Considerable controversy erupted over the weekend in the blogosphere as to the outing of bloggers who blog using a pseudonym. The details of what initiated this controversy are discussed in detail here at Southern Appeal, Ed Morrissey at Hot Air comments here, Jay Anderson has a thoughtful post here at Pro Ecclesia, as does Paul Zummo here at the Cranky Conservative. My observations are as follows:
1. I am a proponent of blogging under one’s own name, a rule I have always observed on the internet. I think the knowledge that one’s internet remarks may come back to haunt one in “real” life encourages a salutary desire to avoid abusive posts and comments and to moderate a tendency to stridency that I think anonymity can foster. To put it concisely, people usually are more reluctant to act like total jerks when they are using their real names.
2. I am however sympathetic to bloggers who, for job related reasons, desire to remain anonymous. I am self-employed and have been so for a quarter of a century. Most people do not have this luxury, and if I were just starting out in my career I would be cautious blogging about controversial topics under my own name.
3. Revealing the true identity of a blogger or a commenter merely out of spite strikes me as unsportsmanlike. However the internet can be a very rough place, and if it is a sin I think it is venial in nature. Asking that the real person be held accountable for what they say on the internet may be malicious, depending upon the circumstance, but it is not inherently unreasonable. I would never unmask someone on the internet, but for me it would be merely a matter of good manners not to do so.
4. I distinguish between bloggers and commenters who adopt and stick with a pseudonym and those who merely make “anonymous’ comments. While some sort of slight moral duty may exist to refrain from “unmasking” someone who has a stable internet identity, I do not see any sort of duty existing to those engaging in routine anonymous comments, especially if those comments are of a “troll-like” nature.
5. If a person is truly concerned about job ramifications, it might be best to find another hobby rather than to assume that a pseudonym offers adequate protection. In this day it is not too hard to find out a person’s actual identity, and the more you blog the easier it is for a persistant individual to uncover your alter-ego.
6. Perhaps the best rule to follow is never to post something on the internet that you would not wish to defend off the internet.
Well that is what I think. What do you think?