Online Integrity

At the invitation of Josh Trevino, I am signing onto and endorsing the Online Integrity Statement of Principles.

I do so with two minor caveats:

First, the principle that, “Persons seeking anonymity or pseudonymity online should have their wishes in this regard respected as much as is reasonable” is somewhat vague. My practice is to link to blog posts, inasmuch as possible, identifying the author’s name. There are several bloggers who sign their posts pseduonymously who I nonetheless refer to using their known public identies. Duncan “Atrios” Black, Barbara “Maha” O’Brien, Richard “Wretchard” Fernandez, and others come to mind. That strikes me as “reasonable,” however, given that none of them any longer make a secret of their identity.

Second, I would note that the name of this document is rather broad given it scope. “Online Privacy” would seem more apt than “Online Integrity,” since there are a whole array of other ethical principles that are not touched upon. The Statement of Principles of the Media Bloggers Association, which I helped craft and also endorse, goes further in this regard.

Update: Chris Bowers will not be signing it.

I have a very strong sense that pledges of this nature are used to tear people down who refuse to sign them, rather than to uphold the principles of whatever the pledge may claim to be upholding. I do not need the online ethics police to tell me how to act ethically online, and I certainly do not need the online ethics police to imply that I am unethical for not signing their “pledge.” Isn’t that the real implication here–that I, or whoever else refuses to sign their pledge, isn’t into “online integrity?” For that reason, isn’t this pledge a means to try and de-legitimize anyone who does not sign the pledge?

While others have indicated their intention to use it in that manner, it’s certainly not my motivation. I do think that establishing some norms for the blogging community is useful, however, and such documents and the discussion about them helps advance that goal.

Further, I read the statement that “Violations of these principles should be met with a lack of positive publicity and traffic” as saying that we should not link to posts that do this, not that we should shun blogs or bloggers. I did not, for example, link to the sites that divulged Michelle Malkin’s home address even when discussing that incident. One site, which briefly linked to that information and later de-linked it upon thinking better of it, continues to get regular linkage here.

Incidentally, while I would not have done it myself, I do not think Malkin violated the letter or spirit of the Statement by posting the official contact information of a student group that was widely available on their own websites or publications. That people used that information, from whatever source, to harrass the students is deplorable but not Malkin’s responsibility.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    And if not making their identity a secret in terms of their online activity, what of the Malkin situation, where she simply posted information sent out in the affected group’s press releases?

    Seems to me that Josh’s efforts are in response to that whole chain of events… and if I’m right, the response misses the mark.

  2. anon says:

    Incidentally, while I would not have done it myself, I do not think Malkin violated the letter or spirit of the Statement by posting the official contact information of a student group that was widely available on their own websites or publications. That people used that information, from whatever source, to harrass the students is deplorable but not Malkin�s responsibility.

    WTF? You are either completely clueless, or completely dishonest. Why do you think this pledge even arose?

  3. James Joyner says:

    Anon,

    Read The statement:

    Public figures are entitled to respect for the non-public nature of their personal, non-professional contact information, and their privacy with regard to their homes and families. No information which might lead others to invade these spaces should be posted.

    Malkin released public, professional information that the group themselves released and posted on their sites. Friendly sites likewise reproduced that information.

  4. anon says:

    And when Malkin was asked to take the information down because of this abuse, and she refused to, did she gain any responsibility then?