Thursday, April 2, 2009
Privacy Expectations of Bloggers: “Outing" a Blogger’s Identity....
A Blogger from Alaska named "The Mudflats Muckraker" has been embroiled in a little "Identity Outing" incident. The Blogging community, part of it at least, is up-in-arms.
One of my pet peeves is when a private citizen claims to "know" things that "others" may not have access to, intimating the access is special and privileged, and yet expects those "others" to refrain from inquiring as to their qualifications; especially if the information these people claim to have access to and are propagating is false, misleading and libelous.
There IS a Constitutional right to anonymity; but it's a little fuzzy when the anonymous party is spreading lies. There is also no law that says you can't out someone on the net, unless you obtain the information regarding their identity by illegal means. If you already know who "Joe" is, you can shout it from the virtual roof-top. And evidently there is no law against "guessing" bloggers identities.
I think there is a larger question here. The Internet is full of "experts" who really aren't. And those "experts" are often crossing the line of "opinion" and approaching the line of "libel". Some are running right up to that libel line and stopping, others are continually sticking their toes of ignorance over that line.
Bloggers are not journalists protecting a “source” and needing a "shield law". Blogging is not “reporting”; no matter how many Bloggers pretend they are reporters.
(Is "muckraking" reporting? I'm not sure. Look at the scumbag National Enquirer -- they have broken quite a few big political stories -- see the John Edwards' love-child fiasco.)
When a Blogger - and many do - crosses the line from opinion to stating supposed fact based on claims of privileged information, the reality is that the Blogger has lost any expectation of keeping their identity secret.
IMNSHO, if you claim special access, privilege and expertise not available to the general public, expect to get outed. If you go after somebody -- this is teh internetz, remember -- especially if you claim insider information, you should expect them to fire back. Don't get all uptight and offended when they call you out. Expect it.
If you cross the line from Opining to Muckraking (especially if your screen name is "Muckraker") or Reporting, don't count on your target to sit still and do nothing.
PS - I posted the same questions on the "Muckraker" blog and was banned almost immediately; going to show us that double-standards are quadrupled at least half the time, AND that the supposed offended party (or her surrogate) is just as guilty as the person who "outed" her.
If "There are no wrong questions, just wrong answers", Muckraker, and despite the screen name, and playing both the game and the innocent victim, gave the wrong answer.