Web gurus want blog etiquette despite backlash

NEW YORK Thu Apr 12, 2007 8:25am EDT

Vietnamese people work with computers in this April 19, 2006 file photo. Blogs, online journal-style Web sites, are growing in popularity on the Internet and so has the bad posting behavior that has sparked a call for a code of conduct. REUTERS/Kham/Files

Vietnamese people work with computers in this April 19, 2006 file photo. Blogs, online journal-style Web sites, are growing in popularity on the Internet and so has the bad posting behavior that has sparked a call for a code of conduct.

Credit: Reuters/Kham/Files

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bloggers are facing some high-profile peer pressure to please be a little more polite. Blogs, online journal-style Web sites, are growing in popularity on the Internet and so has the bad posting behavior that has sparked a call for a code of conduct.

"We have a lot of people who wrap themselves in the mantle of free speech when they're really just being childish," said Tim O'Reilly, a Web pioneer who amended the draft of his bloggers' code of conduct on Wednesday after a backlash of online posters cried censorship over civility.

O'Reilly, the innovator behind the term Web 2.0., recently posted the code's first draft on his own site and on wikia.com, which is run by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

The code includes a civility enforced standard that agrees not to post abusive, harassing, libelous, false or threatening comments. Content could not be used to stalk others.

Blog hosts would commit to deleting such posts. The code calls for a ban on anonymous comments and copyright or trademark infringement.

Bloggers have since been invited to share their thoughts and input, and hundreds have done so.

O'Reilly said he was trying to ignite discussion on the tolerance for juvenile behavior.

"There are those who feel they can deface almost in a graffiti-like fashion any blog that they visit and then slink back to the hole from whence they came."

The draft voluntary code follows incidents where a U.S. blogger and author received death threats by anonymous posters on her site.

"Is it OK to threaten people? Is it OK to post death threats in a blog? I don't think so. I don't think anybody thinks so," said Wales in a telephone interview.

"A lot of this is really kindergarten ethics. It's the adult way to handle this kind of thing. How do we make distinctions between a vibrant, healthy but rational debate versus hate speech and lunatics? I don't think it's that difficult and I don't think any responsible bloggers are opposed to that."

Both men say a precedent has been set for many bloggers who have already agreed to various acceptable use policies on social networking sites. These sites allow users to "flag" content they deem to be lewd, obscene, harassing or excessively violent or sexual explicit. Other conditions are also listed.

Meanwhile, some say it is impossible to have a universal code on the Web, which has proven difficult to regulate.

"It doesn't have a prayer of ever actually being followed universally, so it's not really going to accomplish a whole lot in terms of making the blogosphere a more civil place," said Carmi Levy, senior research analyst with Canadian-based Info-Tech Research Group in London, Ont.

He added that there will always be people who will swear and treat others with disrespect and a code of conduct will not change that.

"Blogging will continue to survive just fine without it," Levy said.

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