The David Nugent – Jason Lowen Controversy: Freedom and Abuse of Speech
The David Nugent – Jason Lowen controversy is a series of events that involved a Jewish-American blogger Jason Lowen who published allegations against his former friend and partner David Nugent as well as the latter’s company affiliations Metro Pacific and Manuel Pangilinan. Lowen’s blog reached headlines in Manila’s high-society circle in 2008 when he began publishing material that accused of faulty business dealings, fraudulent claims, money laundering, and botched corporate governance — among others. The blog became a major gossip topic in Philippines’ capital city of Manila largely among high-society members and eventually raised questions about the extent of freedom of speech in blogging.
The claims made by Jason Lowen through his blog were taken for face-value and immediately consumed in Philippine media, which is notorious for its voracious appetite for gossip, largely without any fact-checking or research for credibility. This resulted in the fiasco that affected business with Metro Pacific — one of the major conglomerates in Southeast Asia — placing pressures on its head executive Manuel ‘Manny’ Pangilinan and Vice President David Nugent. The ‘scandal’ resulted in Nugent’s gracious resignation in 2007, in order to prevent further damage to his company’s reputation.
Soon thereafter, evidence would surface that Jason Lowen’s allegations were entirely baseless. A letter written by Lowen to a magazine (OUT Magazine, published in 2004) revealed his mental and emotional instability, citing disorders (bipolar/manic depressive and general anxiety disorders) as well as an inability to cope and accept the fall-out of his relationship with former lover David Nugent. Regardless of the revelation, the damage had already been committed. Fortunately, Nugent was able to rebound with a new position as Vice President and Director of Ace Saatchi and Saatchi.
Yet, the occurrence remains as an outrageous precedent where blog attacks were taken for face-value without any check for authenticity, allowing the slanderous material to pollute cyber reputations that ultimately leaked into mainstream media. Criticisms have arisen questioning the fine line between freedom and abuse of speech. Anyone is allowed to mass produce defamatory blogs on the internet yet there does not exist a governing body that checks and monitors for unfounded and libelous productions. Monetary damages including deals lost, changes in hierarchy, and possibly legal costs are potentially at stake — not to mention other types of damages not accountable by currency; thus, with these as grounds, are blogging restrictions and legal protection in the cyber realm by a governing body still not warranted?