We've been discussing lately the importance of allowing for pseudonymity
, rather than requiring real names, and Todd McDermid
points us to another reason why pseudonyms can be useful online. Apparently a guy named Rene Najera has been blogging and tweeting about epidemiology
while at the same time being employed by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Apparently, he was quite good at it, and many folks found his posts and tweets to be useful and informative.
However, he recently got into a Twitter discussion in which he defended vaccinations. I recognize this is a touchy subject to some, but only to those who don't pay attention to what the science actually says (or those who ignore that the main report anti-vaccination folks use was later found to be fraudulent
). Given the serious health problems created by parents now refusing to vaccinate their children due to clueless anti-scientific fear-mongering, you would think that a government Department of Health would be thrilled
that one of its employees was defending vaccinations and talking back to someone who was arguing against vaccines.
Instead, however, it appears that after the guy he was arguing with sent a barrage of emails to higher ups at the agency, Najera was told to stop "all social networking activity related to public health."
Now, it seems there are two issues here. One, as the article points out, this shows yet another situation where the ability to blog/tweet/etc. pseudonymously might help. If Najera was doing that, the person he was debating with wouldn't have been able to bombard his employer. That said, neither platfrom that Najera seemed to mainly use (Twitter and Blogger) does require real names, so he could have gotten away with being pseudonymous on those platforms (and perhaps will come back some other time doing so).
I think the bigger issue is that a Department of Health
would reprimand him for such actions and tell him to stop speaking about public health issues. Does the Department of Health really prefer that the actual experts stay out of these discussions, leaving them to those who aren't informed?