Jimbo Wales to lead development of 'code of conduct' for bloggers

Monday, April 9, 2007

This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Correction — April 14, 2007
This article earlier reported that the code of conduct also applied to the Wikimedia Foundation. This statement is unsubstantiated and has therefore been removed.
Jimmy Wales at the Wikimania, Frankfurt, August 2005.

Jimbo Wales is teaming up with book publisher Tim O'Reilly to create a "code of conduct" for bloggers.

The code is expected to address issues of free speech and the practice of allowing mean-spirited comments made by users to remain in the blogosphere. It will also address a perceived need to delete posted comments, particularly those by anonymous users, that are at odds with the code of conduct. Under consideration is the question of whether it is an admissible action in a public forum to delete a comment if it meets one of several objectionable reasons for removing it.

"That is one of the mistakes a lot of people make, believing that uncensored speech is the most free when in fact, managed civil dialogue is actually the freer speech," said O'Reilly.

Some of the proposed rules of the code, as it is being discussed, might include:

  • We are committed to the "Civility Enforced" standard: we will not post unacceptable content, and we'll delete comments that contain it.
  • We define unacceptable content as anything included or linked to that:
  • - is being used to abuse, harass, stalk, or threaten others
  • - is libelous, knowingly false, ad-hominem, or misrepresents another person,
  • - infringes upon a copyright or trademark
  • - violates an obligation of confidentiality
  • - violates the privacy of others

The code is a draft proposal undergoing development at Wikia, a privately held web hosting company founded by Wales and Angela Beesley.

"If it's a carefully constructed set of principles, it could carry a lot of weight even if not everyone agrees," said Wales.

The reception of the code is mixed, but there are many bloggers who feel that such a code of conduct would reduce the effects of unpleasant or malicious speech. "I’ve been assaulted and harassed online for four years," Richard Silverstein of richardsilverstein.com said. "Most of it I can take in stride. But you just never get used to that level of hatred."