A group of Nepali bloggers got together and signed code of ethics, voluntarily, promising that they will uphold certain principles and blog responsibly. Draft of the proposed code was published at Ujjwal Acharya’s blog couple of weeks back where he solicited comments/ suggestions from fellow bloggers to improve the code and also on ways to implement it effectively. Here are my 2 cents on the proposed code.
10 bloggers have signed the pledge so far and the number could go up in coming days. Unfortunately, this effort has now turned controversial and divisive.
Any Nepali blogger can attest to the fact that our community needs to come together and establish a code of conduct, not to impose censorship but to preserve our creative integrity. In past their have been incidents of plagiarism, blatant violation of privacy and as blogging gains mainstream recognition in Nepal, the pressure of commercialization is bound to happen. Without concentrated effort by individual blogger and the community as a whole, these issues could hurt our cause.
This code of ethics is part of that effort to help the community, it is not censorship and it is not an attack on a blogger’s individual rights. Let me go over each clause in the code, and explain my position.(The clause is in bold and my comments appear as regular text)
CODE OF ETHICS FOR BLOGGERS (Signed on July 27, 2011)
As a blogger, I would honestly:
Be fair on what I write in my blog
For literary and personal blogs, this clause could be an issue but if you are blogging on sensitive national and social issue, the reader should have the right to demand that you are being fair and are not using false information or malice.
Write things that I believe to be truth
Again, this clause is more applicable to news/commentary based blogs.
Specify my source of information – credit to offline sources and link to online sources
This absolutely necessary. There are blogs who plagiarise materials, copy and paste articles and don’t credit the source. This is about giving credit when due, and should not be controversial.
Specify clearly the use of any unconfirmed fact or information
For political/commentary based blogs, this helps in establishing credibility.
Avoid conflict of interest – clearly disclose my position including job, financial interest, affiliation and relationship if they related to the post OR maintain an detailed About Me page
For a political, financial blogs, a disclosure statement can help establish credibility and also protect the blogger from legal hassles.
Clearly differentiate between advertisements and blog content
As blogging is gaining acceptance and influence in Nepal media and advertising world, some bloggers would want to explore opportunities to generate revenue. Nothing wrong with that, but it is necessary to be honest about it so there is no misrepresentation.
Disclose clearly if an entry is posted sponsored or as advertisement or after accepting a payment or goods to write it
Admit and correct mistakes as soon as possible but only with strikethrough or editorial notes
What is wrong in admitting mistake? Keeping the original text or picture intact but adding the correction will allow readers to see the difference, it will not hurt the blogger but show their willingness to admit and learn-a plus.
Allow comments to engage audience, allow different opinions and clearly state my moderation policy if any
Hmm,this is one clause I have issue with.Sometimes a blogger may want to disable comment and it should be ok to do that. But yes, when comments are allowed, moderation policy should be clearly stated.
Show compassion for human being – be sensitive writing about or using photos of victims
Promote freedom of speech
Ok no blogger can argue against this.
As a blogger, I wouldn’t intentionally:
- Completely rewrite or delete an entry
- Threaten people and institution using the blog for personal benefits
- Write anything undermining nationality, national security, religious harmony and social order
- Give space to pornography, hate speech and crude content
- Publish personal and confidential information of people collected during their visit to my blog
- Spam, spread malware and viruses and engage in criminal activities
- Plagiarize – copy and paste from other sources
- Disclose the source of primary information without source’s consent
All of the above clauses are pretty standard and in no way stifle free speech or impose censorship or self censorship. Most of these conditions are found in majority of blogging communities, even Google Adsense program prohibits porn, gambling sites.
We need to make a distinction between personal/literary blogs and the political blog, some exceptions have to be made for personal/literary blogs, but the bottom line remains same for all. It is not censorship to REQUEST minimum standard of conduct!