Leveson calls internet an "ethical vacuum"

In the war between traditional print media and the internet, there is only going to be one winner. Print is now in the position of making a few futile last-ditch stands while online rivals mass their armies for the coup de grace.

Perhaps it isn’t entirely surprising that print, out of sheer desperation, has attempted to imitate the cavalier attitudes of the internet in recent years. The Sun’s choice to publish naked pictures of Prince Harry was a case in point, the paper arguing that: "It is absurd in the internet age newspapers like The Sun could be stopped from publishing stories and pictures already seen by millions on the free-for-all that is the web."

Lord Leveson, in his report on press standards, does not accept that the press should be compared to online material, and instead demands that it maintains a degree of self-regulation that has never been the case with the internet.

“Some have called it a 'wild west'," Leveson said of the internet, "but I would prefer to use the term 'ethical vacuum'. The internet does not claim to operate by express ethical standards, so that bloggers and others may, if they choose, act with impunity."

Given the recent clampdown on offensive or defamatory Twitter content, perhaps 'impunity' is not quite accurate, but Leveson adopts the old-school attitude that everything on the internet is suspect, while print media should have some degree of trustworthiness (he’s probably not a regular tabloid subscriber). "Newspapers, through whichever medium they are delivered, purport to offer a quality product in all senses of the term," he claimed.

You would be looking at the Star, Sun or Mirror for a long time before you came up with the description "quality product", but Leveson is effectively acknowledging that there is one law for online content, another for the print media. It’s an attitude that can only hasten the death of the traditional newspaper and the victory of his "ethical vacuum".

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