Bloggers shouldn’t have a right to anonymity

By June 17, 2009Blogging, Privacy

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A UK court ruled yesterday that The Times newspaper has the right to name Richard Horton as the (until now anonymous) author of the Night Jack blog about policing in the UK (the blog was here, but the content has been deleted).

The ruling has been covered in the FT and on Gawker (where they also comment on a similar recent case in the US).

I know a lot of people will be upset by this development, but I welcome it.  Blogs are a public medium and if someone wants to say something in public they should be prepared to stand up and be counted.

This is, of course, a complex issue and we will doubtless lose some valuable social and political commentary as a result of this ruling (not least the Night Jack blog), but for me that sacrifice is worth making to protect society from people hiding behind anonymity for more nefarious purposes.  In particular I’m thinking of slander, libel and unsubstantiated claims against public figures and companies.

They put it this way on Gawker:

nobody ought to have a right or privilege to publish whatever they please without the consequences of their ideas redounding to them

  • nobody ought to have a right or privilege to publish whatever they please without the consequences of their ideas redounding to them

    >> They don't have our libel laws in the US though. Fix those, and I might agree with the sentiment.

  • Anonymous bloggers are just like traditional media journalists who write under an asudonym, or anyonymous letters into a newspaper. They should have no rights that are greater than the protections that exist for the rest of us: if they write something that makes them an interest to the public, then there is no reason why they should expect to be legally 'above' anyone else who might get exposed by the press… e.g. a lottery winner who doesnt wish his name to be printed

  • Nicely put Jamie

  • I believe that anonymity should remain. For every one that slanders, there is another one speaking up against oppression. For all unsubstantiated claims, there would be one substantiated one. I am not saying that anonymity does more good than bad, but I am just saying that it would be essential to those that fear repercussions for their lives or family.

    See Iran and the citizen journalism on twitter that happened after the country imposed a media blackout. I’m sure that was done in anonymity.

  • JPLconnolly

    The removal of the right to anonymity for bloggers raises the question of personal liability for the actions of all 'digital personas'. How does one draw the line between the comments of a character in Second Life versus the musing of a nom-de-plume on a blog? Should the real world identity of all virtual world identities be publicly available, and if not, what legal basis would there be for the differentiation.

  • Hmmm – a difficult question, but I guess if you say something in SL that damages someone you should be held to account.

  • The point is that *no-one* has a default 'right to anonymity' legally speaking – so imho this is not about the 'removal' of an existing right, it is about whether -as an individual (never mind a blogger)- you can expect a court to grant you the priviledge to be anonymous in an exceptional circumstance, and what consitutes that kind of circumstance. In this case bloggers rightly have been shown to be not above the law when it comes to deciding what is in the public interest and what's not. In this case the identity of the blogger was patently in the public interest. I cannot see any reason why bloggers should expect preferential treatment over the rest of us.

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