknowledges, its guide only speaks to the US context:
This legal guide is based on the laws in the United States, where there is a strong constitutional protection for speech. Many other countries do not have strong protections, making it easier to sue for speech.
The possibility of getting sued for libel in the UK (the foreign example given by the EFF) is a minor headache compared to the kinds of penalties faced by bloggers in non-democratic countries. To get a picture of the legal risks that bloggers take on every day, check out the Committee to Protect Bloggers, a blog that spotlights persecuted bloggers around the world. The Committee’s advisory board includes Rebecca MacKinnon of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, as well as Syrian author Ammar Abdulhamid and Hossein Derakhshan, a Toronto-based Persian blogger.
The cases profiled on the CPB site are a reminder of why blogger rights matter. Visit the site now to sign a petition for the protection of Omid Sheikhan, an Iranian student who was jailed and tortured in response to his blog posts. Or join the list of signatories on a petition to Motjaba Saminejad, an Iranian blogger who was jailed for blogging about the arrest of fellow Persian bloggers.
The site is also a great reminder of why blogs themselves matter: because they really do constitute a challenge to existing power structures and information control. Governments don’t throw bloggers in jail so that they’ll have someone to keep notes on their correctional facilities; they throw bloggers in jail because the content and reach of blogs poses a profound threat to centralized authority.
So the next time you hear someone dismiss blogging as a waste of time, remind them that governments rarely crack down on time wasting — and that the real waste is that bloggers are doing time when they should be spending time writing.