Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Weblogs 'need content warnings'

Readers should be warned when they are reading blogs that may contain "crude language", a draft blogging code of conduct has suggested.

The code was drawn up by web pioneer Tim O'Reilly following published threats and perceived harassment to US developer Kathy Sierra on blogs.

The code begins: "We celebrate the blogosphere because it embraces frank and open conversation."

The draft says people should not be allowed to leave anonymous comments.

Blogs which are open and uncensored should post an "anything goes" logo to the site to warn readers, the code suggests.

Readers of these blogs would be warned: "We are not responsible for the comments of any poster, and when discussions get heated, crude language, insults and other "off colour" comments may be encountered. Participate in this site at your own risk."

The draft will now be assessed and amended by bloggers around the world.

The code states: "We are committed to the 'Civility Enforced' standard: we will not post unacceptable content, and we'll delete comments that contain it."

The draft defines unacceptable content as anything included or linked to that is being used to "abuse, harass, stalk, or threaten others".

It also refers to libellous material, infringement of copyright or trademark and violations of privacy.

Prominent blogger Kathy Sierra called on the blogosphere to combat the culture of abuse online after a series of death threats forced her to cancel a public appearance and suspend her blog.

Ms Sierra described on her blog how she had been subject to a campaign of threats, including a post that featured a picture of her next to a noose.

At the heart of the issue is the degree of freedom afforded to people who want to comment on blog posts.

"If those published comments could be construed as a threat, and the perpetrator doesn't withdraw them and apologise, we will cooperate with law enforcement to protect the target of the threat," the code states.

The code has had mixed support among bloggers.

Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia, told BBC Radio 5 Live's Pods and Blogs programme: "The question is: Do we allow people to use our blogs as places to embark on threatening behaviour and really abusive personal insults?

"You don't have to insult people to be frank."

But the code was not welcome by blogger and commentator Jeff Jarvis, who called it "misguided".

On his blog, he wrote: "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... can maintain order and control. They treat it as a medium for media.

"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."

He added: "I don't need anyone lecturing me and telling me not to be disagreeable."

VOTE Should blogs carry warnings about uncensored material? Yes No Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2007/04/10 07:42:15 GMT


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