Bloggers share a moral code

Singapore – The blogosphere is a place of high ideals, according to a new analysis which will add to the debate over the policing of the internet.

Some observers have argued that bloggers need regulating, or at the very least a voluntary ethical code. But according to new research, they’re already a pretty high-minded lot, sharing a moral code based around telling the truth, accountability, minimizing harm and giving proper attribution.

Andy Koh, Alvin Lim and Ng Ee Soon of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore used a web survey of 1,224 international bloggers with active, text-based blogs to find out more about the authors, their ethical ideals and how they put these into practice. Of those surveyed, about half were male and 65 percent were under 30. Most were well educated, and the majority were from the US – 65  percent – with no other country accounting for more than eight percent of the participants.

Sharing thoughts and feelings or creating an online diary was the main drive for personal bloggers, while the non-personal bloggers focused on providing commentary or information. Students and IT workers made up the majority of both groups.

The researchers found that there was a clear set of ethical principles important to bloggers. The most important point for both personal and non-personal bloggers was attribution – avoiding plagiarism and giving sources proper credit. Other widely-held principles were truth-telling, accountability – being answerable to the public – and minimising harm by respecting privacy and confidentiality.

“This first large-scale survey of blogging ethics revealed no shocking lack of ethics in these areas,” said Koh. But, he added, “Ethics codes may be little more than a set of ideals, unless they have ‘teeth’ in the form of sanctions.”

The authors conclude that because of its size and informality, the blogosphere may not be particularly suited to self-regulation. But, they point out, the blogosphere is more interactive than traditional media, meaning that bloggers who behave unethically may live to regret their actions.

The research is published in the journal New Media Society.