Thursday, December 15, 2005

Maybe we really DO need to convene a panel on blogger ethics

[Update: I edited this post (and some comments) today - 9/14/06 to remove some material about a specific incident. The material did provide the context for the following rant about how bloggers treat anonymous and pseudonymous commenters, but the material isn't necessary to the rant. I wouldn't normally edit a post like this, but, well, it seemed like the right thing to do in this case. Besides, it's not like anyone's reading this . . . the fact that I'm even posting this explanation probably means I'm taking myself WAY too seriously.]


Because although I know that one is never truly anonymous on the Internet, when you operate a blog that seems to invite and encourage anonymous comments, you, the blog operator, ought to honor your commenters' desire to remain anonymous, unless you prominently post a notice that says you will NOT do so. Or unless one of your commenters posts something that is genuinely threatening or defamatory. And by "defamatory" I mean actually defamatory - not just critical of a (unduly in the minds of some) beloved politician.

Now then. I choose to blog and comment anonymously (OK, I'm actually pseudonymous, if you want to get technical about it). I am aware that every time I comment on another blog, my IP address is traceable by the blog's operator.** Sure, I could use a proxy server and thereby comment anonymously, but that's a time-consuming pain in the keester and I just don't want to fool with it. So I realize I'm assuming the risk, in criticizing, oh, say, Steve Gilliard on his own blog, that he will maliciously "out" my identity. But I rely on his good faith and his good graces, and the good faith of Atrios, Acidman, Michael Totten, tbogg, and all the various liberal and conservative bloggers on whose blogs I occasionally comment and with whom I occasionally disagree, occasionally quite strenuously. I've been insulted in most entertaining fashion by Gilliard, Totten, and Acidman in their respective comment threads, but, perhaps naively, I've never feared that any one of those bloggers would post my name or my IP address or call my employer. Because I assume those folks - Gilliard, Totten, Acidman, et al - respect my desire to remain anonymous (while preserving their right to delete my comments or ban my ass if I get too obnoxious). Because it seems to me that one of the valuable qualities of the blogosphere (hate that word) is the free-wheeling exchange of ideas, information, commentary, and opinion. Some of which commentary and opinion is, indeed, obnoxious and deplorable, but hey - there's nothing stopping you from criticizing the obnoxious opinion without trying to cause trouble for the obnoxious opinion-expresser in his real life.

So. Maybe I've been operating under a hugely incorrect assumption about how this whole blog dialogue thing is supposed to work. Which is that when a blog offers what appears to be an anonymous comments feature, one can comment in an anonymous fashion, without worrying that the blog owner is going to call one's god-damned boss. In that spirit, my pledge to you, my beloved readers, is that unless you overtly threaten me or someone else, or unless someone subpoenas me, or offers me a buttload of money, I will respect your desire to remain anonymous. So help me Bejus.


** Most of my 11 or so readers have their own blogs, so they know how this works, but in case you don't already know this, dear readers, when you leave a comment on a blog, your computer leaves an Internet provider stamp that may be traced back to you. For example: I've installed a comments program called Haloscan on this blog. If you were to leave a comment here, I could log into Haloscan and look at your "IP address," and possibly, using a free search site, trace the comment back to you or your employer. I COULD do that, but I don't, because a) I'm too lazy - I mean, look at this blog, I can barely muster the energy to post on it, let alone trace the comments; and b) unless you are genuinely overtly threatening, I don't give a shit who you are. I'm just happy that you're here. Even if you're rude and insulting, which most of you are not. May I offer you a cocktail? Anyone?



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