Newspaper Defends Outing Of Anonymous Forum Poster

The Pensacola News Journal became their own version of ‘deep throat’ last week when they outed a poster on one of their forums. Now a week later they still find themselves defending that action. The nut of the PNJ’s position is this:

Not only did Godzilla support Bergosh’s positions, he even praised him(self) by name. Does anyone, Bergosh included, not understand the deception involved? But he was outraged to be exposed.

Who’s “deception” tramples freedom of speech? Bergosh’s, or the newspaper’s? It wasn’t that long ago that a President of the United States was given kudos by the media for how well he could lie. He was called clever for that. Now, a forum poster gives his real identity a pat on the back and its like he cut off some one’s leg.

I couldn’t let this pass, my response in their forum follows.

UPDATE 10/15/07 (below)

Can you say, anonymous? And doesn’t that make every poster in the forums deceptive by definition? It masks the identity and leaves only an opinion behind.

The editor writes: “Not only did Godzilla support Bergosh’s positions, he even praised him(self) by name. Does anyone, Bergosh included, not understand the deception involved? But he was outraged to be exposed.” Neither of which are illegal.

The PNJ editorial staff missed their chance to engage Godzilla in their own forum and on their own turf. Since they knew who Godzilla really was, they could have brought themselves out of the closet with their own opinion, even anonymously if they wanted to, instead of knocking the legs out from under Godzilla the way that they chose to do.

The paper’s argument in supporting their unethical behavior is based on the occupation, popularity, and political bent of the poster. None of which are relevant in an anonymous forum. Expressing opinions anonymously is what these forums are all about. I don’t see this argument ever ending unless and until you accept that premise or change the forum rules.

A rule change like this would be fair and ethical: “In the event the PNJ does not choose to engage a writer on the topics and content of a post, and if you are a controversial writer or hold an elected position, then you may not have the same privacy rights as everyone else in here and you may be outed, so be careful what you write.”

What I find curious is the absence of so-called media and freedom watchdog groups in this fracas like the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Would it please the PNJ to have to defend this in court?

I’m Ross Calloway and I approved this anonymous post.

update 10/15/07: Cartoon contest using forum poster on editorial page. This smells bad.update 10/21/07 : PNJ Godzilla Caption Contest Winner

2 thoughts on “Newspaper Defends Outing Of Anonymous Forum Poster”

  1. As far as I know, all those you mention are anonymous and free. However, in this country anonymity does not protect you from a criminal investigation. So as long as you are not breaking U.S. law, you will remain anonymous. If anonymity of your IP address is what you want, then a program such as Anonomizer is something to look at.

  2. I started this discussion to evaluate public available web proxies:

    Which are really anonymous?

    Which can be used with facebook, myspace etc, in other words: are fresh ?

    Which can you recommend?

    Thanks for your help,

    P.S.: In my land, the freedom of speech is somehow limited, please give me a hint, if you are not sure about your recommendation.

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Belly up to the counter. Politics are on the menu and Ross is on the grill.

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