Wednesday, April 9, 2008

'Codes of [Blogging] Conduct'- Reflections on Cyberethics Panel

'Code.' Four letters. Two vowels. Two consonants. One syllable. Over 1.6 billion Google search results.

In the blogsphere, the first reaction to the word 'code' is computer programming. Whether the initial thought is equal sign, quotation mark, or < and >, code holds specific connotations for the blogger who seeks to embed a video or create a hyperlink.

The word 'code' takes an entirely different meaning when paired with the word 'conduct.' 'Code of conduct' is defined as a group of expectations outlining the proper practices for an individual or organization. When this 'code of conduct' is moved from the gala circuit to the Internet, specifically to the blogsphere, a door to an ethical debate about duty and expression is thrust open.

So what, if any, 'code of conduct' should the blogging community uphold?

Many companies that host blogs set out basic rules of engagement. For, the host of this blog, its 'code of conduct' is as follows:

We respect our users' ownership of and responsibility for the content they choose to share. It is our belief that censoring this content is contrary to a service that bases itself on freedom of expression.

In order to uphold these values, we need to curb abuses that threaten our ability to provide this service and the freedom of expression it encourages. As a result, there are some boundaries on the type of content [including pedophilia, incest, bestiality, commercial or child pornography, hateful or violent content, or material that violates copyright infringement] that can be hosted with Blogger. The boundaries we've defined are those that both comply with legal requirements and that serve to enhance the service as a whole.
Some groups have adapted preexisting 'codes of conduct' for the blogsphere. has created A Bloggers' Code of Ethics, adapted from the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics:
Be Honest and Fair.
Minimize Harm.
Be Accountable.
Others have approached it at a more individual level- creating 'codes of conduct' for themselves, that they then recommend to others. Tim O'Reilly writer of O'Reilly Radar sees a 'code of conduct,' and more importantly a discussion, stemming from the statements below:
Take responsibility not just for your own words, but for the comments you allow on your blog.
Label your tolerance level for abusive comments.
Consider eliminating anonymous comments.
Ignore the trolls.
Take the conversation offline, and talk directly, or find an intermediary who can do so.
If you know someone who is behaving badly, tell them so.
Don't say anything online that you wouldn't say in person.
Author of Rebecca's Pocket, Rebecca Blood, argues that the six rules below form a basis of ethical behavior for online publishers of all kinds:
Publish as fact only that which you believe to be true.
If material exists online, link to it when you reference it.
Publicly correct any misinformation.
Write each entry as if it could not be changed; add to, but do not rewrite or delete, any entry.
Disclose any conflict of interest.
Note questionable and biased sources.
All of these 'codes of conduct' share one common ideal and that is to be open and honest as a writer, and active and engaged as a reader. So should the 'code of conduct' for the blogsphere be as simple as that? For now it's up to each blogger and reader to decide.

1 comment:

mike's spot said...

I think, in contrast to the O'Reilly blog, that Anonymous comments should not be censored by bloggers if they can help it. Comments should always be addressed by the blogger to which they are addressed- and that blogger should be as respectful as possible while reason is still in play. once the attacking commenter makes it clear that reason is out the window, then all bets are off.

We as bloggers have an obligation only to ourselves- To express the information we have in whatever way we feel best to others regarding issues that concern us.

Bloggers fill a void. We give information and commentary at a personal level.