Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Blogger Code of Ethics

Blogger Code of EthicsOne of the great things about blogging is its quick time to press. The very quickness in which they post leads to highly colorful prose not found in staid, traditional print journalism.

But along with the positive come the negative.

Boring old facts are often thrown in the gutter in favor of more colorful rumors. Charges and attacks are leveled without proper consideration and often without the ability for the targets to properly defend themselves.

Popular blog articles pander to popular taste, rather than raise the bar to provide quality reading material. The same people who cry about intrusions into public privacy maliciously expose the private lives of celebrity and private individual alike.

Like the practitioners of any other art form or media, bloggers should adopt a code of ethics. It is better to self-police than to come to the point that others feel the need to regulate you. Furthermore, it is desirable to stay within the bounds of legality and ethics.

Adapting from a few other sources (cited below), here is my Blogger's Code of Ethics. Feel free to adopt and adapt, as you will. You can copy my seal using the text box below.

[Update: added Do No Harm section Mar-27-2007]

Blogger Code of Ethics


I will post as accurate only information that I know to be accurate. Whenever possible, I will provide sources and links.

If accuracy may be in doubt, I will convey this to the reader.


I will not plagiarize material, nor quote without attribution.


I will delete comments only when they violate the rules of my blog, such as needlessly inflammatory, racist, or spam comments.


I will try to ensure that what I post is not only accurate but presents a complete picture, I won't post only part of a story or an argument.

I won't crop photos to misrepresent news.


I will not reveal details that have been given to me in confidence.

I won't publish private emails unless explicitly permitted to do so. I won't publish names or details when asked not to do so.


I will respect other people's copyrights and not post without the copyright holder's permission, except when abiding by the terms of "fair use" (generally small excerpts for journalistic purposes).


Unless my posting inadvertently violates one of the other codes mentioned, I will generally not change the URLs or delete my postings, although I may correct for grammar, clarity, or spelling.

If corrections need to be made, I will try to use strikeout rather than deleting the material and mark all updates as such.


I will let readers know if or when I use affiliate links or paid posts. I will disclose whenever I am affiliated with a company or received items as gifts.

Do No Harm

I will not attack, embarrass, humiliate, or make others fear for their safety. I will certainly not do so and then accuse my victims of being overly sensitive or needing to have thicker skin.

I will firstly do no harm. Beyond this, I will endeavor to create what is good and beneficial for society, rather than hurt it or waste its time.


I will try to ensure that my posts are edited for spelling, grammar, and clarity, and that all links are correct.


I will always provide all facts relevant to an opinion when criticizing. I will always assume possible confusion or misunderstanding before labeling something or someone as fraudulent. In this case, I will first try to work things out privately, and, if not satisfied, let the facts speak for themselves in as unbiased a manner as possible.


I will try to provide original material of interest to my readership. I will not simply quote or link to other blogs.


I will not pass on gossip about private individuals nor report on embarrassing facts about others. I will not link to or report information that is accidentally leaked.


I will respect my readers, critics, and subjects of my posts. I will discuss and answer all people with respect, regardless of age, sex, race, religion, nationality, ability, attractiveness, and social or economic status.

I will not respond with rudeness to rudeness. I will apologize when appropriate and stand on principle only when absolutely necessary.


I will affirm what are my own words and posts, and not claim credit for others, or deny responsibility for my own. I will clearly separate what are my own words from others.


I will not post anything that could endanger others' safety, including identifying information about minors or vulnerable individuals.

End Note About Humorous Posts

I may occasionally post something that appears to violate one of these codes if it is clear that my post is meant to be humorous or satirical. For instance, I may pretend that someone said something that he or she didn't for comic effect. Any post of this sort will be obviously intended as humor and I will ensure that it cannot be misconstrued otherwise.

Yehuda Berlinger

Copy this text to put the Blogger Code of Ethics seal on your blog:

Further Sources:

Rebecca Blood

Update Apr-16-2007: Modular Code of Ethics

There has been a call for a modular Blogger Code of Conduct, ala the modular Creative Commons licenses. Jon Garfunkle proposed a language to describe a blogging code (which looks suspiciously like a "Geekcode" you would find at the end of a signature).

To create a modular blogging code, the first thing to do is to analyze how to break the code into pieces. There are essentially three main aspects to a code of conduct:

1: The blogger's own content.
2: Content by others on sites he or she controls.
3: Content on other people's sites.

The Blogger's Own Content

People have many different political opinions - liberal, conservative, religious, atheist, anarchist, high-brow, populist, etc. - and while cultural norms vary widely from place to place, and time to time, good manners is good manners regardless of how it is expressed in a specific culture's etiquette.

Ethics provides even less leeway. Respecting copyright and citing sources is independent of your politics or nationality. I welcome any cogently-argued dissenting views on this.

Until then, the following sections appear to me to be inviolable to anyone who wishes to be taken seriously, whether writing a book, blogging, or simply conversing: Accuracy, Attribution, Completeness, Confidentiality, Copyright, Disclosure, Do No Harm, Fairness, Respect, Responsibility, and Safety. These are the core elements of any basic blogging code.

Which leaves the sections: Comments, Correction, Originality, and Privacy.

Some people treat their blog as a scratch-pad or diary, while others treat it as journalism. For the former, the sections Comments, Correction, and Originality may not be appropriate.

Furthermore, while personally I consider the Privacy section to be inviolate, I acknowledge that this is not true for other people, such as gossip magazines and the like.

In contrast, there are people who would balk at adult material, profanity, "heresy", and perhaps other sorts of content restrictions that they wish to impose upon themselves.

So for a blogger's own content, you have four choices:

Basic Ethics: includes Accuracy, Attribution, Completeness, Confidentiality, Copyright, Disclosure, Do No Harm, Fairness, Respect, Responsibility, and Safety.

Basic Journalist: includes Basic Ethics, as well as Comments, Correction, Originality.

Special Ethics: includes Basic Ethics, as well as one or more of: Privacy, No Adult Material, No Heresy, No Profanity, etc... (to be specified)

Special Journalist: includes both Journalist and Special Ethics.

Content by Others on Sites the Blogger Controls

Whether commenters or other authors under your editorial control must identify themselves, and if they must follow the same ethics that you do or risk having their content removed or censored. For instance, you might personally not write any profanity, but allow your commenters to do so.

If your ethics is journalist or special journalist, you have already committed to ensuring the permanency of comments on your blog, so long as they don't violate any basic ethics.

Your choices are essentially:

Ownership: Other authors must identify themselves, according to rules specified elsewhere (a pseudonym, a valid email address, a personal conversation with the blogger, etc..),


Anonymous: Other authors may be anonymous. Anonymous authors may be subject to stricter rules enforcement.


Same Policy: Other authors must adhere to all special ethical rules the blogger obeys.


Relaxed Policy: Policy is less strictly enforced for some special ethical areas, such as allowing profanity in the comments.

So for other's content, you have four choices:





Content on Other People's Sites

When linking to, reporting on, or cooperating with other bloggers who follow the same ethical principles, follow basic ethical principles but not some special ones you adhere to, or violate basic ethical principles.

Your choices are essentially:

Same: Links only to others with the same or higher ethical standards. Of course, this begs the question: what is a "higher" standard? If one blog won't allow profanity, and another will, both can claim to be following "higher" standards. So I mean only that the other site, at a minimum, follows all the rules of your site, and possibly more.


Relaxed: Willing to link to or discuss items from other sites that have different ethical standards, so long as they do not violate basic standards.


Ignore: Will not get involved with or discuss sites that violate basic ethical standards.


Denounce: May occasionally denounce sites that violate basic ethical standards.

Again, four choices:





A Complete Code

So a complete code would look something like:



SJ(no profanity or adult material)-AR(profanity tolerated)-RD



Gerald McD said...

Well-done! Nice work. Wouldn't it be great if all/most/a reasonable number of bloggers followed this? At least, you've made a good effort.

Yehuda Berlinger said...

Thanks, Gerald.


Gabe said...

On a somewhat related note, I came across this story today through Lifehacker: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6502643.stm

Sunfell said...

Excellent work- this is a practical and workable code. I'd like to present this on my own blog, and also make it part of my TOS for some of my communities, with your permission.

Yehuda Berlinger said...

sunfell: be my guest.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a reasonable set of statements. How would you see it enforced if someone were to post it and then fail it?

Yehuda Berlinger said...


The same way that any social conventions are enforced. People who violate social conventions are politely reminded, or otherwise for repeat offenses.

People who spurn social conventions are shunned.

The fact that some people violate social convention is no excuse for not having them, however.


Anonymous said...

Excellent ideas Yehuda. I've included your thoughts in an article I wrote about the future of journalism and healthcare blogging.

The Trust and Credibility of Healthcare Blogs

Yehuda Berlinger said...

Thank you, Walter.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your nice post!

Unknown said...

I applaud the effort to publish and follow a decent set of convictions.

Although, does it apply to people on other continents? Because that's the most america-centric globe I've ever seen ;)

Yehuda Berlinger said...

The trouble with a 3D representation on a 2D screen is inability to show all sides at once without animation.

Make me a better logo.


Kellri said...

Great idea. I've added a link to it on my own blog.

Unknown said...

This is one of the best blogs I have seen and lets you see what is possible using such a simple format. I can see why you would try to to stick to this and of course I agree that in the creating of a blog no one should get hurt, but for a goof like me editing the spelling and grammer is last on my list of things to care about. I think their should be another term to seperate people who blog seriously and for those of us that it is just a goofy hobby.

Dan Wheeler said...

This is really well thought out and I appreciate your hard work putting it together but don't you think it could be done more simply? As the internet evolves the blogger code of ethics will need to as well. Why not take a more values based approach, meaning incorporating the 6 values that umbrella everything you laid out above.


Just my two cents

Yehuda Berlinger said...

While reducing things to "core values" is a nice goal, I was trying to be specific and provable in my final code. That meant, unfortunately, a bit more exposition.