Anonymity in Blog Publishing: Is It Ethical, Is It Necessary?
The issue I want to present is whether it is ethical to post a comment to a blog as an anonymous writer. Shouldn’t the commenter show the strength of their convictions by taking full responsibility for what the commenter writes? Shouldn’t the reader be provided with a real full name? How else can the reader have the necessary information about the writer to establish whether the writer has changed or modified views from previous commentaries and judge from those earlier commentaries or by public history whether or not the commentator has conflicts of interest which should be considered? And then there is the matter of the tendency toward unethical or illegal ad hominem remarks or libel which is more likely to be written by anonymous writers.
I have found an interesting article about the history of anonymity in the publishing business, it’s rejection in later years and then it’s return as the information media has turned to the internet. The essay “Time to Get Tough: Managing Anonymous Reader Comments” by Vin Crosbie posted 1-26-2006 in the Knight Digital Media Center.
Here are extracts of the essay which emphasizes the need for human intervention in the maintenance of thoughtful and ethical commentary on the Internet and under what requirements anonymity might be used.
Although the technologies of this medium evolve with the speed of "Moore's Law," the actual laws and liabilities governing the technologies evolve about as fast as the eponymous Gordon Moore can walk (he celebrated his 77th birthday this month). That is because the mechanical topic of technology and the human topic of ethics seemingly aren't related to each other. Although we may strive to offer bulletin boards and commentary fields where people might provide thoughtful and ethical comments without scatology, obscenity, or libel, we cannot and will not achieve that through technology alone.
Crosbie also writes:
If you're going to let someone publish something in your publication, whether in print or online, know their identity and read their submission before its publication. If they truly are willing to stand behind their words, then they must be willing to withstand identification by the publisher who has legal responsibility for the publication of their words.
If they request that the publisher disguise or omit their identity in publication, let them first provide the publisher with a cogent reason. (The publisher should state somewhere on the page's boilerplate that a writer's name may be withheld for reasons but only after prior identification.)
What do you think about whether anonymity by visitor commentators or even blog owners is appropriate in blogs generally, in medical blogs specifically or particularly on my bioethics blog where there has been extensive ventilation within topics of concern by my visitors? ..Maurice Bernstein, M.D.