Blog censorship gains support

Survey finds most Americans believe bloggers should not be allowed to publish sensitive information about individuals.

Most Americans believe bloggers should not be allowed to publish sensitive personal information about individuals, according to a new survey.

Web hosting company Hostway this week released the results of its poll of 2,500 Americans on blogging. Eighty percent of respondents did not believe that bloggers should be allowed to publish home addresses and other personal information about private citizens.

A further 72 percent favored censorship of personal information about celebrities, and 68 percent, information about elected or appointed government officials such as judges or mayors.

However, more than one-third of respondents had never heard of blogs before participating in the survey, and only around 30 percent of participants had actually visited a blog themselves.

While Americans were concerned about free speech, the survey revealed more moderate attitudes when it compared bloggers to journalists.

Fifty-two percent of those surveyed said bloggers should have the same rights as traditional journalists, while 27 percent did not express an opinion. Free speech rights are protected under the first amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights, which says Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.

Despite the fact most respondents classed bloggers in the same category as journalists when it came to free speech, the survey revealed bloggers are not taken as seriously as traditional media. For example, 39 percent said they found blogs less credible than newspaper articles, although an additional 32 percent said they either did not know or had no opinion.

The survey also tapped into patterns of blog usage, revealing most people used blogs to obtain information about politics or current events. This news may not come as a surprise to U.S. political bloggers, who recently mobilized against a move by the country's Federal Election Commission that would have imposed harsh rules on the blogging community.

The FEC is in the process of extending campaign finance rules to the Internet--a process that involves, among other things, deciding if bloggers qualify as journalists.

Opinions were split on official company blogs, which have been in the news due to the high-profile sacking of Google employee Mark Jen, who claimed he was fired for blogging about the company just 11 days after he started working there.

In contrast to Google, many prominent companies officially support the blogging efforts of their employees. Sun Microsystems and Microsoft in particular are noted for their company blogs. While a majority of survey respondents agreed it was acceptable for a company to censor what appeared in the blogs of its employees, almost half said it wasn't acceptable to fire a worker for a controversial posting. And only a quarter of respondents supported the company's right to do so.

Renai LeMay of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.

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