Is The Right To Anonymous Blogging Under Threat?

The UK government has just published a draft Joint Parliamentary Committee report that may well effect bloggers like you and me. The bill is about defamation of character, but it includes some interesting points about blogging, and in particular anonymous posts. Although their aim is to lift the burden of policing blog comment from the service providers, it may have a knock on quasi censorship effect upon freedom of speech.

The ISP Review website contains all the links you need to read the proposal, and I should state that the draft is open for comment and contains specific questions that we should all maybe take time to think about and answer.

Big Brother is Watching You - PosterThe government want to protect people from slanderous remarks on blogs, as many people uses anonymity as a cover, feeling that they can say whatever they want without fear of reprise. The proposal is that any anonymous post that receives a complaint from any party must be removed immediately, or the name of the author made public, otherwise the blog owner will be held responsible and face the consequences of any libel case.

All well and good if we are just talking about a few snide remarks or even a good and possibly unjustified slagging off, but what about other uses of anonymity? People use blogs to anonymously blow the whistle on malpractice in all types of situation. In this case anyone can make a complaint about an anonymous post and it must be removed. An arbitrator looks at the complaint, but as already noted, any libel remains the responsibility of the blog owner unless they are willing and able to provide the author’s name. The effect will be that any organization or individual will be able to block the comment in an instant, by making a complaint that we could read as a direct threat to the blog owners survival.

The new draft on libel is a prime example of the manipulation of responsibility. Do you make the providers responsible and threaten them with a law suit because they put something online that someone takes exception to? They are big organizations, faceless and have money.  The blog owners do not however, and have a lot to lose.

So what about allowing your contributors to post anonymously? There is a need for anonymity in certain cases, people are much more likely to talk about sensitive issues if they do not have to reveal their names. There have been many cases brought to light that have turned out to be true examples of poor standards through anonymous posts.

How many blog owners will take the risk of going through a lengthy and expensive court case to defend the contents of an anonymous post? This is an option that in most cases I would think is not even feasible to contemplate.

To add just another thought, on occasion I have created a ‘false’ e mail account in order to register for a site that I did not want to have my real e mail address. I could have then used it to register with a website to get access to commenting, so it may well also be very difficult to determine who a named author actually is, further adding complications to already murky waters.

19 thoughts on “Is The Right To Anonymous Blogging Under Threat?

  1. I think it is very much a sign of the times and was probably inevitable as the internet comes of age.

    I am always particularly careful in terms of how I phrase anything online and have assumed for some time that nothing on the internet is really anonymous these days (especially when you put a link to your website into a comment) given the sophistication of IP address tracking etc.

  2. I think the new law will somehow limit the freedom of bloggers and i am not happy about it at all. I don’t think it will benefit in any way to set up such laws. It won’t bring any good. Internet needs anonymity in some cases, but at the same time we should control the cases of vulgarity and offence.

    • At this point it is only a draft for review containing a series of yes or no responses that allow feedback. I don’t know if anyone will make the case for the necessity of anonymity though.

  3. I don’t think it will benefit in any way to set up such laws. It won’t bring any good. Internet needs anonymity in some cases, but at the same time we should control the cases of vulgarity and offense.

    • Christopher (admin team)

      That is an interesting point you raise, do we need online anonymity, or should people show themselves as they really are?

      Thanks for the comment, welcome to the community 🙂
      Christopher – Admin Team

      • There was a case here in the US where a group of women set up a blog to discuss their perceived mistreatment during child birth at hospital. It was kept anonymous as people are much more likely to speak about these things if they do not have to give their names. Several things came up that were investigated and deemed fair complaints and disciplinary action taken. Under the proposed UK law it would have been easy to silence their voices.

  4. I raised my eyebrows upon reading about the propose law. Obviously I am not in favor of such law to be implemented through the internet. Such law can not solve the cases of anonymity because people will and can find a way to hide their real identity just like what you’ve said on using different email addresses.

    • anonymity will continue until someone posts a comment that someone else does not like, it will then have to be removed whether it is justified or not. Quality comments present no problem, but criticism does.

  5. As the online blogger community is at its all time high and will only increase in the future, the idea of anonymous blogging will soon meet its inevitable end.
    An anonymous person has something to hide, which makes others a little uncomfortable.
    To make everyone feel safe, there will be better verification techniques, more interaction and who knows, maybe audio blogging will be introduced in the future.

    • It will be interesting to see how blogging evolves, and better verification techniques can only be a good thing, but I do think that there are cases when not having to identify yourself leads to more openness. The police take anonymous tip offs because they know the advantages.

  6. I understand that our governments want to (allegedly) safeguard people by trying to enact laws and regulations about the internet and blogging, I’m sure you’re familiar with the SOPA and Protect IP laws that some politicians are trying to put into effect. Luckily so many people are outraged I think (I hope) it does not go pass. I feel (as do many people in the US) that this would be a HUGE infringement on our rights.

    • It is the old argument of internet good internet bad at stake here. Good for democracy (sometimes if we think about the events in the Arab world) but bad for big business (think about complaints from the music and film industries etc). The government will try to legislate, because legislate is all they can do, and infringing human rights (as determined by non lawyers) does not seem to present any problem nowadays (my interpretation of course).

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