Tag Archives: defamation

Do something now: help change the daft defamation law on online publishing

Forget about turning your Twitter avatar green or adding a Twibbon, here’s something you can do today which can make a genuine difference to both professional journalists and bloggers: write to the Ministry of Justice as part of their consultation on defamation which has just a few weeks left:

“This consultation seeks views on the ‘multiple publication rule’ under which [people can be sued for every time a web article has been  accessed], and its effects in relation to online archives. The paper considers the arguments for and against the rule and the alternatives of a single publication rule.”

This consultation couldn’t have been published in a more user-unfriendly way. The consultation page consists mainly of a link to a PDF and a Word document (which was clearly written for an online form that was never created, even down to HTML coding).

There is no clear address to send your responses to. You’ll find it on the 4th line of the Word document. It’s defamationandtheinternet@justice.gsi.gov.uk. Don’t worry, I’ll repeat that again at the end of the post.

UPDATE: RightToReply.org have published the consultation in their trademark easy-to-respond form here.

Here’s what they’re asking (also hereherehereherehere and here), reproduced in a rather easier-to-navigate format and rephrased for slightly easier reading: Continue reading

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In Defence of Principled Anonymous Blogging

(This article has been developed from a comment I left on Nick Baines’ blog, where there was a good debate about the rights and wrongs of anonymous blogging.)

Good Reasons for pseudonymous blogging

I think the right of bloggers to post anonymously/pseudonymously is important, for a number of reasons, but I like the term coined by Nick – “principled anonymous blogging”. Some bloggers have good reasons to conceal their identity, and that should be respected. Here are a few justifiable reasons for bloggers to use a pseudonym:

1 – Physical Danger

For many people, to deny them anonymity is to deny them a voice or put them in physical danger. Consider refugees or campaigners from abroad. What about victims of domestic violence – why should they not be able to speak in public without fear?

2 – Over-heavy restrictions imposed by employers

In this country, we see bloggers sacked If a blogger defames their employer or violates a reasonable contract, then I have no problem with sanctions being taken.

However, in the UK we do not have the balance right yet between freedom of expression, and the right of employers to restrict employees’ actions outside the workplace. This question is tied up with the need to create rational British (and particularly English) laws guaranteeing a right to express an opinion.

3 – Widening political participation

At a time when renewal/broadening of our political process to help individuals participate is perhaps the single most important challenge we face, we should not frighten people away from expressing their views publicly.

A good number of established bloggers have started out without revealing their identity, including me. In my case, I needed to distance my political commentary from a short-term contract in a workplace which required political neutrality. This was one of the coincidental reasons why I have ended up editing a non-partisan blog.

4 – Fear

There are many, many, examples of posts that would not have happened if not made anonymously. One example was the “Dave Walker reposts” here, which were part of a blog campaign starting in summer 2008. Much of the reporting of that saga – some by insiders whose jobs were at risk – would not have happened without anonymity; many people had been subjected to extended bullying at work, and were *frightened*.

Stick to one pseudonym

To me the key point about acceptable anonymous/pseudonymous blogging is that it be done with a consistent identity, so that debate is transparent.

There is an argument that different pseudonyms are acceptable in each niche or community where a person participates; I’m not commenting on the detail of that question here.

Pseudonyms in the wider media

If we are going to question blogging anyonymity, then we have to come up with a set of criteria which we also apply to pseudonyms used elsewhere and far before blogs even existed.

Newspaper diary columns, and writers in general, have used pen-names (or maiden names), for centuries. This is often ignored.

Online anonymity isn’t usually anonymous

In practice, most websites and online companies will divulge identities when faced with a demand from a Court of Law, as has been seen in recent Court Cases.

There are very few publishers in the UK who would conceal the identity of an abusive author. However, a whistleblower would be in a diifferent category.

Wrapping Up

My (obvious) conclusion is that it is not “anonymity” which is the problem, but rather “the abuse of anonymity”; the latter is where our laws should focus.

TV station forces blogger to withdraw criticism of its coverage

Statement on Chetan Kunte's blog

Statement on Chetan Kunte

Here’s a clever move:

Lesson to news organisations: your viewers are your distributors now. Suing them is not good management. Nor is it good for freedom of speech – something you might find useful yourselves in the future.