The current topic of discussion is ethics in blogging.
So… now we get into the heavy stuff.
A lot of ethics can be summed up by Wheaton’s Law, which I also borrowed for my comment policy: don’t be a dick.
Overall I try to follow these common sense kind of things. I link back to the host website for blogger events such as Armchair BEA and weekly memes, or if another blogger’s post directly inspires one of my own (I don’t think that’s happened yet here, but I’ve done that in the past on other blogs). When I grab images from the internet to spruce up a text-heavy post, I use images under a creative commons license, I credit and link back to the original image, and I don’t steal bandwidth by hotlinking. And I’ve never tried to pass off another’s writing as my own.
Where it gets a little trickier, at least in my mind, is getting into FTC guidelines… which to be honest I don’t completely understand. What I have been able to pick up from the chatter recently is that all of these guidelines apply to bloggers who actually get ARCs or other goodies in exchange for their reviews. I don’t know that NetGalley ARCs really count — they expire after a couple months, so all I’m really getting is the opportunity to read the book, not a physical item or even a digital item that I get to keep. Still, I do make it pretty obvious when I’m reviewing a NetGalley book.
Even trickier than the FTC (although perhaps with not as serious consequences for messing up) is simply blogger honesty. Yes, I can disclose that I received a free ARC, and I can say that I didn’t promise a positive review in exchange for that book… but there’s really no way of knowing if my review is unbiassed. It’s not like there are physiological sensors in my keyboard acting as a lie detector (although wouldn’t that revolutionize the internet?!). All you have is my word. And I don’t think that most bloggers would intentionally deceive their readers, but could they be unknowingly deceiving themselves? After all, so many factors can influence how much I liked a book, and if I know I spent my hard-earned money on it, or if I got something free from the publisher… that might, even subconsciously, have a small effect on my response. Which is yet another reason why I like getting most of my books from the library; there’s no possible question of bias.
Or is there?
There are really all sorts of things that could, in the eyes of certain people, be viewed as shady. Maybe this blogger reviewed a popular book just to get page views? Maybe that blogger gave a more favorable review because she wants her readers to buy the book through her affiliate link.
The best that any of us can do is try our best to stay honest, both to our readers and to ourselves.
What are your thoughts on some of these ethical issues? Do ethical concerns affect your behavior, either as a blogger or a reader?