UK Court Says No Right To Being An Anonymous Blogger
from the wow dept
In this particular case, the anonymous blogger was a working police officer, writing about daily experiences, and often taking strong opinions that could potentially get him in trouble. Now, some of us would think this is exactly why his anonymity should be protected, but the judge seemed to interpret it in the opposite way:
Mr Justice Eady said the blog contained opinions on a number of social and political issues relating to the police and the administration of justice.This is troubling for any number of circumstances, especially in that it will certainly present quite a chill on people speaking out freely and anonymously on supposed problems within their workplaces. That seems a lot more dangerous and troubling than allowing this guy to speak anonymously, where readers were free to weigh the legitimacy of the information knowing the guy wasn't posting under his real name. Of course, it will come as no surprise that, now that the blogger has been identified, he's been disciplined by the police force. So much for encouraging any sort of public discussion.
He added Night Jack had expressed strong opinions on matters of political controversy and had also criticised a number of ministers.
The judge said the blogger risked disciplinary action if his employers found out one of its officers was communicating to the public in such a way....
Rejecting the argument that all the blogger's readers needed to know was that he was a serving police officer, the judge said that it was often useful, in assessing the value of an opinion or argument, to know its source.
"For so long as there is anonymity, it would obviously be difficult to make any such assessment.
"More generally, when making a judgment as to the value of comments made about police affairs by 'insiders', it may sometimes help to know how experienced or senior the commentator is."
Update: Lots of good points in the comments that weren't entirely clear in the original article. The specific details in this case were somewhat different, which changes the story significantly. The blogger in question had actually been identified by a reporter, and had asked for an injunction against that reporter revealing who they were. Under those circumstances, we actually have to agree that there's no right to demand anonymity if you've been outed through other means. There should be a right against the gov't forcing you out, but having individuals figure out who you are is an entirely different matter.