If It's Newsworthy, Should A Website Reveal A Previously Pseudononymous Poster?
from the ethical-dilemma dept
Still this raises a bunch of questions that lots of sites struggle with. We've often wondered about it ourselves, as there are times when it's obvious who a commenter is -- and even here on Techdirt we've had high level execs pseudononymously comment (while doing little to hide their real identity) -- even at times about issues they were involved in. And, to some extent, those situations seem newsworthy -- though not everyone would agree. Along those lines, we've sometimes pointed out that two commenters may be the same person, though never revealing who they actually are in real life. But, again, does that reach an ethical standard? Of course, a few months ago, there were similar concerns when the online editor at StlToday.com called the boss of a commenter, leading the commenter to resign. But that was purely vindictive, and of no journalistic significance.
It's easy to just say that no publication should ever reveal such info -- but if it has journalistic value, and the commenter has done little to hide their actual identity, it certainly reaches a gray area. I can see the arguments on both sides of this issue. In the end, I don't think it's a good idea to "out" commenters' true identities, but if there is journalistic value in the information, rather than just doing it out of spite or anger, I don't think it's as clear cut as some are making it out to be.