Ethics Online @ The Ethical Blogger

Nov 30, 2007

For the first time in history, blogs provide a forum where millions of people can have a say. At their best, they can provide useful information and a fruitful sharing of ideas from all over the virtual world. But at their worst, they can spread outright lies and biased information to enormous audiences. Is it possible to establish a voluntary but widely accepted blogging code of conduct? Can we find ways to encourage bloggers to use their power for the public good?Rising to this challenge, the Council teamed up with Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies, Demos—the Think Tank for Everyday Democracy, and Oxford University's Reuter's Institute for the Study of Journalism.

Together they created the Ethical Blog Project, with its own blog, The Ethical Blogger.There is clearly a hunger for this kind of material. Launched on October 22, 2007, The Ethical Blogger has attracted tens of thousands of visitors in only five weeks. What's more, on November 14, Google nominated it as one of their "blogs of note". The group is delighted to welcome its newest partner, New York University's Center for Global Affairs, which joined the project on November 27. "We are trying to encourage civility in the blogosphere because blogs have the power to do good, giving voice to the voiceless and shining a spotlight on corruption, human rights abuses, or environmental degradation," says Devin Stewart, Director of Carnegie Council's Global Policy Innovations Program and one of The Ethical Blogger's founders. "We recently discussed a case in China in which a couple exposed a real estate scam using a blog. Some of the issues we have been grappling with so far include the utility of anonymity, privacy issues, parental responsibility, and a blog's role in politics. We have benefited enormously and learned a great deal from the many comments people have posted on our blog."

"Our overall goal is to remind publics at large that ethics is global, not culturally specific," continues Stewart. "We would like to find a set of norms that can be applied to many contexts. Political or personal security situations might change the game in terms of the relative appropriateness of anonymity, for example. Meanwhile, if unethical blogging gets out of hand, governments will step in and regulate. Let's not let a few bad apples spoil it for the rest of us. Technology guided by ethics can help create a better world."

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