Feeds

Aussie bloggers forced to balance anonymity with influence

Media group faces both ways on the issue

Security for virtualized datacentres

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 An outcry followed, leading to the law never being enforced – and later being repealed.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. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Special pleading against mass surveillance won't help anyone
Protecting journalists alone won't protect their sources
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Apple's iPhone 6 first-day sales are MEANINGLESS, mutters analyst
Big weekend queues only represent fruity firm's supply
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Bill Gates, drugs and the internet: Top 10 Larry Ellison quotes
'I certainly never expected to become rich ... this is surreal'
Big Content Australia just blew a big hole in its credibility
AHEDA's research on average content prices did not expose methodology, so appears less than rigourous
EMC, HP blockbuster 'merger' shocker comes a cropper
Stand down, FTC... you can put your feet up for a bit
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.