Thursday, June 23, 2011

Elaborate Legislation for Blogging Needed: Blogger Jailed for Food Review

Blogging is most definitely not a new thing, but it is hard to keep up with its evolution even as an Internet-savvy college student. Internet as leisure; Internet as communication; Internet as a marketing tool; Internet technology is often defined and redefined to its ever changing nature.

Blogging- Mass Media or Not?

This is an important question to ask. As of February 2011, there are over 156,000,000 public blogs in existence. Bloggers are constantly commenting stories on the news, providing readers with reviews, as well as creating or delivering news themselves.

Traditionally, the mass media is defined as means of communication that reach and influence the mass audience, for example newspapers, radios, magazines or television. Internet is a fairly recent item on the list, but seems to only point to online newspaper outlets.

Social media, since the founding of Facebook, have become a large part of the populations' information distribution and sharing. 1 in every 13 people (about 500,000,000 people) are active users on Facebook, and almost 50% of its users check Facebook the first thing they wake up.

With this level of reach, the line between what's mass media and what's not begins to blur.

If You're Popular, What You Say Matters.

Blogging, as self-explained by its name Web Logging, began as a tool mainly for personal purposes, like a diary. With its rising popularity in the past decade, marketers have taken advantage of this seemingly simple tool as means of advertising, branding, and much more. With its immense use and audience reach,   blogs have a lot more power and influence than people imagined before, and hence what they express is slowly becoming a public matter.

Today, I came upon a blogging news in Taiwan:

Blogger jailed over critical restaurant review

The Taichung branch of Taiwan High Court on Tuesday sentenced a blogger who wrote that a restaurant’s beef noodles were too salty to 30 days in detention and two years of probation and ordered her to pay NT$200,000 in compensation to the restaurant.
The blogger, surnamed Liu (劉), writes about a variety of topics — including food, health, interior design and lifestyle topics — and has received more than 60,000 hits on her Web site.
After visiting a Taichung beef noodle restaurant in July 2008, where she had dried noodles and side dishes, Liu wrote that the restaurant served food that was too salty, the place was unsanitary because there were cockroaches and that the owner was a “bully” because he let customers park their cars haphazardly, leading to traffic jams. 
Let me recap the important parts of this article: 
...sentenced a blogger who wrote that a restaurant’s beef noodles were too salty to 30 days in detention and two years of probation and ordered her to pay NT$200,000 in compensation to the restaurant...


1. Whatever happened to freedom of speech and expression? (Mind you, Taiwan is NOT communist.)

2. I'm very sure it's very common someone walks out of a restaurant complaining about this or that. Too salty? Sounds like something my mom would say at almost any given dinner.

3. Cockroaches = Unhygienic. Sounds pretty fair to me.

It seems that the Taiwan legislation really took this seriously. Of course, the blogger has 60,000 hits on her page, but that's barely the reason to put her in jail for expressing her opinion.

Think about Yelp! Are they going to throw every influential reviewer in jail? How about Rotten Tomatoes? Or College Board?

Surely, this would not have happened a decade ago. Penalizing criticisms from someone's public diary online would have seemed ridiculous!

This example really calls to a few needs:
1. A more recent definition of mass media, what is included and what is not. (And constantly updating it.)

2. An elaborate legislations about Blogging, as well as other types of social media.

But how since social media itself is so vague, complex and volatile, how can anyone go about setting ANY rules to it?

What do you think? I would love to hear your opinion.

From Huffington Post:
It's not rare for restaurants to sue reviewers in America, but they almost never win. A 1985 ruling by the 2nd Circuit Federal Appeals Court in New York, in the case Mr. Chow of New York v. Ste. Jour Azur S.A., gave critics extremely wide berth for their restaurant reviews. The judge in the case explained that American readers understand that reviews represent the opinion of the writer, and so should not be taken factually. Subsequent lawsuits in America have almost never been decided in favor of restaurants—our critics are too influential for punishment!


  1. A blogger being jailed is totally preposterous. What makes this really incredible is how the government took part in all of these. Does this count as defamation? I mean for a food review?

    If I could read Liu’s post in its entirety then I can say something more. Maybe she stirred some high profile politicians in her review.

    If you have the link, please share as this is very intriguing. +1'ed.

  2. It seems as of late that freedom of speech is coming under fire in Taiwan...What was the reason Liu got jailed, anyway? Being a big meanie? Libel? I'd love to know.

  3. I believe it was Defamation.