Blogging Code of Ethics and Personal Responsibility

Heather Green

While I was walking down the hill to the ferry this morning, I was thinking about the blogging code of conduct. It resonates with me and I think the reason why is because each journalism job I have had has had a code of ethics for journalists. Here at BW, we have to sign it each year and we have training with our lawyers about reporting and the responsibilities you have toward sources. And then of course, with our blog, we have had long conversations about how to approach comments, with a good deal of the emphasis being on hate speach and libel.

I understand Deep Jive Interests' point that in a way what Tim O'Reilly is proposing is a comments policy, but underlying it is this notion of a code of agreed upon behavior that the folks going to a blog would uphold. And that's the bigger notion, I think. That's what made me think of Hannah Arendt and the banality of evil and why the notion of collective guilt keeps coming up with the genocide of World War II.

Because what we're talking about is personal responsibility to uphold a collective notion of acceptable conduct. And that seemed to me to be the biggest failure of the group associated with the blog where the death threats and sexual harrassment of Kathy Sierra appeared. Rather than individually condemning the comments posted about her, they were allowed to stand. And that gave them credence.

So the biggest issue doesn't seem to me to be anonymity or deleting hate speech, it seems to be what kind of responsibilty each individual will take for enforcing whatever conduct is accepted by a blog. Otherwise, you just slip back into letting things happen. And then you're responsible for that.

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