“The Good News Is, We Got Him Down To Ten….”

Does anyone remember the periodic spasms of moral ferment that have bestirrred Blogarians to device “Codes of Blogging Ethics” or good-behavior certification systems? Well, Micah calls my attention to Ruth Gledhill’s report that “The Evangelical Alliance will on Monday publish the new Ten Commandments of Blogging.”
 
I suppose there’s something more laudable about this than, say, submitting that the internet obviates any concern about ethics — but will these commandments actually change anyone’s behavior? I tend to doubt that there are evangelical bloggers out there who have been scraping other people’s websites, but who now will stop because it]s against the Ten Commandments of Blogging to “steal another person’s content.”
 
In my interactions with evangelical blogging, the two leading ethical questions these blogs provoked concern anonymous writers defaming their enemies, and [openly-named] bloggers misrepresenting their opponents’ claims and persons. The same applies to progressive bloggers, of course, and to presidential politics on both sides; none of these groups has, as best I recall, codes of ethics that prohibit such conduct. Returning now to the topic, do the anonymous bloggers and public polemicists imagine that they’ve been transgressing — or do they understand themselves to be using their full repertoire of rhetorical leverage in order to expose the iniquity of their adversaries, who are obscuring the truth and destroying the church? Is someone going to be conscience-stricken, or will they reiterate their self-justifications? (And who am I, who are we, to determine that we know they are wrong?)
 
I’m all for ethics and Ten Commandments (the originals, that is). I’m just hesitant about well-intentioned grand gestures such as this one. It would be great if enough people demonstrated their commitment to righteous blogging that they could point to positive results that show me to have been unduly skeptical.

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One Response to “The Good News Is, We Got Him Down To Ten….”

  1. Paul Baxter says:

    I haven’t yet read the linked article (I will later), but I was one who has doing some thinking a while back about ethics and the internet. I had two somewhat unrelated thoughts, but never developed them much.

    One was to develop some sort of statement of ethics to which any particular blogger could announce an intention to abide by. This would just be a matter of making public commitments to act in a certain way such that someone else could justifiably point to a discrepancy between your behavior and your ethical commitment.

    The other thought was to develop some sort of informal guide, aimed particularly at the young, thinking through some of the common sorts of interpersonal problems which are common on the internet. Questions addressed might include things like what constitutes respectful address, anonymity and its pitfalls, cautions about quick emotional responses to topics, dealing with (or even identifying) trolls, etc.

    If someone else wants to do all the heavy lifting and write all that up, I’ll give them a hearty “thank you”. I’m a bit too lazy for the task.

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