There is a very interesting story in the New York Times about the alleged bombing plot; it’s been linked to lots, including by Bruce Schneier – it is available here. Well, except if you’re based in the UK. The NYT are using something like GeoIP to track requests and filtering out pageviews from the United Kingdom as the material contained within the article may prejudice the upcoming trial of the suspects who have so far been charged. It’s certainly an interesting article, and can be found through various ways (anonymising proxies, for example, or by finding a website that is syndicating the content without a location filter).
Now I could share this with the rest of you and post direct links to the material, or even reproduce it here, but it would certainly raise thorny issues, morally and legally; I could theoretically be liable for a contempt of court charge, if it were deemed likely that it would reach a potential juror and influence them; the NYT’s lawyers certainly thought it a possibility with them, and it could well be with some of the bigger blogs. And of course it’s not just I who faces this issue but every other blogger out there, and it’s not just this case but many others too. In the past, where media outlets were large and few in number this is not an issue but in the internet and blogging age it becomes hard to track infringements and even harder to prove it might prejudice a trial.
This is the sort of stick with which the mainstream media love to beat the blogosphere with; to at least allay some of these fears, some sort of self-regulation would be an important first line of defence against making sure such slips do not occur. I’m not the only blogger to realise this of course, and there have been a few attempts to produce some sort of blogging code of conduct, but as you’d expect, there are a variety of standards, and there does not seem to me to be much of a collective effort to adhere to a common standard. What’s needed is some sort of minimum set of principles we could all agree on; given how much freedom of speech has been vigorously defended in the UK blogosphere lately, I’m sure the respect for a fair trial can also be appreciated. Some sort of simple hallmark of quality to blog by, with a pleasing little “FairBlog” logo you can easily slap on to your sidebar, to mark yourself as an ethical blogger, would be beneficial; given a large enough take-up, it perhaps would help in improving blogs’ low standing in the public’s trust at the moment. Anyone else agree?