Blogging Ethics: Is there such a thing? A discussion byProf. Rachel E. Khan, Deputy DirectorCenter for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Can bloggers and journalists play by the same rule book? • Some considerations: • Bloggers are their own publishers and editors • Their public expects them to be biased • The blogger’s reputation
Freedom on the Net At the same time that the Internet serves as a vehicle to further enhance the right of freedom of speech, many real world abusers have now taken their business to cyberspace. Thus, media ethicists believe that like other rights, it has its limits. For them, this right should be exercised within the ethical boundaries that promote social interests. Certain types of expression are penalized because they injure social interests or individual persons. As the adage attributed to Voltaire goes, “the right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins.”
A recent survey of 10,000 blog readers by the Online Journalism Review of the Annenburg School of Communication, showed: • Four basic reasons are given for trusting blogs: • Niche expertise. Newspapers try to cover the whole world, while bloggers are usually experts in a specific field, from law to architecture to micro-biology; • Transparency in motives. Since bloggers usually use first person in their writing, they are upfront about their biases and subjective approach. On the other hand, the news media often hide their biases behind an appearance of objectivity;
3. Transparency in process. Bloggers are open-source journalists, they liberally link to documents, sources and supporting evidence to buttress their own authority; and, • 4. Forthrightness about mistakes. When bloggers err, they are quick to publish their corrections and their notes of apology alongside the original posting. They are also quick to respond to corrections and inputs of readers. Not so with newspapers, whose front-page mistakes are corrected in an inside page, or broadcast news, where mistakes are almost never acknowledged.
Code of Ethics for Bloggers based on the Code of the Society of Professional Journalists Be Honest and FairBloggers should be honest and fair in gathering, reporting and interpreting information. Bloggers should: • Never plagiarize. • Identify and link to sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources' reliability.
• Make certain that Weblog entries, quotations, headlines, photos and all other content do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.• Never distort the content of photos without disclosing what has been changed. Image enhancement is only acceptable for for technical clarity. Label montages and photo illustrations. • Never publish information they know is inaccurate -- and if publishing questionable information, make it clear it's in doubt. • Distinguish between advocacy, commentary and factual information. Even advocacy writing and commentary should not misrepresent fact or context.
• Distinguish factual information and commentary from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two. Minimize Harm Ethical bloggers treat sources and subjects as human beings deserving of respect. Bloggers should: • Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by Weblog content. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects. • Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
• Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of information is not a license for arrogance. • Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone's privacy. • • Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity. Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects, victims of sex crimes and criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.
Be AccountableBloggers should: • Admit mistakes and correct them promptly. • Explain each Weblog's mission and invite dialogue with the public over its content and the bloggers' conduct. • Disclose conflicts of interest, affiliations, activities and personal agendas. • Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence content. When exceptions are made, disclose them fully to readers. • Be wary of sources offering information for favors. When accepting such information, disclose the favors.
• Expose unethical practices of other bloggers. • Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others. Source: CyberJournalist.net--edited and published by Jonathan Dube http://www.cyberjournalist.net/news/000215.php
Some abuses: • Plagiarism • √ Hotlinks, Crediting Source • X Lifting verbatim from other online or non-online material e.g. Sean-Paul Kelley of The Agonist admits to copying from Strafor, a Texas-based research firm
2. Spam blogs-fake blogs that use RSS feeds to create content. -splogs, as they're sometimes called, insert links to their Web site into that content, in an attempt to trick search engines into boosting results for the spammer's sites. e.g. Royalty Free Pictures
3. Fictitious blogs-weblogs that portray a made-up character's view of the "real world." These are often used as a marketing ploy or as a way to come up with an alter ego. They are often meant to entertain and/or to create a buzz about a product, business or individual.
3. Felony blogs-weblogs that are of criminal in nature. -They are often used to do criminal activities like phishing. -Other types of activities that felony bloggers do include: spreading computer virus and hosting keylogging software (spyware/adware).