The Difference Between Law & Ethics in Blogging

Dogs on Leash Law

Dogs on Leash LawSocieties generally have two ways that they try to encourage “positive” or “good” behavior on its members, laws and ethics.

But while both are similar in that they are ways to punish or discourage unwanted behavior, they are radically different in both what they are and how they operate.

As a blogger, you find yourself operating in a variety of societies. This includes traditional ones such as your local community, your country and the world as a whole as well as digital ones such as the blogging community and the Internet community.

This has some fairly profound implications for the laws and ethics you have to wrangle with as you’re not only caught between the duality of the two elements themselves, but in the layers of often conflicting standards of all the societies you reach and are a part of.

To unravel this mess, we have to first take a look at the differences between law and ethics and understand how they each impact bloggers in slightly different, but very powerful, ways. [Read more…]

Politicians Paying Bloggers For Positive Press?


After the pay per post and pay per tweet fiasco’s that previously upset the blogosphere (mainly due to the lack of disclosure), it looks like blog readers may have to deal with a new scandal, one that could damage the reputation of conservative political bloggers.

“It’s standard operating procedure” to pay bloggers for favorable coverage, says one Republican campaign operative. A GOP blogger-for-hire estimates that “at least half the bloggers that are out there” on the Republican side “are getting remuneration in some way beyond ad sales.” […]

One pro-Poizner blogger, Aaron Park, was discovered to be a paid consultant to the Poizner campaign while writing for Red County, a conservative blog about California politics. Red County founder Chip Hanlon threw Park off the site upon discovering his affiliation, which had not been disclosed. (Daily Caller) [Read more…]

If You’re Arrington The Rules Do Not Apply to You

Michael Arrington Bastard of the BlogsMichael Arrington, founder of Techcrunch, is a known preacher of ethics and disclosure and has hit out regularly at the MSM. Techcrunch has often been criticized to only promote startups who pay to be featured but so far none of these claims checked out according to former Valleywag contributor Paul Boutin.

Last night Arrington reported the upcoming sale of MCHammer’s DanceJam. So far, nothing special, just another acquisition of an online website which was reported by Techcrunch. Another day and people are still dying of starvation and crime. Life goes on.

But there’s one small detail about this news: Arrington is investor in DanceJam. The investment was disclosed in the post, with a small pinch of *whine* as he announced that the company had not announced the sale to him nor did respond to his email request.

Arrington cashes in as early, angel, investor, but things become really interesting when looking at a long post about ethics and disclosure, written by Arrington more than half a year ago: The Rules Apply To Everyone. In the post the former lawyer went as far as saying that Dave Winer’s credibility was shot because he didn’t disclose a sponsored placement in a feed reader: [Read more…]

Allegation: Medical students “tweeting and blogging patient details”

In the latest potential scandal surrounding the use and misuse of social networks, Switched echoes a report from Fox News (I know) which suggests that medical students are tweeting and blogging confidential patient details.

In a survey (which we all know is a really accurate way of finding out the truth…) Fox News discovered school deans who said they knew of students posting “unprofessional content” online.


Dr. Katherine Chretien of the Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center, told Fox News that the real problem is that most medical schools lack guidelines on what’s acceptable for students to post online.

[Read more…]

The Legal Risks of Blogging

A recent article in ABC News paints a fairly grim picture about the current state of blogging. According to the article, as well as the Media Law Resource Center, there have been 159 civil and criminal court actions taken against bloggers since 2004 with countless others threatened into silence before any kind of action was filed.

Though the number of actions taken are still very small compared to the number of bloggers writing (Technorati was tracking over 70 million blogs at its last report), the threat of legal action is enough to scare many bloggers into changing the way they write, removing content or otherwise altering their site.

The problem is that, even if the image of bloggers being sued is an exaggerated one, the image of bloggers being threatened with such suits is much less so. For every lawsuit that reaches trial, there are dozens that are settled and for every one that is settled there are likely hundreds that are threatened, but never filed.

This has helped to create a climate of fear, one that bloggers need to be prepared for.
[Read more…]

Blogging Jobs: How Much Are Bloggers Paid to Blog?

Blogging Jobs by Lorelle VanFossenAs we continue with this series on blogging jobs, it’s time to look at the income a blogger can make by blogging for pay.

The skills and qualities a company or blog owner is looking for from a blogger are extensive, far beyond just writing abilities. As with any freelance job, determining how to put a value on the time it really takes, and the costs associated with the time and production, is really hard when the real cost is in time, not materials. Bloggers should be paid for the time as well as their expertise and abilities. Are they? This is a problem that has been around for a very long time. How much is your time worth?

For many decades, professional editorial writers found a compromise on the time/value issue with payment by the word with a restriction on word count. I often was told, “We’ll pay you a dollar a word up to 1,000 words maximum.”

This meant the magazine, newspaper, newsletter, or other print publication had space for one thousand words that needed to be filled. Going over meant changing their magazine or newspaper design structure. Giving them less meant I’d be paid less, but somewhere in the middle was a compromise for both of us, usually in the form of me setting a minimum fee I was to be paid, no matter the word count, such as “I want $500 minimum for 700 words and a dollar a word thereafter.” If the article came it at 400 words, I would still be paid my minimum. If it crossed the 700 word mark, at which point I should have been paid $700 for a dollar a word, that’s when they have to start paying me the dollar a word rate. It wasn’t the best, but the companies felt like they were getting a deal and for the most part, I covered the minimum I needed to pay my rent and eat.

Here is a chart for the various traditional writer’s pay scale based upon a dollar amount per word. The more experience and expertise, the higher the fee per word.
[Read more…]

UK companies aren’t clear on new “fake blogging” laws

British companies which pretend to blog as ordinary members of the public, or post multiple positive reviews as if from consumers, are now breaking UK law, yet many don’t know anything about the new legislation, according to Brands2Life.

Its director, Gareth Thomas, said that, “Most people don’t know about this law,” adding, “there is a misconception that these devices are clever, but they can backfire.”

The new Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations legislation came into effect at the end of May 2008.

Drew Benvie, director at Hotwire, said, “This law change affects everyone in PR. If customers have any presence online, it’s definitely their business to know about it.”

(Via PR Week)

Boing Boing Deletes Blogger, Not the First Time?

This is alarming. Sex blogger, journalist, and author Violet Blue’s posts on Boing Boing, including all mentions, has been deleted (NSFW), without any explanation whatsoever:

It was brought to my attention this weekend that every Boing Boing post (except one) with my name in it is gone. It might have happened a while ago, and no, I have no idea what’s going on. How do you even ask someone about something like that? Personally, I never delete posts for any reason so I just think it’s really weird.

Valleywag broke the story, with no real explanation as to why, and so far nothing from the Boing Boing people. They do point out that it isn’t some new anti-sex policy, since recent content still is playful enough. So what happened?

Also: Is this happening frequently? This post certainly raises questions, doesn’t it? We’ll try to follow up on this one as answers subside. One thing’s for sure though, this isn’t the way to play the game in the blogosphere, not even for a bigshot like Boing Boing.

Your Resume is Now Spread Across the Web

While researching information with a client regarding integration of WordPress and a popular educational, proprietary software package, we were stunned at the number of bad reviews, horror stories, and frustration with using that program – let’s call it ABC.

Finding such negative information about ABC was not our goal. We were looking for technical articles and had to wade through post titles like Overcoming ABC Frustrations, If You Want Technical Support Don’t Ask ABC, Why Teachers Hate ABC, When ABC is More Trouble Than Your Students, The Battle to Convince the School Board to Not Use ABC, Why We Hate ABC, and so on.

Frustrated with using the program herself, my client was stunned by the number of public complaints and negative rants. Stepping back to reconsider, she finally said, “Let’s change our parameters. Let’s research if WordPress integrates with a similar program, one without the bad reputation.” Once she returned to her office, she would put my project to develop a proposal to stop using this very costly program for her university and transition the school to a better program.

All because of an unrelated simple keyword search, ABC would lose over a hundred thousand dollars a year from this university now convinced that this isn’t the way to go.

While this huge economic decision was influenced by search engine results, results which may not truly reflect the quality and integrity of the program, online reputations are made and broken by what people uncover through their searches. Are you paying attention to your online reputation for your blog, business, and life?
[Read more…]

How Do You Know If Your Blog is Banned or Blocked?


bannedIn Has Your Blog Been Banned or Blocked?, I asked if your blog has been blocked or banned and how you found out, and what you did about it, if you could do anything. I recently published How to Access Banned Blogs in response to blogs being blocked and recent problems I’ve had trying to access my blogs and Gmail from various hotels and corporate WIFI firewalled networks.

From the stories people have shared, blocks and bans can happen from a variety of sources, not just from within a country. Blocks are in place within businesses, libraries, educational institutions, hotels, and even Internet cafes.

When a friend asked me how would she know if her blog was blocked from any potential readers, I thought it was a question worth investigating. How do you know if your blog is blocked or banned?
[Read more…]