17 February 2008

Anonymity in the Blogosphere

It seems that my selection as ‘Blogger of the Week’ has triggered a bout of name calling from all sides of the debate about anonymity and blogging...By the way I am happy to have been chosen as a blogger of the week and I am happy that it has triggered the debate that it has!

Seeing it was this selection that started this off I want to add my “two bobs worth” to the argument!

I think that if people choose to blog anonymously then that is their right. I believe the ability to write anonymously is part of the free speech rights that we should all enjoy! However, it is a legal fact that free speech is not absolute nor is it free from limitations. It is these limitations that one must consider and an argument on point here relates to hate speech but here in lies the problem of anonymous writing and blogging — how do we as a free and democratic community hold those people accountable for their hate speech when we do not know who they are.

So in this regard there is some value in the arguments (the arguments themselves not necessarily in the manner in which they may have been made — but to each his own on this frint!) advanced. To this end I would have characterized my concerns with anonymous blogging not as cowardice but rather having the ‘courage’ of your convictions to enter into public debate and be exposed to the full glare of public scrutiny for the opinions that one holds.

Once again to each their own!

What is not in dispute here is the right to blog anonymously but rather how do we as a community hold those responsible who cross the line from simple inoffensive personal musings into areas where vilification, defamation, slander, and liable reside?

I appreciate that some people will trot out the reason that anonymity is critical because their topics of choice are sensitive and that they employ a lot of people or are responsible for their livelihoods and if this is your justification for remaining anonymous, then so be it! The Indonesian legal system has some really serious problems but it is not all gloom and doom on the fair trial front!

This argument considered has me thinking that I too am responsible for a lot of people’s livelihoods, mine included, but in that sense I am replaceable! My bosses might have a difficult time in finding someone but I am sure they could and would if they were required to. If the government or some other ‘big brother’ agency comes after me and boots me out of Indonesia after an inherently unfair trial because I am white, then as Ned Kelly is reported to have said “such is life”!

I am sure that the censorship police would have ways and means of uncovering my blogging identity even if I was publishing anonymously. There must be mechanisms in place that allow investigators to terrorise ISPs or whoever else keeps blogging data that would see me tracked from here to wherever.

Although when push comes to shove I think I would give a pretty good account of myself in an Indonesian court and my case (and hopefully the stars align in such a way that this hypothetical case never eventuates) might open the door to greater freedoms of speech in this developing democracy that is Indonesia. Maybe this would be enough to convince bloggers that threat of deportation or other negative impacts from holding certain opinions to reveal themselves in all their glory, so to speak!

But in any event what I do professionally can be done exclusively online so if the worst case scenario was every to happen then I could conceivably base myself just off Indonesia’s shores until such time as normality was restored!


johnorford said...

nice balanced post.


1) spend 5 minutes looking for hate speech on the internet and u'll find millions of hits.

the internet requires surfers use their heads to filter the wheat from the chaff - but it's the information age afterall - and ppl are quite savvy at that.

2) expats can always up and leave indonesia if the worst comes to the worst. but that misses the point, don't u think?

Rob Baiton said...

Hey John...

Yep, not even 5 minutes will get you plenty of hits.

Yep, I have the belief that most of us human beings can in fact separate the wheat from the chaff although I am sure there are some who would have more difficulty than others at this task.

Indeed it is the information age and consequently all of us will at some point be exposed to the type of information that we would be better off not having encountered. Yet, this is what the information age is all about!

Ultimately, I want to be the filter that determines what I see and what I write -- a sort of live by the sword and die by the sword (or in this case the pen / keyboard)...

I am sure I have read somewhere that the pen is mightier than the sword, which is testament to the power of words and language!

Up and leaving Indonesia is most certainly not the point. I do not think I should be booted from this fine land for anything that I post on my blog. Yet, to date I would reckon I rank pretty low on the controversy scale. Although this could change if I started spilling my guts on issues I do or don't know about...

Some of us court attention and some of us do not!

Short and sweet...being booted does miss the point in the "if the worst comes to the worst" scenario.

But for clarification purposes it was a statement to that despite claims to the contrary Indonesia has these moments where it gets all warm and fuzzy about protecting the State from criticism.

Although it has not happened for a little while in public view Indonesia still on occasion denies entry to critics of the country (at least this is the rumor and gossip that I hear).

Thanks for the comment and feedback. I appreciate it!

Calupict said...

I understand why some people chose to disclose their identity. I have some problem with my privacy at the past. Some people post my home phone at the internet.

But guess, I'll blogging again soon. Perhaps this week.

Rob Baiton said...

Privacy is an issue everywhere and not just in the blogosphere...

I guess the best advice is to be careful with who you give you r phone numbers and other personal information to...

Calupict said...

Yes, I always try to do so.
Actually based on my investigation those guys hacked it, perhaps they hacked some database where I have to put my real identity. I never told people what my phone number until I am pretty sure who is the person in 'front' of me.

oigal said...

Hey John,

"boots me out of Indonesia after an inherently unfair trial because I am white, then as Ned Kelly is reported to have said “such is life”!

Bit of an old issue now, but what the hey..I too could do the same, no great skin off my nose if I get booted..I am pretty employable anywhere but there are others I am in various ways responsible for.. so to my mind I have two options.. shut up (in favour by a lot of people) or be a little prudent. Surely not taking those people into account smacks of arrogance not courage

If I ever got really out of control, no one is really that ANON, all the anon does is it may slow the zealous and manic (both official and otherwise) from taking action that would stretch the bounds of the law.

Rob Baiton said...


My comment about getting booted was not so much arrogance neither was it courage...rather my point was the beauty of what I do would allow me to do it from anywhere in the world (the best part about the technological age in which we live) so if they booted me then I would still be able to do the work and the wages of staff would still get paid...

In this regard I am a little more fortunate than others, I am sure. I was not realyy suggesting that I could or would up and run and then seek employment elsewhere!

But I concur with Oigal that if "big brother' was really dedicated in tracking down an 'anonymous' blogger then the State would martial all its resources to that end!

Thanks for the comments! I appreciate that someone is reading...

oigal said...

ooops never meant to suggest you were arrogant..

Its all a bit funny really, it is actaully a good topic to debate..takes a lot of stuff in..my beef is and always was "some little twerp who biggest challenge in life was probably moving out from moms house, should not going throwing things around about personal courage with expecting to get told about places where the sun doesn't shine"..

although it has brought out some other interesting responses..aka some people don't understand what blogs are for...(there's a blog king?) etc etc..thanks rob

Jakartass said...

Oigal asks if there's a "blog king" and he may well be right.

In a reply to one of my comments on his post, Fatuous Fatih suggests that because he uses his real name he was interviewed by Tempo etc.

I think he's suffering from selebrititis - ideas above his station.