24 August 2009
How a blogger can avoid being outed
The outing of bloggers who wish to remain anonymous has become something of a hobby for various types of late. It probably all started in 2004 when the Guardian published the real name of the writer behind the Guido Fawkes mask, and since then everyone seems to have got in on the act. The Alaskan author of The Mudflats had her identity revealed by a Republican Congressman, and both The Girl With A One-Track Mind and Night Jack were exposed by the Murdoch scab-sheets. Finally, an American court has ordered Google to reveal the identity of the person who set up the now defunct Skanks in NYC blog.
On the one hand the blogs have responded to this by declaring war on the hacks concerned. Patrick Foster who outed Night Jack has now been outed in his turn as a former porn merchant during his university days. For her part Anna Mikhailova, the hackette who published The Girl's real name, has found out to her cost that fucking with the blogs is not a good idea.
On the other hand, although revenge is a good thing, it would be far better if all those bloggers had kept their anonymity intact - so how could they have done that?
Those putative bloggers who worry that one fine day a court will order their exposure should set up their blogs from an internet cafe that is as far away from their usual haunts as they can manage. The e-mail address should have been created especially for the blog, and postings should never be made from home or work. If those steps are taken, then all the investigations and court orders in the world will not out the blogger.
Most bloggers don't need to go to all that trouble to stay anonymous, as all they need to do is learn from the experiences of those who have already been outed, and not make the mistakes that led to those downfalls. Let's take The Girl as a case in point - she was writing a sex blog, so what on earth inspired her to start rabbiting on about the films that she had worked on as a camerawoman?
What was true in her case was true in so many others: people just gave out too much information about themselves. Keep it simple, folks, and the chances of being outed are much diminished.