Monday, November 19, 2007

Blog Ethics du Jour

In their article Searching for the Ethical Blogger, Devin Stewart and Matthew Hennessey ask a key question that this blog and its related project hope to explore: "Which ethical standard should govern the blogosphere? Is it necessary to choose, or can multiple codes coexist?"

Perhaps a boiled down code of basic principles is possible, but would it cover the spiciness of the blogosphere or just reheat the well-worn sole of free speech? Personally I'm pitching my hat with multiple codes. I think it's the practical and democratic option, more in step with Internet culture, and more ethical. At the Carnegie Council we sometimes look at ethics as the expansion of choice, and I think that's a solid footing from which to evaluate blog behavior and collect resources and thinking on the topic.

Multiple codes is practical first of all because of diversity. Blogs are owned and authored by too many people from too many different countries for too many different purposes to make applicability or enforcement of a single code possible or desirable. It's ethical because it's something people opt for, not something imposed upon them.

From that starting point we can start to piece together some of the structure of what an á la carte code of blog ethics might entail.

APPETIZERS (Your opening choices)
Anonymous and Pseudonymous Blogging: Very tasty option under repressive regimes.
Transparency: This clear soup lets everyone know who you are, what you're an expert on, why they should care, and how they can contact you in case something unpalatable happens.

MAIN DISHES (You could skip this course, but it's best not to.)
No illegal content or activity: libel, child pornography, trafficking delicious endangered species, etc.
Disclosure: If you're blogging about sensitive information, do you have a conflict of interest?

DESSERTS (Tasty but not necessary)
Comments Policy: Moderated or unmoderated? What is allowed, what is deleted?
Copyright Policy: Are you using traditional copyright or sharing your work with the Creative Commons?
Your Blog's Ethics: Share the recipe! If you've chosen certain principles, post them prominently.


Anonymous said...

Now there is something to consider- in legal ethics, a lawyer has a duty to be an "Amoral practioner" who whose primary duty is to protecing the legal concerns of her client(s) - does the analogy make sense to the blogs?

Of is the converse principle to be regard as the epitome of virtue?

Artistotle, Kant, Hegel, Schoepenhauer would approach the issue differently so how about you?

Anonymous said...

Since Physicians have "First to do no Harm" I enter into evidence a proposal for a new peramble:


If bloogers don't do that, what good are we at all?

Back in 1982 I was involved in a heated serious of debates with a few "Hackers" about the "Ethics" of breaking into systems - most discussiond took place at a BBS called THINK (Sysop: Pat Townson) and the old North Pulaski Liberay BBS (PMS System - SYSOP(The late) Pat Dewey) - I was just starting Publisher Information Services (PC Board - DTP Software etc) and we were wll converned with the destruction that was going on.

No one in the on line community (which though tiny at the time was there) seemed too concerned but there were a few of us who raised hell about it - in late 1982 the FBI and Congress held hearings, and a lot of it was as a result of those discussions since they were also going on at the old USENET boards - the granddaddy of the Internet.


Remember this:

He who has a thing to sell,
Does not go whisper in a well.
But the one who gets the dollars,

God Bless America

Troy said...

Are we talking about self-imposed rules? Or rules imposed from without? It does make a difference. Or is this a search for ways to discuss subjects about which we have strong feelings without allowing feelings to obscure the arguments we wish to make? We can only hear each other if we treat each other with respect. Otherwise, the noise drowns out the reason, and the venom increases misunderstanding.