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O'Reilly has a change of heart – latest on bloggers code of conduct

Bloggers code of conduct – again

I linked to Adriana's excellent refutation of the call for a code of conduct for bloggers on Sunday, but since then the issue has gathered a lot of momentum, and many more excellent posts have added to the arguments against it. If you missed the debate, and the precedent that sparked it (this time around, I might add), Bloggers Blog has a good round-up post here. Here's a few of my favourite posts on the issue:

Duncan Riley:
Web 2.0 guru and the once credible Tim O’Reilly has followed up on his threats to unleash weapons of mass stupidity on the world, posting live once and for all a draft copy of his “Bloggers Code of Conduct” that he’s hoping to impose voluntarily on over 200 million bloggers world wide, then probably by force in countries stupid enough to think this is all a good idea (and yes, Australia will probably be top of that list, it is the Nanny State after all).

Not to mention what Scandinavian countries could do with this.

Dave Winer:
We all seem to be speaking with one voice today, this code of conduct idea is not a good one. Of course the NY Times couldn't resist putting it on page one since it confirms their assertion that the blogosphere is a bad place [me: under the headline: "A call for manners in the world of nasty blogs"]. Maybe next time well-intentioned people will avoid the rush to perform for the big publications.

Neil McIntosh:
Seriously, my biggest fear is this kind of stuff tars a huge group of people with a rather nasty brush - "you blog, therefore you are a misogynist", for instance. That's the kind of thing that gets repeated in a million newspaper stories, puts people off reading or joining in, and just begs legislators in to have a look around before taking some horrifically misguided action. There's probably a bureaucrat with a pen twitching in Brussels right now.

Jeff Jarvis:
This effort misses the point of the internet, blogs, and even of civilized behavior. They treat the blogosphere as if it were a school library where someone — they’ll do us the favor — can maintain order and control. They treat it as a medium for media. But as Doc Searls has taught me, it’s not. It’s a place. And when I moved into the place that is my town, I didn’t put up a badge on my fence saying that I’d be a good neighbor (and thus anyone without that badge is, de facto, a bad neighbor). I didn’t have to pledge to act civilized. I just do. And if I don’t, you can judge me accordingly. Are there rules and laws? Yes, the same ones that exist in worlds physical or virtual: If I libel or defame you on the streetcorner or in a paper or on a screen, the recourse is the same. But I don’t put up another badge on my fence saying I won’t libel you. I just don’t.

Then of course, there are the legal implications of this proposed 'code of conduct', e.g. the impact banning anonymous comments will have on bloggers in places like China, Iran and Iraq. More on this in Jarvis' full post.


I think that there is a need for some sort of regulation but whether it can be done formally is debatable.However if there was a system of self regulation amongst bloggers this would also be difficult to enforce.

In this case I actually think that the exisiting laws are good enough. We have laws against libels, death threats etc, that apply to all human interaction and publication.

Other than that, I think it's up to the owner of each site to moderate as they see fit: if you allow 'trolls' or lots of nasty stuff to dominate your community, you alienate serious discourse and commentators and ruin your own credibility.

I see newspapers making this mistake quite often, by for instance letting the sex-obsessed take over their communities (sex sells right, certainly drives up the traffic to the site, but at the same time you alienate those who'd like to discuss the issues raised in the newspaper articles).

But I diverge from the issue at stake. The concern you raise about how to enforce a code of conduct is a vital one. In countries with strong traditions for legislating all things great and small, like the Scandinavian countries, I fear politicians would cease upon such a 'voluntary code' as an excuse to introduce a new law (not to mention how less democratic countries might use this), which would have lots of problematic implications.

Banning anonymous comments is one, another is how do you define civility, how do you legislate it? That could be an easy excuse for introducing a legislation for having to uphold all sorts of politically correct vaules, thereby limiting freedom of speech, open debate etc.

In 1994 the Norwegian government tried to make 'showing solidarity' part of what students were graded for in Norwegian classes - so the grade would be awarded not only for your grammar and writing skills, but also for the highly subjective level of solidarity you displayed. Very dangerous route to go down...


This is a very difficult area to legislate.I believe that it should really be down to self regulation and improved attempts at moderation.One other suggestion where there are multiple comments would be to rank comments based on the contributors previous commenting record.

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