Monday, March 15, 2004

A media dilemma rather than a payment crisis...

The last couple of days, a lot of people end up on my web site as they are looking for information on Fons Schirris and more background information on possible bank fraud with direct debits. For those non-Dutch readers not into this story: Fons Schirris sees himself as todays Robin Hood revealing all the 'flaws' in Dutch banking systems. Readers of his 'book' may gain more insight into the ramblings of his mind.

Having read the book and all the technical errors it contained, I decided not to spend a lot of time in this blog on his whereabouts (see this serie of blog-entries and this last conclusion). But I discovered that in general the Dutch media are so keen on getting more readers/viewers and audience, that they do not check their sources properly and that they are unable to view the ethical dillema they face.

Let us have a look at the real dillema. The main objection of Schirris to the Dutch direct debit and acceptgiro system is that is built on trust. It is because of that trust that we are able to process about 1 million direct debits and 250 million inpayments quite efficiently. And only some criminals and fraudsters (such as Fons S) deliberately seek to take advantage of consumers, banks and enterprises collectively. So they (try to) insert false payments into the payment system. And although this does economical damage to all players concerned and can be considered an act of violence, the media are happy to jump into the story and give such fraudsters quite some attention.

Now what is the media dilemma? The dillemma is that, due to the publications in other media, I am obliged to spend some time on this weblog on this theme, as it is my goal to report about all stuff that happens in the Dutch payment industry. Similarly other reporters and news shows may face a 'need' to report on this issue. But I would personally rather not spend any time/space on this issue at all. Research of the central bank (download here) has already shown that there are no serious security issues. So we need not be concerned.

The real thing happening here is that Schirris, as an (alleged) fraudster, is involved in legal proceedings and has apparently decided to fight back with all (publicity) means possible. So reporters may want to steer clear from this man and his musings and realize the ethical component of their role.

If anyone would come up to newspapers with a story that he can disrupt traffic in society completely by throwing stones from a number of viaducts above important highways onto all the cars in traffic, such a person would be:

1-completely right,

2-quite deranged.

Now, if the media would not take such a person seriously (nor provide him a voice that would increase his possibility to find supporters for his plan), why should they spend any time on the digital equivalent presented by Schirris?