Why ending anonymity online won’t make blogs a better place


Pete and Travis have performed wonders in cleaning up the discourse here at Whale Oil Beef Hooked. At first we discussed the light use of the ban hammer to rid ourselves of genuine trolls, or people who failed to take the clear warnings. Now I pretty much leave them to it.

I do prefer a light hand and I think they get the balance right.

Some journalists, notably Fran O’Sullivan and other commentators here and world wide think that the answer to increasing civility is removing anonymity of commenters. I disagree…especially when we are discussing sensitive subjects, like mental health issues or cannabis then having anonymity allows people to share personal experiences they otherwise might not have shared if not anonymous.

The Guardian has an article about the move of the Huffington Post to remove anonymity for commenters and they note that it won;t work as they believe it will.

Using real names is often cited as the?magic pill?to prevent this type of unpleasantness. Putting aside the important point that implementing such a system is technically complex and virtually unworkable, anyone who has watched two friends mud-slinging below a Facebook status update knows real identities don’t bring instant politeness.? Read more »

Redefining the word troll, it’s all about control

Politicians love using the word troll to attack their online detractors. My creepy stalker usually gets this term wrong, along with his use of ‘sock-puppet’.

But they generally get the context wrong. I have long wondered if it was deliberate stupidity or a plan.?My creepy stalker usually gets this term wrong, along with his use of ‘sock-puppet’.

Now there is evidence that such hijacking of the term may well have been deliberate.

It will undoubtedly thrill those responsible to know that the abusive comments and emails they have sent me over the years ? mostly when I was running the Blogocracy blog at News Limited ? were actually upsetting.

Although such abuse was a very small percentage of the tens of thousands of comments the site received, there is something debilitating and disquieting about knowing that someone took the time to write to abuse you in the most base terms, wished you actual physical harm, or worst of all, wished harm upon your family. Being a bloke, I probably got off fairly lightly too: look no further than the recent torrent of online abuse targeting women for proof.

To put it plainly, I have nothing but contempt for those who engage in this sort of behaviour, and am happy to see them pursued and exposed. But I am also a fan of online discussion more generally, whether it be on social media, on blogs, or in the comments section under stories in the mainstream media. ? Read more »

Whaleoil Replies to “Colonial Viper”

An anonymous coward from The Standard Lynn Prentice’s blog has taken objection to my post about the disgusting treatment of the Pagani’s.

I have a very simple message for “Colonial Viper” and all the anonymous cowards at The Standard Lynn Prentice’s blog and it is about accountability for what you are writing online.

Hi I am Cameron Slater, I live in Auckland and author and take full responsibility for everything published on the Whaleoil blog. ?Now who the bloody hell are you?

I have been to court to take accountability for what I have published online. ?How many anonymous cowards at The Standard?Lynn Prentice’s blog would do that? ?They are all lying, it has nothing to do with their “employment” (Union hacks and Parliamentary workers) as to why they choose to remain anonymous cowards, it is that they are too ashamed to take accountability for the words they write and then publish.

Why is it that right wing bloggers??and mainstream media of the experience of Fran O’Sullivan all manage to understand this but the anonymous cowards at The Standard Lynn Prentice’s blog are too ashamed to own their work?

They are so cowardly none would write the same way if everyone in the blogging community and mainstream media knew their identity.

About Anonymous Blogging

When I first started the Blog I did so under a pseudonym…I did it for a number of reasons. The main one though was that I knew that no matter what I said or did people would say it was my father speaking or that I was doing his bidding. Likewise I used the pseudonym so no one would hold him?accountable?for?what?I had to say or did. So when I started blogging it was under the pseudonym Whaleoil.

Eventually I registered a domain name and people then found out who I was and as I predicted the accusations started. To this day whenever there is something that I have said that upset the more sensitive types they suggest that my father put me up to it or that he somehow can control a 43 year old man who lives his own life with a family of his own. It actually says a great deal about their sad little life that they believe the father is the man or the man is the father.

Anyone who knows me and knows my politics knows that Dad and I are seldom in agreement, and haven’t been since I was able to voice an opinion….though I must say he has become more tolerant of my view in recent times.

Anyway I thought I would share that because I read a post about anonymous or at the least pseudonymous blogging:

There?s something freeing, to be sure, about being able to say anything you want. You can engage in unfounded name-calling, or intentionally hurt someone?s feelings, or just generally behave like a twelve year old. And no one will know it?s you. And that?s why I don?t read many blogs that are written by people who prefer to remain anonymous or who write under pseudonyms when there isn?t really any reason for them to do so. In fact, I don?t think there are?any?blogs I read on a daily basis whose authors are anonymous. The anonymous or pseudonymous blogs are often just filled with cruelty, name-calling, and bad arguments. Indeed, there are a great many people who choose to write under an assumed name?because?they want to harrass or offend others.

I thought about that…and realised that the answer to the complaint that many in the left wing have about?myself?and David Farrar being int he media a great deal commenting is that we are in the media?precisely?because we are known, and we are?prepared?to wear our beliefs and opinions publicly. An anonymous blogger can hardly appear int he media. It is perhaps the single biggest reason that there is so few commenters fromt he left appearing, mostly because they are anonymous cowards.

Which leads into the argument for anonymous and pseudonymous blogging:

We?ve created a space where you can actually think and be different, be free of the norms, hierarchies and prohibitions of the ?real? world, and be able to imagine alternative horizons of possibility. If you would really be willing to undo all of that just to prevent people from calling each other names on a comment board, you should really take a look at your priorities.

Which of course is complete bollocks. This is the exact reasoning behind the majority of the Labour and Union flunkies at The Standard remaining anonymous. They believe their anonymity means they create better writing. It is a specious argument and one that largely leads to their blogs becoming echo chambers.

I believe that if more of them “came out” that there would be a better more honest, reasoned, political discourse in the NZ blogosphere.