I went to Steven Taylor's brown bag symposium on blogging on Wednesday. Though the event itself was interesting, as usual the good stuff came after.
Dr. Taylor, Scott Gosnell (of Pro's and Con's, and the recently-outed Knight's Blog) and I went for lunch. It was particularly welcome for me, because I had previously known Gosnell only as a philogram. Naturally, much of the conversation was about blogging and gossiping about blogs and other bloggers.
[Let me just say, as an aside, that if you use the word "blog" too frequently in a sentence, it looks asinine, regardless of the content.
Anyway, I mentioned that I had wanted to ask about the ethics of linking and comments, which led to a pretty interesting discussion of all that. I've previously written about the ethics of "open threads," which turns out to have been irrelevant since I receive all sorts of comments, but rarely in open threads.]
How much culpability does a blogger have for the content of the sites on his blogroll? We all seemed to agree that the culpability is limited, since we all link to sites that have content with which we disagree. Sometimes the sites are excessively profane, or act as occasional fora for hateful ideas, or are theologically questionable. For example, linking to my own site I have Jewish blogs, evangelical blogs, Catholic blogs, and witchcraft blogs. They can't all be "endorsing" my religious writings per se (which are mostly about esoteric things like the nature of the Fall).
On the other hand, we can't say we have no culpability. For example, what if I blogrolled a porn site? Wouldn't that link imply endorsement? To give a slightly different example, I once started to write an entry about David Duke's website (which I will not link to here). I eventually abandoned the entry because it ended up being more of a facile screed against European anti-Semitism, but what if I had linked to the site? Even though I am denigrating the site, that act of linking raises its profile through search engines.
It's going to take a lot more thought on my part, but I think I need to develop ethic guidelines for linking. Some sites with which I have reciprical links might have to be removed from my blogroll ... or maybe I'll leave them all in.
Anyway, I would like to invite comment from other bloggers on how they view the issue of the ethics of linking.