Feeds

Aussie bloggers forced to balance anonymity with influence

Media group faces both ways on the issue

Application security programs and practises

The outing of a political blogger in Australia once again brings the issue of online anonymity into the spotlight. Harsh words have also been directed at the Murdoch-owned News Ltd group, with suggestions that at the very least it is being inconsistent in its stance on blogging.

The immediate cause of all the fuss is the revelation by James Massola of The Australian that the author of much-read and occasionally controversial political blog Grog’s Gamut is in fact "Greg Jericho, a public servant who spends his days working in the film section of the former Department of Environment, Heritage, Water and the Arts".

This outing follows the revelation by Mark Scott, managing director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), in a recent speech to the Melbourne writers festival speech that he had raised Jericho's criticism at a meeting of the ABC executive, because "dynamic political news was crowding out proper reporting of policy initiatives in some news bulletins".

He added: "We adjusted our strategy as we listened to critics, our audiences - and critiqued our own coverage."

In other words, Grog’s Gamut is making waves, so its author no longer merits the courtesy of being allowed to remain outside the media spotlight. Opinion appears to be evenly divided on the issue. On the one hand, Grog-outer Massola justifies his action by claiming that Grog’s growing influence makes him an actor in public debate as opposed to mere commenter, so the public should be able to know who he is in order to judge for themselves. Additional justification is claimed on the grounds that, as a public servant, there may be some conflict of interest in Grog taking such an active role in public debate.

This is echoed by The Australian’s media editor Geoff Elliott, who also writes: "If you are influencing the public debate, particularly as a public servant, it is the public's right to know who you are. It is the media's duty to report it."

However, this view is in sharp contrast with that expressed by The Advertiser, a sister paper to The Australian in the News Ltd group. Prior to the last State election in South Australia, legislation was passed requiring people commenting online to provide their real name and post code. An outcry followed, leading to the law never being enforced – and later being repealed.

Along the way, The Advertiser's editor Melvin Mansell said: "Clearly this is censorship being implemented by a government facing an election."

Back in Australia this week, Grog appears mostly nonplussed by the storm raging around him. In a blogged response to his outing, which refers proudly to his now achieving in the region of 1,000 hits a day, he denies any conflict of interest – but admits, with some apparent regret, that he may now have to stop blogging.

In Australia, the debate rages on. Somewhere behind the froth can be heard echoes of a similar debate that has been going on in Europe in respect of the right to anonymity of the mega-bloggers. Most recently, the issue has surfaced in the UK in respect of Guido Fawkes blog and its role in pushing the issue of whether politicians’ privacy was breached wholesale by the press through the use of unauthorised phone taps. ®

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Airbus promises Wi-Fi – yay – and 3D movies (meh) in new A330
If the person in front reclines their seat, this could get interesting
UK Parliament rubber-stamps EMERGENCY data grab 'n' keep bill
Just 49 MPs oppose Drip's rushed timetable
Samsung threatens to cut ties with supplier over child labour allegations
Vows to uphold 'zero tolerance' policy on underage workers
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
US freemium mobile network eyes up Europe
FreedomPop touts 'free' calls, texts and data
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.