The problem with these type of bloggers is the same with vigilantes, society in general may not agree with their methods but they agree with the outcome. Some bloggers say they're brave; to hell with lawsuits and the privacy of others... the truth must be exposed! However, there is a problem with that... what if someone innocent got hurt along the way?
What if the snatch thief the mob beat up was the wrong suspect? The mob melts away when the police arrive leaving behind a badly injured innocent victim.
What if the person who was slandered on line by the blogger was really innocent after all? The blogger disappears into anonymity while the reputation of someone has been destroyed. What if the privacy of an innocent bystander was violated in the interest of exposing this so called 'truth'? Too often, editors and bloggers say "we did it without malice, we were just pursuing the truth".
Those who were hurt along the way were just collateral damage in the bigger picture. In university, one of the hardest class I ever took was Mass Media Law. The professor who taught us was an experienced print journalist who had practiced journalism for many years. He was the drill sergeant for all of us aspiring journalists. The passing rate each semester was really low, only less than half the class passed. I was lucky enough to pass the first time with a C.
There was two things that I remember him drilling into us, Shield Laws and Privacy Laws. Shield Laws are basically laws that protect the journalist from legal action such as not having to reveal their source when reporting. The trust between a source and a journalist is one of the most important assets of a journalist, it is the crust of their credibility. With it, journalist can always say "trust me, I'll protect you".
The other laws are privacy laws, some states in the US have privacy laws that protect people from the media. The media cannot reveal the identities of certain type of individuals, for example rape victims, children in criminal cases, etc.
I always saw it as if Lady Justice was balancing privacy on one hand and the sword of truth on the other. The press should be pursuing the truth but must also have rules to obey by. The rules are there to protect the innocent, to prevent 'collateral damage'. In large media organizations, every fact that they print has to be verified by at least one or even two sources. It doesn't matter if the source is anonymous, as long as they are credible. Bloggers on the hand don't live up to that exacting standards. An army of one often cut corners.
Bloggers who don't follow the rules are these new media that the public turns to now. While the traditional print press follows the rules, blogs with sensational claims and 'news' only feeds the public hunger for conspiracy theories.
I blame the government for pushing the public to these bloggers for their news. Their original intention of controlling the press was to prevent public disorder was well intentioned but the implementation was bad. Now the more sensational the unverified claims of the vigilante blogger, the more unrest there is.
There is a famous ethical question I often ask in times like these, "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" which means "who watches the watchers?" or "who guards the guardians?". The answer is this:
The question is put to Socrates, "Who will guard the guardians?" or, "Who will protect us against the protectors?". Plato's answer to this is that they will guard themselves against themselves. We must tell the guardians a "noble lie". The noble lie will inform them that they are better than those they serve and it is therefore their responsibility to guard and protect those lesser than themselves. We will instill in them a distaste for power or privilege, they will rule because they believe it right, not because they desire it.
Yeah, another reason why journalists are poor hacks who love their jobs as gatekeepers of the truth.