On Anonymous Bloggers (2)

There was a big hoo-ha a while a go when Fatih raised an old issue about anonymous blogging. He particularly dislikes those who blog anonymously on sensitive issues, like politics or religions, and suspect that they have hidden agendas. Fatih’s post generated ripostes and comments from expats in Indonesia.

Unspun, stands firmly behind Fatih, showed how bad anonymous blogger can be, by clipping an article from The New York Times about a suicide of an advertising agency’s creative director in Chicago, allegedly after couldn’t handle the harsh criticism from AgencySpy and AdScam, two blogs written by advertising industry insiders.

clipped from www.nytimes.com

Visitors to AgencySpy and AdScam, two sharp-tongued blogs written by advertising industry insiders, posted comments blaming the sites for contributing to the suicide late last month of Paul Tilley, 40, the creative director of DDB Chicago.

In so doing, bloggers and their readers added another chapter in a long debate about how, or whether, to manage anonymous posts that seem aimed at shredding a person’s reputation. “We’re certainly used to criticism in the agency business,” said Nina DiSesa, chairwoman of McCann Erickson Worldwide’s New York division, who posted comments on AgencySpy.com in defense of Mr. Tilley, whom she called a friend. “But when blogs attack someone personally, without justification, and they do it anonymously, it’s just wrong.”

blog it

Mr. Tilley’s death wasn’t the first cyberbully case. In 2006 Megan Meier, 13-year-old Missouri girl, took her life after being the target of insults on MySpace.

Both Tilley and Meier suffered from cyberbully who are anonymous and faceless perpetually. On this case, they became individual targets from people surround them: Tilley was critised by advertising industry insiders, and Meier was bullied by her peers. Imagine that they knew who those people were but couldn’t pinpoint exactly who their friends or their nemesis, they spent days looking at the people who smiled at them and wondered whether this person was the one who sent acidic anonymous posts and insulted them. Being publicly humiliated and feeling that their reputations had been tarnished forever (especially because they did not know how to restore them – by answering all negative posts? suing the anonymous blogger? it must be like shooting the blanks in the dark), they must feel that life is unbearable.

On the different side of the blogosphere, the UK Government now is trying to finding the true identity of an anonymous blogger called The Civil Serf, who was exposing the “pointless and doomed” world of the Civil Service. The blogger, claims to be a 33-year-old fast stream civil servant, writes of the daily chaos of the Labour government machine while lampooning ministers and highlighting the idiocy of mandarin colleagues. There are also moans about drunken advances from the opposite sex. The blog has not been authenticated, but the Whitehall insiders believe it is credible. But as civil servants are expected to abide by the civil service code of conduct, discretion is one of them, if the Civil Serf is caught, she might be fired. Her blog is already removed when I tried to visit it yesterday, the same day when the story was leaked to public.

The Civil Serf is not the only anonymous blogger who is facing the consequence of what she has exposed on her blog. Catherine Sanderson was sacked by her employers after they worked out that she was the author of Petite Anglaise, a blog documenting her experiences as an unmarried mother and as British expat in France. However, even though she lost her job, she signed a book deal and has published a book under the same title, and she was interviewed by BBC last week, so she is not doing bad at all. Perhaps this is what the Civil Serf hoping?

Both Sanderson and the Civil Serf are not that lucky (depends on from which side you are looking at) to remain anonymous forever. They targeted their employers (although Sanderson – on her BBC interview – claimed that she only wrote about several individuals under pseudonyms in the office who were behaving badly, like being drunk in office parties, and did not critise her employers), which in turn, with all the power and money they have, take necessary action to restore their corporate images, or silence the critics.

In my previous post I said that I don’t really care whether the blogger is anonymous or not. Being a responsible one is more important. I don’t respect vicious attacks without justification that seem aimed at shredding a person’s reputation. And I think it is silly to bite the hand that feeds you. Some people argue that since The Civil Serf works for public sector, she was actually doing a service in a way because she was letting her employers, that would be us, know about what goes on inside the bureaucracy. But I don’t see how she was doing a good deed by moaning how she was “trapped in a conference in Brighton being chased about by some bloke from the Foreign Office who wouldn’t listen to me saying I’m engaged – yuk!”.

As Kipling said, words are the most powerful drug used by mankind. We should use them responsibly.

Further reading: On Anonymous Blogger.

 

Comments

  1. It’s just words on the Internet. It’s no different to what people say in pubs about their employers or experiences all the time. You don’t suddenly stop and think ‘oooh a I being responsible’ when you tell someone that the CEO is playing away with his secretary. The Internet is just a cacophony of noise. Sometimes you hear things, sometimes you don’t. Tough.

  2. Indeed Anita, being responsible is more important. Though is just words on the internet, they can have powerful impact to individual or organizations. Free speech is protected, but not libel and defamation.

  3. Finally Woken says:

    @Dizzy: as I quoted Kipling that words are the most powerful drug used by mankind, if the victim is someone personally, it can lead to death, as Mr. Tilley and the teenager Meier.

    But if the victim is corporation or government, then the anonymous bloggers’ life can be at stake.

    So it’s not just words. We are not journalists (although some journalists do blogging) where they have editors to screen, re-check, and edit their writings. We only live by netiquette but we should be responsible of what we write because believe it or not, it has impact on people.

  4. aroengbinang says:

    back to the intention and honesty of the person, regardless whether it’s anonymous or onymous.
    yes, the way they are communicated, the words minus the body language in this type of media, are sometimes as important as the message itself.
    just like in war, that it’s wonderful to conquer a city without inflicting any casualties and damages, it’s also wonderful to get the message transmitted and taken without hurting anybody.

  5. Jakartass says:

    None of us are truly anonymous, given that the technology we use to transmit our thoughts can track us down.

    However, it would be presumptuous of me to assume that I know Anita Carmencita better than she knows me, Jakartass.

    We’ve never met, although we nearly did and I suspect would get on quite well.

    My online persona has stood me in good stead, has given me a voice which has lead to a well-received book .

    I have already left a comment elsewhere pointing out that the use of pseudonyms (pen names) is an honourable tradition. It’s no big deal, except in the Indonesian blogosphere which seems to value celebrity above content, skin versus substance.

    Shame that.

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