LIBR 202 Information Communities – Ethics of Blog Writer

Ethics of Writer Bloggers

Ethics are a tricky thing on the internet. Some feel the internet is a volatile place, like the wild wild west of the world wide web, and they wouldn’t be wrong. Most days no one is in charge, and we post and comment as we please. On Blogs, where the content creator is also the editor, decider and enforcer, there is not much that goes on without their knowing.

Other days, the internet is not so neatly organized. Content creators on third party platforms, especially message boards and community sharing sites are subject to moderators, or mods, who make judgement calls on what is and is not appropriate for the site. They patrol from page to page looking for language and content that offends or violates human rights. They also may decide a post is irrelevant, which poses questions about freedoms of speech and self expression on the web. Bloggers are in many ways relieved from the eye of the mods, but must make the same judgement calls on their comments. Are people allowed to comment without approval? Who makes the final call on a shared space blog? What constitutes inappropriate? Are negative comments permitted to stay?

Of course ethics extend far beyond the mere decision to delete a nasty troll.

Content creators wrestle with plagiarism, borrowing and apprenticing work of others in order to improve their craft.

Plagairism, the most black & white of the three involves a willful copying of other’s work without fair credit. Copy and Paste makes this especially tempting, but most of us are in the clear of this ethical breach. However, posting images without credit (which I have done on occasion) may be considered unethical, if they don’t link back to the original source…

Borrowing and apprenticing are forms of copying that are less recognized and fall within the preverbal grey area. Borrowing is the act of taking content and elaborating upon it. Perhaps this means quoting another article; maybe you leave a trail with a link. This is more a matter of length. How much can someone copy before it is plagiarizing? Is it fair to host someone else’s content on your space without asking? Are there ramifications if you misrepresent?

Apprenticing, which is something I did in undergrad, is the close study and emulating of another’s work. Not copying in a traditional sense, but mirroring, practicing, sometimes repeating what has already been created by another to improve one’s craft. This level is in some ways the most dangerous in an ethical sense. Where does your work begin and there’s end? How do you determine what is too similar? What happens when it gets published? Do you mention that you studied their work closely in a footnote?

Bloggers are as uninhibited as anyone on the internet, which makes them culpable for the ethical issues they face every time they post. Are your words really your own? Do you represent yourself and others fairly? Is your conduct in line with the spirit of the community?

Sometimes having no rules makes it even harder to play fair.

Thanks for reading!

Keep Writing!

–ECW

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