Thursday, September 06, 2007

Shameless Self Promotion

I have enjoyed the ongoing debate regarding blog ethics and remain marginally involved in the ongoing discourse. Thanks for the emails and posts. Part on the reason I have been unable to participate as an active blogger is that I would violate my own proposed code for failing to do so consistantly. Ironic, huh?

Part of the reason I have been scarce is that I have recently finished my first book, Federal Dataveillance: Implications for Constitutional Privacy Protections. The book looks at how constitutional privacy protections, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, will need to be reconceptualized in order to provide protection against government counterterrorism programs that rely on Dataveillance, surveillance of individuals by searching personal data residing in private and public databases.

Check it out at:

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Code of Blogging Ethics Debated at AEJMC Convention

In August I had the good fortune to attend the 2005 Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication convention in San Antonio, Texas. I delivered a paper proposing the code of blogging ethics to the Media Ethics Division. As expected, many in the room questioned how any such code could be enforced or could apply to such a diverse blogosphere. I had to admit that both issues are complex and that I could offer no definitive response. The discussion was lively and I was honored when the division awarded my paper their 2005 Professional Relevance Award.

I would now like to invite comments beyond simple acceptance or rejection of specific provisions of the code. I hope the code will continue to develop as it is discussed and debated. Let's kick around some of the topics brought up in San Antonio. Is it possible for a code of blogging ethics, based on form rather than function, to be adopted by a significant number of bloggers? Should "enforcement" even be part of the discussion? I think of an ethical code as not only a philosophically-based, moral code but also as an ideal mode of behavior that we must strive to achieve. For me, the notion of compelled ethics, even if compelled by only the threat of social stigma, doesn't work.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

C.O.B.E. Revised: Form-Based Duties in Blog Ethics

Well, I have revised COBE. While reviewing a number of the comments posted both here and on the Harvard conference site, I discovered a number of bloggers who advocated each blogger posting their own code of ethics and believed that no one code should be adopted by bloggers in general. I get stuck on the fact that this model would be pure relativism.

Pondering why codes proposed in the past really haven’t taken hold, I spent some time reevaluating Jonathan Dube’s Code of Bloggers’ Ethics and the six standards proposed by Rebecca Blood. What I discovered was that these codes were grounded in the function of blogs rather than in their form.

The Blogosphere has a nearly endless variety of bloggers with an endless variety of purposes for blogging or functions for blogs. Dube and Blood base their codes largely on values associated with the journalistic function of blogs. If their codes are used, then bloggers will have more credibility and be trusted to a higher degree by the public, but this view may be too limited.

One thing bloggers have in common is the form of the blog (time-stamped posts, comments, blogrolls, links, etc.). This is the blogosphere’s common denominator and thus any proposed code of ethics should prioritize the values and duties associated with the rhetorical form of blogging. After reviewing the new communication technology ethics scholarship and the comments posted on this study from this perspective, I have come to consider interactivity and the struggle to build human relationships and communities in blogging environments to be core, form-related duties in blogging.

This revised version of COBE reflects this shift of emphasis.


Promote Interactivity
● Post to your blog on a regular basis
● Visit and post on other blogs
● Respect blog etiquette
● Attempt to be entertaining, interesting, and/or relevant
Promote Free Expression
● Do not restrict access to your blog by specific individuals or groups
● Do not self censor by removing posts or comments once they are published
● Allow and encourage comments on your blog
Strive for Factual Truth
● Never intentionally deceive others
● Be accountable for what you post
Be as Transparent as Possible
● Reveal you identity as much as possible (name, photo, background info, etc.)
● Reveal your personal affiliations and conflicts on interest
● Cite and link to all sources referenced in each post
Promote the Human Element in Blogging
● Minimize harm to others when posting information
● Promote community by linking to other blogs and keeping a blogroll
● Build relationships by responding to e-mails and comments regularly

NOTE: A PDF of a revised version of the paper that resulted from this study will be posted here as soon as possible.

Jessamyn West on Revised Code of Blogging Ethics

Jessamyn West from offered the following observations regarding the revised version of the code:

I think the idea of blog ethics is sort of odd since blogging is more than anything else, a
MEDIUM not an avocation or even a type of writing. I am not particularly sold on the idea of blog ethics. Some might say it's because I don't have any. I might say it's because bloggers
just use ethics codes to beat people over the head with instead of treating them based on the quality of their writing/arguments. That said, here are my thoughts on what you have written.

Promote Interactivity:

Post to your blog on a regular basis: Seems okay, maybe notify when you won't be posting. we can't all be regular but we can all be consistent

Visit and post on other blogs: yep

Respect blog etiquette: this is RECURSIVE. how about respecting existing netiquette when interacting with others online. this line is pretty extraneous

Attempt to be entertaining, interesting, and/or relevant: NO. I don't like this. Why? If people aren't any of these things, then people just won't read them. It's not my JOB to be interesting and especially not to be entertaining, as I see it. Relevant, maybe. I think this crosses the
line of etiquette and goes into the "what makes a good blog" discussion which should be someplace else entirely.

Promote Free Expression:

Do not restrict access to your blog by specific individuals or groups: but is not having comments at all okay? what about horrible spammers? can I block spammers? What about hate speech people who make fun of me because of my sexual orientation?

Do not self censor by removing posts or comments once they are published: self censor is loaded language, and again, what about removing comments that are hateful, do not contribute or other good reasons? many many ethical bloggers already do this [with a posted caveat that comments may be deleted if they're not in line with the purpose of the site]. Also I notice you don't mention editing, what about editing posts.

Allow and encourage comments on your blog: Again, this is NOT ETHICS, this is "what makes a good blog" and is different. There is nothing ethical or not ethical about commenting features, it's just a choice people make of how to interact with readers. Unless you're claiming that
it's not ethical to interact with readers any other way than with comments, I'd strike this or like to see you defend it better. Personal note: when I had a blog with comments at the DNC I spent as much time reading and writing responses to comments as I did to maintaining my blog. The CMS that I was using was particularly susceptible to comment spam making this duty ten times as hard. I interact with librarian bloggers other places, but I can't both read and write a popular blog.

Strive for Factual Truth:

Never intentionally deceive others: Fine, but sort of a foregone conclusion, don't you think?

Be accountable for what you post: My favorite so far

Be as Transparent as Possible: Reveal you identity as much as possible (name, photo, background info, etc.): NO. there is no reason anyone should feel ethically obligated to
provide a photo. When I had photos more prominent on my web site, people would send me photos of their genitalia in the mail. For women, this is not necessarily a good idea. Again I think you are equating blogging journalists with bloggers. This is a good idea but I think adding photos is over the top.

Reveal your personal affiliations and conflicts on interest: Yes

Cite and link to all sources referenced in each post: Eh, I don't see this as particularly necessary. giving a "via" link is seen as good etiquette but a lot of times a post I have is made up of a combination of reading many sources and my own analysis. Also, may sources aren't
linkable [i.e. mine are often print] what then? bibliography? this is nice in spirit, I'd like to see it work better in practice.

Promote the Human Element in Blogging:

Minimize harm to others when posting information: This is totally buddhist and yet not always able to happen. in many ways, I minimize harm by NOT blogging about things that are potentially awkward or embarrasing to others, so what do I do then? not blog because that is the minimal harm? A lot of hard-hitting blogger journalist types can't realisticallydo this at all

Promote community by linking to other blogs and keeping a blogroll: Blogroll seems to me to be a bit of a trendy nouveau term, but maybe I'm just old.

Build relationships by responding to e-mails and comments regularly: As i said, on popular sites, often this is just not possible and, honestly, popular journalists don't do this either. It's a good idea to try to be responsive in some way, but answering comments and/or emails may just not be within the time parameters of what someone has to give for their "non day job" blog. I try to reply to email, I don't have comments because I can't reply to them. You may also want to include IM on this because a LOT more people I know use IM or skype for interaction lately.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Share Your Thoughts on C.O.B.E. (a proposed code of blogging ethics)

Thanks again to all of those who took the time to so thoughtfully respond to the questions I posed below via public comment and privately by e-mail. I grouped the sentiments that were shared and used them to propose a Code of Blogging Ethics.

Here is the code that emerged from the blogosphere:


1. Promote Free Expression by posting on your blog on a regular basis as well as visiting and posting on other sites in the blogosphere.

2. Avoid restricting access to your blog by certain individuals and groups and never remove posts or comments once they have been published.

3. Be as transparent as possible by revealing any personal affiliations that might effect the opinions you express on your blog.

4. Emphasize the “human” elements in blogging by revealing and maintaining as much of your identity as is deemed safe; promote equality by not restricting specific users or groups of users form your blog; minimize harm to others by never knowingly hurting or injuring someone with information you make available on your blog; and build community by linking your blog to others, maintaining a blogroll to encourage visitors to your blog to visit others, and by facilitating relationships between you and your readers.

5. Strive for factual truth and never intentionally deceive readers. Make yourself accountable for information you post online. Cite and link to all sources referenced in each blog post, and secure permission before linking to other blogs or web content.

6. Promote interactivity by posting regularly to your blog, honoring such etiquette and protocol policies that are posted on blogs you visit, and make an effort to be entertaining enough to inspire return visits to your site.

Though I welcome any and all commentary on the code, I would like to invite you to read the complete paper. Both the code and a link to a PDF of the paper are currently posted on the conference blog for the Blogging, Journalism, and Credibility conference being hosted by the Berkman Center for the Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, the Shorenstein Center on the Press, politics and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government, and the American Library Association's Office of Information Technology. If you would prefer, you may comment on the code via public posts on that blog.

The blogoshere contains many different types of blogs and is populated by many different types of bloggers. Any code that might serve to guide blogger behavior will necessarily continue to change and evolve. To that end, I consider COBE to be both a beginning and a continuation of an interactive discussion regarding the emerging relationship between freedom and responsibility in this new rhetorical space.

NOTE: Some commentators have noted that this code is very similar to the standards proposed by Rebecca Blood in 2002. It is. My results seem to indicate that Ms. Blood was accurately reading "values" that would be prized in a new medium. Her standards are presented at the end of the paper (with Ms. Blood's permission) as is A Bloggers' Code of Ethics by Jonathan Dube which is an adaptation of the SPJ Code of Ethics for use by journalistic bloggers.

Saturday, December 11, 2004


I want to thank all of you who have been stopping and sharing your thoughts, especially Eric Muller and Thomas Beckett who have posted announcements about this study on their sites: IsThatLegal and Smart Mobs. I would also like to thank Paul Jones, the professor who opened my eyes to the virtual communities. The "contributors" list in the sidebar is comprised of the blogs belonging to those who have shared their beliefs about blog ethics either by publicly commenting on the five questions below or by e-mailing me directly.

As for those visiting for the first time, I hope you will take a few moments and share your thoughts about blogging ethics. Below are five questions. I invite you post your answers as a public comment or to email me at I will be posting my completed paper on this blog in January so you can publicly comment on my findings.

FYI: If you would like to read two codes of Blogging Ethics I would recommend A Bloggers' Code of Ethics proposed by Johnathan Dube at, and the six standards of weblog ethics proposed by Rebecca Blood in her 2002 book, the weblog handbook.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

1. RAWLS and Your Blog

Who are the "stakeholders" with regard to your blog? Who will be affected by what you post?

2. ROSSIAN Blogs

Philosopher W.D Ross discusses prima facie duties, duties that were not absolute but that had to be negotiated with respect to one another. When making decisions about your blog, do any of the following values or duties cross your mind? If so, which? Can you rank them?

Minimizing Harm to Others
Free Expression
Factual Truth

Are there any values/duties you feel should be weighed in a discussion of Blogging?

3. KANT and blogs

Are there certain duties ALL bloggers should fulfill... all the time... in order to be "good" bloggers?

Are there certain things bloggers should NEVER do?

4. The Function of Blogs in Society

On a societal level, what role do blogs play?

5. Your Purpose in Blogging

Why did you decide to start a weblog? What did you want your blog to accomplish? Have you achieved that purpose yet?