Friday, July 27, 2007

Blogger Ethics

So, I am doing my usual exploring the blogosphere seeing what people have to say and I came across this blog post by Andy Beard Paid Comments-They Can Be 100% Ethical. I think that this is an interesting topic and something that you see all kinds of debate about. For me, ultimately there are several factors in determining the ethics of someone’s post or commentary. And, it is all defined by how the information is presented and whether deception is used or not.
There are people paid to comment on everything in our society. Is not a journalist paid to comment on issues that he/she chooses to comment on. A journalist will write articles about subjects that they may be personally affected by. It is something else when someone writes about a “stock” as a business journalist that they own and will ultimately benefit from good public exposure, eg. the value of the stock goes up. This is certainly an example of unethical behavior.
Being paid, or paying others too comment or post on your blog only becomes unethical when deception is used to generate positive conversation or response to your blog.
I don’t fall for the idea that “money corrupts”, rather corrupt people are often motivated by the idea of making lots of money. It is as if money will give them some kind of salvation from their corrupt ways.
Why then if I get paid to share ideas about products or events am I considered “unethical” by some? I would thing it would be unethical if I logged into someones site under an alias to promote an event that I was an investor in. That my comment promoted and spoke positively of this event or product while I stood to benefit directly may certainly make the behavior ethically questionable.
I guess, it is such a fine line, ethics is a strange concept that is often culturally determined. What is ethical in one culture may not be in another culture and perhaps this is where the debate starts to deepen.
The blogosphere is a culture unto itself and is in constant conversation with itself about what is considered appropriate and ethical behavior. This is a healthy and relevant debate for a young culture and is something that should be established.
My two cents on the topic is that marketing is always walking a line of ethical behavior and will constantly be regulated and checked by society. At one time the marketing of clothing on young, skinny models was considered completely legit by the larger segment of society. Now, you see models below a certain weight being barred from fashion shows. This in itself raises all kinds of other questions - what if she is naturally small, is a skinny by nature gal? Why is she now excluded?
You see, making broad overarching statements and policies always has its effects on those that don’t exactly fit. It is a danger that we struggle in in our society and we want to simplify all our understandings down to the “black or white”. It never works that simply and that is where the blogosphere has an interesting ability to regulate. Because on many levels the blogosphere can respond to individuals enmass. If an individual or an organization behaves in a way that the blogosphere deems unethical it has the ability to blog and repel that individual or organization. You only really exist in the blogosphere by virtue of the community. You are in a sense a member because you are willing to give up a certain set of your rights to the community to regulate and judge. It is what makes it work….for now.
Ok, well I went of on several tangents there. But, my point is, making a hard and fast statement about ethics is dangerous approach. It is a constantly massaged topic and should be treated and discussed as such.

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