Saturday, 17 September 2016

Anonymity: the pros and cons

Further information
 The issue of anonymity has come up for discussion on this blog a number of times and my preferene is for those making a comment to use their real names if possible. However there are circumstances where anonymity has been essential to protect sources and this was particularly so during the Cara Davani controversy, where workers at Brent Council used this blog to reveal what was really going on.

The Autumn issue of  Index on Censorship explores anonymity from pen names to online privacy. This is what they say about the issue:

Anonymity is out of fashion. There are plenty of critics who want it banned on social media. It’s part of a harmful armoury of abuse, they argue. Anonymous trolls send vile verbal attacks to anyone who expresses opinions they disagree with. 

So why do we need anonymity?  Why does it matter? Why don’t we just ban it or make it illegal if it can be used for all these harmful purposes?

“Anonymity is an integral part of our freedom of expression. For many people it is a valuable way of allowing them to speak. It protects from danger, and it allows those who wouldn’t be able to speak or write to get the words out,” Index on Censorship editor Rachael Jolley writes in the magazine. 

The autumn 2016 issue special report looks at the pros and cons of masking identities from the perspective of a variety of players, from online trolls to intelligence agencies, whistleblowers, activists, artists, journalists, bloggers and fixers.

       Valerie Plame Wilson writes on the damage done when her cover was blown.
       John Lloyd looks at how terrorist attacks have affected surveillance needs worldwide.
       Ananya Azad explains why he was forced to leave Bangladesh after violent attacks on secular writers.
       Julian Baggini looks at the power of literary aliases through the ages.
       Edward Lucas shares The Economist’s perspective on keeping its writers unnamed.
       John Crace imagines a meeting at Trolls Anonymous. 
   Caroline Lees looks at how fixers can be endangered by working with foreign news companies.


Anonymous said...

I try to be anonymous, Martin, but your sophisticated filter system always catches me out.

A.Robot (Mrs)

Martin Francis said...


Philip Grant said...

Martin - would you explain, please, to a social media illiterate like me, what the symbol used above is supposed to mean. Visually, it could appear quite rude!

Martin Francis said...

Just a smile of appreciation at the joke (Prove you are not a robot)

Philip Grant said...

Thank you, Martin. It's a relief to know that!

Anonymous said...

"Labour MP Iain Wright said the case was one of the most disgraceful he had heard from constituents on sickness benefits....

"Mr Wright said the woman, who did not wish to be identified, had come to him in great distress, blaming the actions of the private firm Maximus, which carries out the assessments." Source: Benefit Tales blog: Stroke victim ‘told to take back-to-work test while still in hospital’

And Scottish Unemployed Workers Network report: ".... So long as we are ruled by a Tory government in Westminster, wedded to neoliberalism and determined in its attempt to transform the welfare state into a surveillance and control state, our Scottish Government will not be able to protect the interests of the poorest and most vulnerable within our society....."

From one of those that neoliberal government seem to think easier to handle dead than alive.

Alan Wheatley, resenting being obliged to confirm to Camden Council that a new tenant sharing my street address that DWP have told them about does not indicate that I am subletting and therefore receiving extra income that I should be reporting to them.