Page last updated at 09:35 GMT, Thursday, 18 June 2009 10:35 UK

Bloggers' views on anonymity

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Bloggers are commenting on a court ruling which has implications for their anonymity. A serving detective whose award-winning anonymous blog carried criticisms of government ministers and police bureaucracy lost his High Court plea that his anonymity be preserved "in the public interest".

Det Con Richard Horton from Lancashire Constabulary asked for an injunction against the Times journalist Patrick Foster from publishing the true identity of his 'Night Jack' blog. Patrick Foster explained in the Times how and why he tracked Horton down. Also in the Times, Richard Horton stated why he decided to start a blog.

Bloggers have been speculating on what the case means for honesty, whistle-blowing and whether anonymity should be a right.

Blogger Alix Mortimer thinks that anonymity allowed greater understanding:

…the blogosphere allowed us all to make that connection with each other, and grope towards an understanding of how our public services have got to where they are...And all this could be achieved, via the anonymity of cyberspace, without anyone risking their jobs, or the censure of their colleagues.
And now a newspaper has ruined the career of one of them. Because they want a good headline, and probably because they're jealous of his audience reach and of the unstoppable advance of new media in general.

Blogger Eeideard says anonymity allowed people to be honest:

Like most bloggers, I disagree with the Judge's decision. The quality of anonymity is what draws many to speaking out, identifying and discussing what they feel needs examination within their nation and society.
This decision lays a blanket of suffocating bureaucratic oversight on the process.

Blogger Macranger says anonymity is nothing new:

For years authors of books, and even plays have written under anonymous names for varied reasons and no one complained. Yet in the age when the public conversation has become so intense it's a matter of time before the unmasking begins.

The Heresiarch blog urges bloggers to remember it can be quite easy to be traced:

From a blogging point of view, this is rather disturbing. It's all too easy to be lulled by the anonymity of the web and the intimacy of the keyboard. But of course, this is far from being the first time that a prominent blogger has found their anonymity prised unwillingly from their grasp…Exposure is an occupational hazard of which all bloggers should be aware. If you give out personal or professional details on a blog that are available elsewhere - however obscurely - then in principle you can be found; and you find that possibility impossible to live with then either say nothing at all about yourself or quit blogging if you become too popular.

Political blogger Iain Dale predicts there may be implications for internet service providers:

But this ruling may also have implications for blog commenters who publish their comments anonymously. In theory, ISPs might in future be under an obligation to reveal their identities if required to do so as part of a legal case.

Michael Vass from the All American blog says this judgement will have implications for bloggers across the world:

Around the world, there are plenty of hardcore political blogs published under writers' real names that will carry on as usual, but there are also tens of thousands of other blogs, on subjects as vast and varied as sex, finance, police brutality, anarchy, the questioning of history, tech, the movie industry, the music industry (what's left of it) that will now either disappear, or will tone themselves down in fear of the day the writers real identities are exposed in a court.

In her blog, I Work In a Shop, Eva Stalker says she's only using her real name because she's in a position to do so:

I don't blog anonymously, but then I don't have anything vital and controversial to say about the politics of policing and justice.

John Cook in Gawker says there is no reason people should have the right to anonymity:

But the notion that anonymous publishers have a right, in perpetuity, to keep their identities a secret—or that people who learn their identities are honor-bound not to reveal them—is nonsense. ..Horton risked the ire of his employers, not to mention the victims and their relatives involved in the cases he discussed...But the cushiness of the arrangements they've made in no way obligate the rest of us not to topple them if we think there's a good reason…The Times clearly thought there was public interest in who was behind Night Jack.


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SEE ALSO
No more action over police blog
17 Jun 09 |  Lancashire
Night Jack
05 May 09 |  Newsnight Review

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