Two significant developments this month underscore the question of accountability on the part of publishers, large & small:
(1) sloppy journalism causes markets to move in Hong Kong, and
(2) deadly riots are spurred in Afghanistan by a Newsweek story that was later retracted.
The two cases above illuminate the power of the media to influence world markets and even politics. But in both cases, accountability can be traced to established media organizations. While we have yet to sort out how these organizations can be made to account for the impact of their reporting, a new issue looms: if we have a hard time keeping large media outfits accountable, how can we go on to ensure accountability in a world where information and media is diffusing?
For example, what is to be done when a posting of questionable merit by an individual blogger has the same type of impact? BusinessWeek recently did a very interesting analysis of how the dynamics of information distribution and the media are radically changing.
So, the question(s): in an age where information can be broadly distributed within seconds, how can publishers - be they large or small - be held accountable for mistakes? And at the same time, how can we ensure accountability without making consequences so extreme that it quashes the dissemination of information that is so needed for civil liberties to flourish?