Wednesday, 17 June 2009

No anonymity for bloggers

A short break from reading the World Editors' Forum's Trends in Newsrooms report (of which more anon) to consider a hot question. Should you be allowed to remain anonymous when you're making critical remarks about your employer and your professional life on your blog? The answer is no, says Mr Justice Eady. In a landmark case, which will have implications for bloggers everywhere, the judge refused to grant an injunction protecting the anonymity of the author of the Night Jack blog, ruling that the Times could reveal the name of author Detective Constable Richard Horton.

This is a contentious decision. The only way we know what is going on in tax-payer funded services like the police is sometimes via employees brave enough to speak out under the cloak of anonymity (because revealing their identity and criticising openly could mean the sack). It's not quite clear to me why the Times thought it was important to reveal Horton's name - is this not a bit close to revealing your sources (albeit an indirect source)? Will this ruling mean a further reduction in the already shaky trust many people have in journalists?

But even if you write under a pseudonym, as many bloggers do, blogging is a public act. As soon as you go online, you're trackable. If your blog doesn't give you away, your Facebook will. This is the power of the internet. And this ruling shows that the courts aren't going to protect you if you're outed.

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