A little break from Et. politics. The New York Times today has a front page story about manners in the blogosphere. Read the story here. Some of the incidents the times mentioned make Ethiopia's blogosphere appear the epitome of civility.
Mr. Wales and Mr. O’Reilly were inspired to act after a firestorm erupted
late last month in the insular community of dedicated technology bloggers. In an
online shouting match that was widely reported, Kathy Sierra, a high-tech book
author from Boulder County, Colo., and a friend of Mr. O’Reilly, reported
getting death threats that stemmed in part from a dispute over whether it was
acceptable to delete the impolitic comments left by visitors to someone’s
personal Web site.
Distraught over the threats and manipulated photos of her
that were posted on other critical sites — including one that depicted her head
next to a noose — Ms. Sierra canceled a speaking appearance at a trade show and
asked the local police for help in finding the source of the threats. She also
said that she was considering giving up blogging altogether.
For the last four years, Richard Silverstein has advocated for
Israeli-Palestinian peace on a blog (richardsilverstein.com) that he maintains from
People who disagree with his politics frequently leave harassing
comments on his site. But the situation reached a new low last month, when an
anonymous opponent started a blog in Mr. Silverstein’s name that included photos
of Mr. Silverstein in a pornographic context.
“I’ve been assaulted and harassed online for four years,” he said. “Most of it I can take in stride. But you just never get used to that level of hatred.”
I think trying to codify code of conduct(even a non-binding one) to govern bloggers and commenters is a bad, bad idea. Blogging is where free speech with all its mess and untidiness gets to be practised. Any attempt( good or bad intentioned) to impose rules on it will damage the extent of free speech.
There is also a slippery slope here. Now is for non-binding codes of conduct. When it remains unenforceable, politicians(who are always interested in curbing the freedom of those who embarrass them) and the main stream media will start arguing for laws to enforce the code of conduct. Once there are laws to govern manners in the blogosphere, it will become the amateurish version of the MSM.
There are always risks in blogging...even more when you are doing it from Ethiopia. Those risks are taken with consent because the benefits outweigh the risks. If people don't want to be harassed in cyberspace, there is an option - dropping out of it.
In fact, the blogosphere has shown that it can be self-regulatory. Most sites that have high visitor numbers are better mannered and more reliable. Nasty comments are usually moderated by the bloggers themselves or counter-balanced by civil discussions. And cyber bullies are not usually tolerated.
Blogosphere is a place where more speech works better than enforced silence.