Mid-day: We want to know who you are


by Bhairavi Jhaveri

After a UK-based journalist unveiled the identity behind award-winning blog NightJack, that gave behind-the-scene insight into frontline policing, detective Richard Horton chose to appeal to the court to stop the newspaper from publishing his name. a ban on anonymous bloggers is being anticipated in the UK. What could that mean in the world of blogging? FYI finds out


Thanks to its nature, the online world gifts everyone anonymity to be somebody you are not, to say things you can’t otherwise. This also makes it almost impossible to monitor, control and force laws that curb the outpouring; it would amount to creating an antithesis of cyberspace in cyberspace.

Reasons for preferring anonymity could be many:

  • He/she may be blogging on a controversial subject.
  • Could belong to an organisation that limits using his/her real name while spewing personal opinion.
  • He/she may want to create and maintain a relevant buzz around the subject (for instance, the Fake IPL blog).
  • The blog information is so private and observational that revealing who is behind it could lead to it be taken offline.

But, things still need to be said, people need to know what’s going on, and somebody needs to get their hands dirty. While the counter effect of anonymity is credibility, people forget that a blog can be credible even if anonymous. This depends on how discerning the reader is and who he/she chooses to believe and follow. So why should a ban like this even be considered?


Cultural fabrics are different
Rajiv Dingra, a technology blogger on www.WATblog.com, says laws of some kind are necessary. “In India, religious matters are deemed most sensitive. So, if a blog is going to create religious tension, it shows that a country is not mature enough to consume this change. It would only be wise to force laws related to certain subjects like politics and religion. Most bloggers are educated; they will not flout rules. It will be a self-correcting mechanism.”


But a blanket rule is unnecessary
An avid blogger and writer with the Mumbai edition of a national daily (who didn’t want to be identified) points out how ironic this move would be when social media is gaining power. He gives you the example of  anonymous Iranian tweeters. “They were updating the world about the protests in their country; the US government even asked Twitter to schedule their site maintenance in a way that didn’t disrupt this ongoing dialogue,” he adds.

Uditvanu Das, a sales producer intern for a leading online portal who blogs about everything from social media to books and the media scene, says you can’t discount the sources bloggers have. “They often get into areas where even media channels have limited access,” he says, citing blogger Kiruba Shankar who wrote about his distasteful experience with travel site www.Cleartrip.com.


Such a ban will never take place
Bloggers who want to remain anonymous will continue to do so using tools like Psiphon and Tor, says Gaurav Mishra, co-founder and CEO of social media research and consulting company, 20:20 WebTech. A bunch of bloggers also think that if the Government were to start regulating content on the net, how would democracies like India and the UK be any different from China and Russia. Priya Shah, 22 year-old student of Masters in Corporate Communication at NYU sums up the feeling with a rhetorical, “Wouldn’t it be like saying you can have only one email account!”


Corporates can impose their own rules
Social media observer and MD and founder of Mosoci India, Dina Mehta says, to avoid confidential information from being disseminated via an employee’s blog, companies can chalk out their own guidelines and policies. “Let them know what they are allowed to do, and what they aren’t,” she says. Blogger Uditvanu Das thinks most bloggers are responsible enough to ensure the content they put up is genuine, honest and unbiased.
Track Dina on www.Dinamehta.com


Be safe while blogging on sensitive subjects
Asfaq Tapia, Corporate Communications, Pinstorm
There is no point being irresponsible, because you can be traced easily in the online world. Bloggers must associate themselves with a group of bloggers; ask them for advice on how to say things that are sensitive.
Track Asfaq on www.Asfaq.com

Kaushik Chatterji, Engineering student, an avid blogger on politics
I prefer to keep names out when I am voicing opinions related to parties, politicians or reporters; you can get into serious trouble. But I wouldn’t want to be anonymous either, since I look at my blogs as articles. I want people to know who has written them.
Track Kaushik on www.Ibanov.blogspot.com