Monday, August 31, 2009

Blog ethics

Now that blogs are popular, they're also gaining some unwanted attention. The FTC has taken a special interest in bloggers endorsing products or services, since for a while this was seen as free PR by the companies selling them, and the bloggers enjoyed the pay and free booty. The FTC, however, sees this as advertising, and insists on establishing the usual standards. Although bloggers dislike the end of a free ride, I do think this is an important piece of evidence in the shift of blogging from being simple online diaries to important opinion and journalism writings. This is a sign that blogging is now serious business. Bloggers have wanted to be serious business for years, and one can't have it both ways.
Also in the news, a supermodel working for Vogue,a Ms. Cohen, is outraged that a blog called her a skank. She's suing the blog in question, "Skanks in NYC," (or rather, the anonymous owner, since it's people who get sued, not things) for libel. So far, this is understandable, and the owner of "Skanks in NYC" is unlikely to win that case. However, bloggers are very nervous that she's also demanding that the identity of the blog's owner be publicly revealed, beyond what is required to collect. They're nervous because people can and have been fired for blogging, with varying degrees of justification. A term has been made, "Dooced," after the owner of who was fired for mentioning her workplace in her blog. (In the most justifiable firings, workers blog under their own name, and publicly badmouth their employer, thereby biting the hand that feeds them. In the least, they're under a pseudonym, avoid mentioning work, but are outed and fired anyway on the grounds that they might turn into the first category, or that the company doesn't like what they said, like if a blogger makes pro-Democrat comments when the company owner is a Republican. Or, rarely, just on the principle of "internet=bad")
I can only hope that as a society, we come to a sane definition of what blogs are, what rules apply to them, and what the responsibilities of a blogger are.

BREAKING NEWS: Since this writing, "Skanks in NYC" has disbanded.

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