Sunday, July 25, 2004

Reasons for 'Anonyblogging'

BigHominid writes:

The question of bloggers who use pseudonyms (sometimes called "anonyblogging")has been around for a bit. I go by "Kevin Kim," which is two-thirds of my full name, and is in fact the name I generally use in Korea (my last name is too hard for Koreans to pronounce, so I dropped it years ago). It's also a cautionary measure: given my strange role as anti-government agitator these days, I'd prefer not to be tracked down and deported too easily. True: I'm not making much of an effort to cover my tracks, but I also don't want to make life too easy for the Office of Immigration or the MIC.

Many bloggers feel they have to post anonymously because of the delicate nature of their work situation. This is understandable. While it sounds noble to say we should all take responsibility for our words, this has to be weighed against the possibility that we can lose the freedom to express ourselves if a connection is discovered between our words and their authors. For people who aren't at such risk, I agree with you that they should "take responsibility" for what they have to say. For people who are at risk, however, I submit the question is more complex.

Australian blogger geekgirl2 has this to say:

As a former philsophy student I enjoy your blog, but one comment re this recent post:

"(By the way, why do so many bloggers hide behind pseudonyms? Why not be a man (or a woman), say what you think and take responsibility for it?)"

Some of us actually use pseudonyms because speaking out would harm us in some way. I am one of those people. There is no way someone in my position at work & in industry could speak out so openly & not cause myself, my business and my colleagues some harm. This is because not everyone on the net is capable of rational discourse. And also because the media can be quite cruel.

In a case like this should I be silent? I think not. A pseudonym is a rational response balancing a right to speak out & the right to protect myself from damage. At some stage in the future I will come out from behind the pseudonym but that will be after the business has completed our planned activities over the next 2 years.

Until then I am happy to stand up as a woman & say what I want to, but I am not willing to open myself to attack - hence the pseudonym. In this I see myself & others like me as little different to the pseudonymous pamphleteers of the late 18th & early 19th centuries.

Of course, the foregoing comments do not preclude some people using pseudonyms because they are gutless cowards who are just big fraidy cats (which interpretation, should you so desire, you could also apply to me ;-)

BV: I guess what struck me is how many remain anonymous. I wouldn't want to deny that in particular cases there are excellent prudential reasons for anonymity. Indeed, in some cases it may even be morally obligatory (to protect one's family for example). And no, I wouldn't accuse any particular person of being a coward when I don't know his or her circumstances. Thanks to both of you for writing.