Bloggers say 'get lost' to code of conduct

Deborah Hobson - Contributing Editor of The-Latest

Censorship of the unregulated conversation between members of the public on the web is being proposed by some influential internet pioneers including the founder of Wikipedia.

This is a threat to the creative freedom of bloggers and not a much needed set of guidelines to restrict the offensive behaviour of malcontents in the blogospere. That is why the new proposal for a code of conduct for blogs has caused a furore in chat rooms and websites.

The proposal has rocked the fragile relationship between bloggers, keen to maintain the relative laissez-faire environment of the web and the hierarchy of media analysts, who believe it's time that this group of online writers got serious about their responsibilities. This follows the recent case of Kathy Sierra, a prominent Colorado American-based blogger, programming instructor and author, who was forced to shut down her technology blog after receiving an increasing number of sexually violent graphic images and comments.

Tim O'Reilly, founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media and Jimmy Wales, American internet entrepreneur and founder of Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, have collaborated to produce 7 rules or  'standards' with the aim of introducing a greater degree of politeness in blog discourse and comments. O'Reilly says:  "We celebrate the blogosphere because it embraces frank and open conversation. But frankness does not have to mean lack of civility. We present this Blogger Code of Conduct in hopes that it helps create a culture that encourages both personal expression and constructive conversation". O'Reily and Wales have suggested that websites display a badge if they want to link to the Code of Conduct. This has been widely rejected.

Here, The-Latest gives you an uncensored view of the strength of feeling expressed on the web against this plan. We urge you to contribute to this important community debate by commenting on this story and registering your vote on The-Latest poll.

Dave Windass on Killing Time: "The self-appointed 21st Century bastions of morality Jimmy Wales (founder of unreliable font of non-wisdom Wikipedia) and Tim O'Reilly (the inventor of the irksome phrase Web 2.0. I am now coining Web 4.5 before anyone else does. Funny career path that, isn't it?) who have already drawn up a draft document containing 7 points that the brain dead and those lacking in common sense and self-determination will, come Tim and Jimmy's glorious day, be able to sign up to... I've read the seven points and they're not disagreeable - in fact, it's stuff that those of us with one iota of civility have been doing since day one. But rules is rules and I baulk at anyone having to comply with prescribed behaviour and a right way of doing things."  "Most are common-sense items about removing abusive comments, not baiting the trolls, not publishing anything you wouldn't say in person, etc. leaving the level of tolerance to individual bloggers. But one suggestion is disturbing: creating some  "easily deployed badges pointing to a common set of guidelines.This would let people know which sites to avoid, if they aren't willing to put up with foul language and insulting comments," continues O'Reilly …"I'd love to see the major blogging platforms offer comment rating systems that would allow automatic moderating down of nasty comments."

Whoa! Let's slow down here just a minute:

Whose common guidelines would those be?

Who defines  "foul language"?

Who defines  "insulting"?

Who determines what  "nasty" is?

Who in their right mind would let a blog host deploy automatic comment moderating?

When you consider the implications, this is treading precariously close to an affront on the First Amendment.

Lefthanded compliment.blogspot:  "It is nice to see the Times has its eyes firmly on the important issues of our day, rather than unpleasant shit like Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Darfur....Now that I think about it, the NYT (New York Times newspaper) really has an interest in siding with the blog-o-niceness movement. Bloggers are a threat to the Times in part because we can do so many things that a mainstream newspaper can't. So wouldn't it be great if we were stuck with their standards? Stop being vicious and wild! Write like the NYT, and maybe people will just read the NYT".

Jason Kottke: "The missing piece in this discussion so far is: who's going to police all this misconduct? Punishing the offenders and erasing the graffiti is the easy part...fostering "a culture that encourages both personal expression and constructive conversation" is much more difficult. Really fucking hard, in requires near-constant vigilance. If I opened up comments on everything on, I could easily employ someone for 8-10 hours per week to keep things clean, facilitate constructive conversation, coaxing troublemakers into becoming productive members of the community, etc."

Strok McHaggis: "This is quite honestly, the funniest thing I've read in weeks. Bloggers code of conduct?! Give me a fucking break. I've done my ranting today to Mr PiD, so I won't repeat it all here but goddamn. If you have a problem with an instant message or whatever online, CHANGE FUCKING ACCOUNTS. That is all. If anyone needs me, I'll be in the ANGRY DOME!

Phil :  "I think the proposed sanctions on internet 'blogging' is symptomatic of the increasing level of restrictions and regulations imposed on the press in this country, which includes online publications and the Internet. At present English law states that you can be prosecuted for libel on the basis of what you publish on the web, just as you would be if you were to publish an article in a newspaper."

" Therefore, many people, as I would argue, agree that this alone would be enough. However, I do see the point the Government is making in wanting to regulate 'blogging' on the Internet. As we have seen in the past week. YouTube has been in hot water as a result of an online contributor posting a video of a child, whilst going through an ecstasy (drug) trip. This, in addition, to all the other problems and possibilities of terrorism, in addition to reports of paedophilia and the like on MySpace - another Internet blogging website, it probably is about time something is done. "

"But what to do about the problem? I don't think what they are suggesting will have any impact, whether you have an approved badge or not people are still going to read what they want to read online. And I do think freedom of expression has been infringed enough in today's society. The Internet and blogging, to many, is the one vestige of freedom left where one can get lost and express themselves, the idea of regulating this is just ludicrous".

Chris  "Britain prides itself on freedom of speech, and journalism is already tightly regulated by media law and the Press Complaints Commission. As far as I can see, blogging is an updated form of print journalism and one of the rules in the proposed Bloggers Code of Conduct states that any form of harassment, false comment or libellous comment is unacceptable. However, the PCC already polices this type of inaccuracy, so why have another code? If it aint broke don't fix it?

"Finally, newspaper and magazine journalists cannot ignore what may be hidden in the one in a million blogs written that may contain a different news angle to the run of the mill tabloid or broadsheet style of journalism stories written daily, weekly or monthly."