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British Court Rules Against Blogger Anonymity

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the reasonable-expectations-often-aren't dept.

Privacy 238

An anonymous reader writes "In a dangerous judgment for British bloggers and whistleblowers, a British court has ruled (absurdly) that because blogging itself is a public activity, bloggers have 'no reasonable expectation of privacy' regarding their identities, and newspapers are allowed to publish their identities if they can find them by fair or foul means. A British police detective who recently won the Orwell Prize for his excellent political writing used his blog to write highly critical accounts of police activities and unethical behavior, making very powerful enemies in the process. A well-funded newspaper with powerful connections quickly heard of his blog and decided it was absolutely vital to expose his identity using an investigative journalist. Like any good newspaper, the blogger anonymized the people and the locations in all the cases he discussed on his blog, but the newspaper alleges these were not sufficiently anonymized and complains that they could work out the identities, though British newspapers don't complain that they are allowed to publish the identities of men who are falsely accused of rape and cleared in court. The newspaper also helpfully contacted the blogger's employer, and his job is now threatened."

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Uh, what about newspapers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28363327)

Aren't newspapers public? This ruling really makes no sense.

Re:Uh, what about newspapers? (2, Insightful)

YayaY (837729) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363911)

Yeah, and you know the name of the journalist.

Re:Uh, what about newspapers? (1)

jmo_jon (253460) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364141)

Yeah, and you know the name of the journalist.

While true you journalists are allowed to not give out their sources in most cases, the difference here is that with a blog you can write yourself and don't have to go through a news paper who may, or may not, put their spin on it.

Of course this is great news for classical media.

Headline Spin (5, Insightful)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364547)

Let me rewrite that headline and put the opposite spin on it.

"In an encouraging move affirming freedom of the press in Britain, a British judge has ruled against newspaper censorship, saying that a newspaper has the right to publish the name of a blogger if they are able to find it. In a landmark decision, Mr Justice Eady refused to grant an injunction to stop The Times from printing the name of Richard Horton, a blogger who anonymously revealed confidential details of police cases on his blog. "

Does that sound better? Same facts, just reversing the spin.

Police state (5, Insightful)

tsa (15680) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363337)

If you live in the EU but also want to live in a police state, look no further. Great(?) Britain is the place to be.

Re:Police state (5, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363467)

The parent has been modded "flaimbait", and perhaps it is, but it is also not far from the truth. Limmited privacy laws, CCTV everywhere, GB is the "poster child" for government intrusivness.

Re:Police state (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363589)

Airstip One is the "poster Brother" for government vigilance.

FTFY.

Please report to MiniTru for re-education.

Re:Police state (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28364007)

'Great Britain' refers to all the hundreds of islands around the British mainland. It doesnt mean Brits think theyre or their country is 'great'

Re:Police state (2, Informative)

ZombieWomble (893157) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364489)

'Great Britain' refers to all the hundreds of islands around the British mainland.

This is pretty much exactly wrong - "Great Britain" is the name of the island which could be described as the "British Mainland", which contains most of England, Scotland and Wales. 'Great' typically meaning "large", it's easy to see how that comes about.

Re:Police state (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28364047)

Don't worry, we feel the same way in Germany, not just since the Great Wall of Germany (http://yro.slashdot.org/story/09/06/16/1657255/A-Black-Day-For-Internet-Freedom-In-Germany)

No wayback archive copy available. (4, Interesting)

auric_dude (610172) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363389)

The blog is no longer accessible http://nightjack.wordpress.com/ [wordpress.com] and can not be reached via http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://nightjack.wordpress.com/ [archive.org]

Re:No wayback archive copy available. (3, Informative)

FourthAge (1377519) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363739)

I am very sad that I did not take the opportunity to copy Nightjack's blog while it was still available, I assumed it would always stay online; silly of me, considering what has happened to other police bloggers after they are "outed".

However, you can still read the post that won him the prize [blogspot.com] (it's the yellow text).

Re:No wayback archive copy available. (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363773)

It claims it was blocked because of a robotst.txt file but, ironically, if you say "okay then, show me the robots.txt file" it says:

No archived versions of the page you requested are available. If the page is still available on the Internet, we will begin archiving it during our next crawl.

Has it even been up long enough for web.archive.org to catch it?

Appeal? (3, Insightful)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363399)

So can this be appealed to a higher court, and will the order be stayed until such time as it can be reviewed?

I don't see this as an issue until it sets national precedent, otherwise its much like the other short-sighted and technically incompetent rulings in podunk areas of the US later overturned by more discriminating higher courts.

Appeal? Unlikely (1)

davecb (6526) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363477)

The constable has no reason to appeal, he's already been fingered. I'm not sure who else would have standing ...

--dave

Re:Appeal? Unlikely (1)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363879)

The constable has no reason to appeal, he's already been fingered. I'm not sure who else would have standing ...

Since he's been made the example, he should remain an example and appeal in the hopes that a better judgment might fiat the corrupt judge's rulings and that such a better judgement might be a standard, rather than the corrupt judge's admitted "I'm not going to listen to that argument, because I hate you." ruling be the standard for expectation of anonymity in whistleblowing. Then again, I don't know the British court system.

There are a few cases I've heard of where I would have to have been held in contempt of court, were I in attendance, after the judge had spoken, because I would scream out "You are not a judge! This is not a court of law! You are nothing but a crooked ringmaster and this is your circus!" -- this would probably be one of them.

Re:Appeal? Unlikely (1)

davecb (6526) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364011)

If so, we will probably need to fund him enthusiastically, as he'd likely lose his job, as well as need significant backing just to hire the kind of representation he'll need.

EFF UK, perhaps?

--dave

Re:Appeal? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28363859)

No such thing as precedent in UK law I'm afraid.

Re:Appeal? (1)

who knows my name (1247824) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363997)

I may be mistaken, but common law essentially incorporates precedent. i.e. bills are passed in the commons but have to be interpreted by the judiciary. If a law is untested then a precedent is certainly set in common law when a judgement is made.

So the government stayed out of it... good. (4, Insightful)

dan_sdot (721837) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363405)

First things first: it is hugely unethical to "expose" a blogger who wishes to remain anonymous. The newspaper should be ashamed of itself, and I recommend unsubscribing if you subscribe to it currently. Also, send them a letter telling them why you are unsubscribing.

That said.... what was the court supposed to do? Penalize the newspaper for doing investigative journalism? Throw the editor in jail for finding out the name of a blogger? "Court Rules Against Blogger Anonymity" is a bit overdone, don't you think?

Re:So the government stayed out of it... good. (5, Insightful)

Romancer (19668) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363615)

More to the point of double standards...

What has this newspaper done in the last ten years where they have cited anonymous sources? Would they like another newspaper or perhaps a blogger to helpfully find out their sources and out them to their employers?

I'm pretty confident that they would have something to say on behalf of anonymity when it comes to their "service".

Re:So the government stayed out of it... good. (2, Insightful)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363967)

What has this newspaper done in the last ten years where they have cited anonymous sources?

He's not just a source he's the author. Authors are doing things in public hence they don't have any presumption of privacy. Sources talk privately to a journalist, since it is a private conversation they have a presumption of privacy. If he wanted anonymity he should have been a whistle blower and talked to a journalist.

Re:So the government stayed out of it... good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28364101)

You're contriving a distinction where there is none. The ONLY difference hree is that this "source" has spoken via a blog, rather than a newspaper.

Re:So the government stayed out of it... good. (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364277)

...but since he dared to cut the middle man and publish himself he should be punished?

Are you working for some record label or what?

Re:So the government stayed out of it... good. (2, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364297)

Journalists do not have magic powers. There's no reason why you should have to allow a journalist to put his spin on your account in order to retain anonymity. It's critical to give whistleblowers anonymity if you want to protect yourself from your government. Sadly, the fundamental truth that we need to protect ourselves from our governemnt before any other threat seem to have lost popularity in recent decades.

Re:So the government stayed out of it... good. (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364399)

Someone has to author a whistle blower's complaint. If the act of authoring nullifies any expectation of anonymity, well, goodbye whistleblowing.

The newspaper guilty of outing an anonymous blogger is morally bankrupt. They should have been publishing the facts that the blogger was blogging about, not going after the blogger.

Re:So the government stayed out of it... good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28364549)

If he wanted anonymity he should have been a whistle blower and talked to a journalist.

Meaning the newspaper could print the story and then profit.

Re:So the government stayed out of it... good. (2)

univalue (1563403) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363975)

yes, it seems to be a double standard, for someone who like to quote anonymous sources then out somebody else anonymous sources.

Re:So the government stayed out of it... good. (1, Insightful)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364075)

He wasn't claiming to have an anonymous source, he was claiming to be the source himself. It was his opinions that he was stating in public. If you say something in public you can't reasonably expect people not to know who you are. If you don't want the public to know what you think, don't say what you think in public. If you want to make public statements then be willing to own your opinions, or let a jounalist quote a private conversation with you as an anonymous source, that's the choice.

Re:So the government stayed out of it... good. (2, Interesting)

lgw (121541) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364365)

If you say something in public you can't reasonably expect people not to know who you are.

Why would you believe that? Without anonymous whistleblowing, the government can just kill anyone who objects to loudly (and many governments do just that). An anonymous blogger shouldn't have much credibility, but if what he's saying can be validated then he doesn't need much.

You must be a working journalist hoping desperately to hold on to his job in a world that has moved on.

Re:So the government stayed out of it... good. (1)

cyber-dragon.net (899244) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363693)

I have to agree here. Although I think it was unethical for them to expose him, so long as all information was obtained legitimately it is not and should not be illegal. If it was obtained illegally in any way then lock up the journalist who committed the crime and fine the newspaper.

Journalistic ethics should be enforced through money, laws are a different issue.

The days of journalists keeping the government in check and acting as the 4th estate I am afraid are long gone however, the papers are all owned by major corporate interests now, or don't have the money to pay a reporter to dig into a story for a few weeks to really do it right.

You miss several key points (1)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363829)

so long as all information was obtained legitimately

It wasn't. He claimed to be a police officer. He had no right to comment publicly about ongoing investigations.

The days of journalists keeping the government in check and acting as the 4th estate I am afraid are long gone however.

Possibly. Here's the problem though, I don't know that journalists themselves have the right to write anonymously. They write can write under pseudonyms but they don't have any protection from being "outed" as far as I know. By definition, you can't have any presumption of privacy for things you do in public. They can protect their sources, but if they claim to be their own sources well ...

Re:You miss several key points (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28363945)

I believe you miss several points here. The Blogger in question did NOT blog about any ongoing investigations. All his comments were restricted to either past investigations or general observations on the state of the police, the kind of treatment they get, how they are viewed etc.
By shutting him down, the police lose a valuable PR opportunity. The NHS have a much better idea of what to do with Bloggers.

Re:So the government stayed out of it... good. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28363797)

Actually, no, the government didn't "stay out of it". That's the problem in this case, you see. He upset lots of very senior politicians with his acerbic writing. Two of them in particular - including one extremely wealthy guy who serves in a senior role in the government - were so pissed off about it, they wanted to know who the author was and silence him. They pulled strings with their great friend(s) at the very well-funded British newspaper empire who were persuaded it was so important, urgent and "in the public interest anyway" that immediately approval was given to throw a large part of that financial year's remaining contingency account funds at an investigative journalism team with orders to "get answers 'yesterday'". This case is all about people in positions of power abusing their positions by asking friends in other positions of power to do a little backscratching for them. Call it the old boys' network. It's an absolute disgrace that this sort of thing is still going on and it is an affront to democracy. The timing is very suspicious, as the blogger was just about to blog about a corruption case, not yet exposed, involving some very senior politicians. What a coincidence his blog stopped just then. Maybe time for somebody else should take up the cudgel... Anon for a damn good reason.

Re:So the government stayed out of it... good. (2, Insightful)

spacefiddle (620205) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364143)

Oh don't fool yourself. The papers know they're obsolete, and need to keep "real journalism" in their own ad-laden, corporate owned pages. You just try to make a major-outlet reporter reveal sources and name names; no really, go ahead. I want to watch.

Blogging isn't safe! Trust the paper! Argh bleah puke. Gimme a break. Yeah, you're right, they should be ashamed. So what? Do you see "for shame!" holding a lot of weight in politics or business..? I don't think "and they should be ashamed of themselves, Your Honor" is how i want to safeguard my freedoms. We're going to need to work a little harder.

Re:So the government stayed out of it... good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28364553)

This has nothing to do with investigative journalism and everything to do with how this particular newspaper's proprietor views anonymous bloggers.

Shocked (4, Funny)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363419)

Britain? Monitoring? Censorship?

Surely you jest!

I for one... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28363423)

look forward to once more rising up against these tyrants and liberating ourselves from their oppression.

It has worked in the past... Which makes me think people are a LOT stupider than they used to be; because the option is never presented as a viable solution anymore.

Re:I for one... (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363609)

Here's [wikipedia.org] your answer. It's not viable because it's not feasible.

Re:I for one... (1)

Smivs (1197859) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364379)

Here's [wikipedia.org] your answer. It's not viable because it's not feasible.

The above link takes you to the Wikipedia entry concerning gun control in th UK, suggesting (somewhat naively) that people need guns to be 'strong'.

This is patently not so, providing the conditions are right. For a good modern example remind yourself of the Velvet Revolution [wikipedia.org] .

Re:I for one... (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364493)

Good god man, you don't have to look any farther than Ireland to find out how the British government feels about using the military against their own citizens^W subjects.

Re:I for one... (2, Insightful)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363747)

Which makes me think people are a LOT stupider than they used to be; because the option is never presented as a viable solution anymore.

Not more stupid, just more effective means of control (press, TV, education system) coupled with an acceptable standard of living that prevents people from revolting. The option is not presented because it is not in the interest of the presenters.

Re:I for one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28363831)

Remember remember the 5th of November...

Re:I for one... (1)

gubers33 (1302099) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363805)

An Anonymous Poster talking about rising up. I am going to do some investigative reporting, expose your true identity and put your plot in jeparody.

Re:I for one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28363907)

People are not more "stupider" than they used to be, they are distracted by reality television, new iPods and gadgets, sports shows etc. Once, long ago, individual freedom was a much more important part of life, and less easily breeched by those who claim stewardship of the public at large. People are comfortable now and worry not about a "chicken in every pot" but about who gets kicked off the reality show this week. They are not worried about robber barons and highwaymen, they are worried about the cup games and how much they need to spend for a home theater(re) room.

Not until the common man (unwashed masses) begins to see the connection between freedom of speech issues and their next double meat cheeseburger will the public rise up against tyranny. Tyranny must look like a threat to them and their personal world view before anything will be done. Add a 30% tax on fast food and there will be riots. Add too much tax on booze and cigarettes and there will be riots. Note the US government phased in the recent taxes on both so as not to give any sticker shock.

Freedom of speech will go first, and this is but one example. Any action on the part of MSM should be taken as suspect, and critically analyzed in blogs and chat rooms across the globe. In the US (fortunately) there is the R3VOLution from those who supported Ron Paul and I believe it's starting to make a difference. There are many blogs that have done more to disseminate real and factual information than any newspaper or television news organization. I might mention Groklaw and NYCL as examples. Independent news sources that tell the story as it happens, not how they want you to perceive it. I no longer trust any MSM source, choosing instead to read news from blogs and Internet news sources from around the globe. I only wish that more than 85% of the US citizenry also did. Unfortunately you can't sit down in an easy chair and unwind with a beer while a pretty face tells you how to think about the world if you want to get news from the Internet. Sadly, most of the western world looks to the boobtube for insight (face palm).

Time for a few anonymous protests in England?

Re:I for one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28364019)

In the US (fortunately) there is the R3VOLution from those who supported Ron Paul and I believe it's starting to make a difference.

What, all ten of them?

Re:I for one... (2, Insightful)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363985)

I'll miss out on TV and shopping if protest.

As a British citizen, I'm torn (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28363437)

You should have the right to privacy if you want it, but I can't really take anyone seriously that doesn't have the balls to put a face behind a post when it comes to criticizing the powers-that-be, corruption or the like. If it's not worth putting yourself on the line, it's not worth reading.

Quite frankly, if you don't have guts, don't bother. AC because I don't have an account and this post, quite frankly, worth the time of making one.

Re:As a British citizen, I'm torn (3, Informative)

davecb (6526) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363527)

Then only persons with nothing to lose will dare to criticize. That is bad public policy, and the reason that various countries have "whistleblower" laws.

--dave

Re:As a British citizen, I'm torn (1)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364477)

Then only persons with nothing to lose will dare to criticize. That is bad public policy, and the reason that various countries have "whistleblower" laws.

There's a different between going to a regulatory agency to blow the whistle, and publicly posting under a psudonym and trying to obscure the identity of yourself and others. In the first case, you are protected by law, and are directly solving the problem. In the case of a blog, you're only anonymous until someone unravels the information you made public yourself. If it wasn't the newspaper, it could have been anyone else. If he wanted to take advantage of privacy laws, he should have followed proper channels, instead of blogging it.

Re:As a British citizen, I'm torn (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363565)

If it's not worth putting yourself on the line, it's not worth reading.

He could have identified himself without creating an account. Like this:

You should have the right to privacy if you want it, but I can't really take anyone seriously that doesn't have the balls to put a face behind a post when it comes to criticizing the powers-that-be, corruption or the like. If it's not worth putting yourself on the line, it's not worth reading.

Quite frankly, if you don't have guts, don't bother. AC because I don't have an account and this post, quite frankly, worth the time of making one.

- George Orwell
Editor, Well-Funded Newspaper With Powerful Connections Times Online

Re:As a British citizen, I'm torn (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28363705)

I agree 100% because you should be willing to lose your job solely because you disagree with your boss' ethics or illegal behavior that you witnessed.

I mean, nobody should value their livelihood more than justice. Justice can't exist if whistlerblowers hide their identity. Especially if you live and work in a state such as mine that has "at-will employment" laws that state you can be fired for *any* reason...(yes any reason, doesn't have to be legal).

I can't tell if the OP has been completely brainwashed by the socialist's big brother or if they were just trolling. If you can't tell I was being 110% sarcastic with this post.

Re:As a British citizen, I'm torn (0, Troll)

jimbobborg (128330) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363853)

You're not a British citizen, you're a British SUBJECT.

Free speech != anonymous speech (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Psychopath (18031) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363447)

Related, but not the same thing at all.

And why is there a witness protecton program? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28363601)

Hmmm?

Re:And why is there a witness protecton program? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28364009)

Witness protection is for the convenience of the government, not to protect your freedom of speech. But you knew that.

Foul play (3, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363453)

newspapers are allowed to publish their identities if they can find them by fair or foul means.

So foul is fair and illegal is legal? Welcome to the 21st century, kids.

I can see why they should be able to out someone if they got the identity by subtrefuge, but if the identity is gained through illagel means, that's different. Or should be, at least.

Re:Foul play (1)

JeanPaulBob (585149) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363719)

I can see why they should be able to out someone if they got the identity by subtrefuge, but if the identity is gained through illagel means, that's different. Or should be, at least.

Hmm... Why should the means of investigation matter?

I understand why it matters for admissibility in court--that's about protecting citizens from the government's violation of rights. We want to give government officials strong incentive not to tread on civil rights.

But if it's legal for me to publish a fact, why should I be prevented from talking about it, if I discovered it through illegal means? Sure, I should be held accountable to the law that I broke, but why protect the information, if it doesn't merit protection generally? (I guess you could say, "To avoid allowing people to profit from their illegal methods." That might be valid... On the other hand, maybe the punishment for the crime is enough?)

Re:Foul play (0)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364213)

If he gains your identity by foul means, you should be able to sue.

Also, that post (mine) was badly worded, I hope it isn't modded up. Someone should mod it "overrated".

WTF, sensationalize much? (2, Insightful)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363487)

There is no there there in this ruling. All the court said was that if a newspaper can find out who a blogger is, they can publish that information. This was not the court saying that the blog host had to tell the police who it was. There is some questionable logic used by the judge, but this is not a case of government abuse of power. It is a case of a a reporter doing investigative reporting.

He expected to remain anonymous? (4, Insightful)

Deosyne (92713) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363489)

Continuously publish on the Internet, become popular, and expect to remain anonymous? Yeah, good luck with that. Even sources that abstract themselves in the process by providing the information to reporters risk exposure in doing so. Eliminating the middle man just means that there are less people to go through when trying to get to the source. I salute the dude for trying to get the word out about immoral police practices but reality doesn't much care about intent.

On a side note, that summary is a mess, even discounting the repeated attempts to slant the crap out of the story.

Orwell Prize? (2, Informative)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363537)

The linked Wikipedia page for the article summary has no one named Horton as an Orwell Prize recipient (or even anyone who has made the shortlist) in any year, let alone 2008 or 2009.

Re:Orwell Prize? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28363635)

Maybe it fell into the memory hole.

MOD PARENT UP (0)

DancesWithBlowTorch (809750) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363783)

Parent is right indeed. Either wikipedia is wrong, or he never got an Orwell Prize. In either case, having the link in the summary is stupid.

Re:Orwell Prize? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28363917)

Clearly it wouldn't be listed under his real name, since he thought he could keep that a secret.

Try here - first one, "Jack Night": http://www.theorwellprize.co.uk/the-award/winners-books.aspx?type=blog

Re:Orwell Prize? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28364031)

whoosh my good sir

Re:Orwell Prize? (4, Informative)

arkhan_jg (618674) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364323)

He won the 2009 Orwell special prize [guardian.co.uk] for blogs - under the pseudonym he used on the blog, Jack Night.

Wikipedia doesn't say much about the special prizes, only the Journalism and Book prizes.

Re:Orwell Prize? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28364539)

The Orwell Prize website [theorwellprize.co.uk] lists him among the 2009 winners in the "Blog" category.

He most certainly did win one.

It is becoming ever more clear that V was right (3, Insightful)

Derekloffin (741455) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363571)

It won't be the US that falls into a totalitarian regime masking itself as a democracy. Not for lack of trying, but the UK has a lead on them they'll never catch up.

Common sense ruling. (2, Insightful)

pigpilot (733494) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363619)

In the UK journalists have never had a right to remain anonymous.

In fact there are only a handful of people with a right to remain anonymous when their identiy may be easily found out and these are typically rape victims or minors.

As to the blogger who is certainly breaching his own employment contract and may in fact be breaking the law by disclosing confidential information it is the height of arrogance for them to assume they are somehow above everyone else.

There is an assumption that a persons private life can remain private unless there is a "public interest" that overrides it, but a person's identity is not protected.

In this case there is a clear 'public interest' in the identity of a police officer who thinks confidentiality doesn't apply to them as otherwise how could you ever trust the police not to blogg about whatever you tell them.

Re:Common sense ruling. (5, Informative)

FourthAge (1377519) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364093)

I read his blog, all of it, and I can assure you that he didn't reveal any confidential details, no matter what Sunday Times hacks might claim. His exposure was not in the public interest. It was in the Government's interest.

In any case, politics was a very minor aspect of Nightjack's blog. He started off writing just about his work; both positive and negative aspects of being a detective. Some of the best stories on the blog (e.g. his "24 hours to crack the case" series) dealt with successful work that he had been involved with. Some were not about policing at all.

However, the UK Government is always interfering with the police. Their social policies cause a lot of problems which the police are required to solve. The UK is not a socialist paradise, it is a complete mess, and this is because of the malice and incompetence of our "elected" rulers. In a minority of posts, Nightjack told the public exactly what he had to deal with, and after the Orwell Prize raised his profile, he became an embarrassment to the police and to the Government. That was his "crime" and that's why he was shut down. It doesn't help the public, it helps the Government, because that's one fewer dissenting voice.

This is why (1)

jimbobborg (128330) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364221)

in the U.S. we're supposed to have a free press, not government owned. Unfortunately, consolidation of ownership of media outlets have reduced the "free press" to mouth pieces of the agendas they're trying to push. Blogs like Nightjack's are the last true free press now.

Re:Common sense ruling. (2)

Eil (82413) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364237)

There is an assumption that a persons private life can remain private unless there is a "public interest" that overrides it, but a person's identity is not protected.

When we talk about freedom of speech, "speech" means the expression (and usually distribution) of ideas. Supressing speech is censorship. There cannot be true freedom of speech without anonymity. There cannot be true freedom without freedom of speech.

I know the British people have never been all that excited about their individual rights, but the police state that's sprung up there in the last decade is not going away now. (At least not, without some major revolution... you tell me what the odds are on that.) The thing I fear most is that American goverment is going to look over the pond one day and go, "hmm, maybe we can learn a few tricks from those blokes." If they aren't already.

Not quite what it seems (4, Insightful)

Budenny (888916) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363663)

The blogger in question left enough clues around in his postings that he could be easily identified. Like he for instance referred to his position in the Force, and then referred to his membership in an athletic club. There only was one office of that rank in that club's membership. He then described cases he had been involved in, without adequately disguising the details, so it was clear that it could only have been that case that the blog referred to as having been one the blogger had been involved in.

He then sought to prevent the Times from publishing his name.

Well, surely, if you want anonymity, make at least some effort to stop people finding out who you are? It does not seem very rational to leave around all the clues anyone needs to identify you, but to focus your efforts on making it legally impossible for them to publish it, once they have made the fairly small effort required to find out.

A case which really touched on the anonymity of bloggers would be one in which it was undiscoverable by ordinary means such as the above, but the courts ordered the ISP or provider to disclose the identity. Now that would be a different and much more serious issue.

Re:Not quite what it seems (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364123)

The blogger in question left enough clues around in his postings that he could be easily identified. Like he for instance referred to his position in the Force, and then referred to his membership in an athletic club.

I'm not familiar with UK libel law, but this blogger might only be trying to skirt strict libel laws. Not explicitly identifying himself or the persons he accuses of wrongdoing could provide him with a defense in the event that someone tries to charge him with libel. They'd have to prove that the hypothetical person he described was in fact the plaintiff. And if that proof involved having to reveal that this person was in fact the one accused of committing the crimes attributed to the fictional character, that would backfire big time.

Re:Not quite what it seems (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364343)

Heh...

"What? You? No, I didn't have you in mind when writing this. Ummmm.... why do you think I meant you?"

Re:Not quite what it seems (1)

Presto Vivace (882157) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364417)

Good catch. But I still think it stinks to expose someone's identity when they wish to remain anonymous. There might be circumstances when public interest would be served by such exposure, but this was not one of them.

Re:Not quite what it seems (3, Insightful)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364437)

You're barking up the wrong tree: the question is, why would a trustworthy investigative journalist be going after this guy's identity in the first place! If anything, they should be teaming up to uncover police corruption all the way to the top!

My credit card records and gym memberships might limit the group of people to which I could belong - but come on, investgated by a crusading heroic journalist, like some sort of child molester?

British Courts are Insane (4, Interesting)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363671)

Britain is the world's capital of libel tourism [nytimes.com] . Because of that, the ubiquitous CCTV coverage, and the RIP act, it's on my list of places to never visit, along with, say, the Congo.

PARIS -- You're an investment bank in Iceland with a complaint about a tabloid newspaper in Denmark that published critical articles in Danish. Whom do you call?

A pricey London libel lawyer.

That is called libel tourism by lawyers in the media trade. And Britain remains a comfortable destination for the rich in search of friendly courts, which have already weighed complaints from people who consider themselves unfairly tarred with labels like tax dodger, terrorist financier or murky Qaeda operative.

Re:British Courts are Insane (1, Interesting)

Malc (1751) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364067)

Of course, the article isn't from a country notorious for over-stepping its borders in applying its law. The US would never do that, right?

Personally I prefer the UK system. False defamation can cause a lot of damage that might never be fully taken back or fully compensated for. Why should somebody have to prove the defamation is false? That's rather harsh, don't you think? That's like guilty until proven innocent. There are newspapers in the UK that already toe and almost flout the line of this law, and making it laxer does nobody any favours.

If these are reasons you're not going to visit the UK, then most of the world is off-limits to you, including such bastions of "freedom" as the United States. Seems to me that you've got nothing to lose by making such bold statements, and probably never intended to visit anyway. A bit like those hordes of Americans who proclaimed they'd come up here to Canada if GWB were re-elected... um, how many came?

Re:British Courts are Insane (2, Informative)

schon (31600) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364591)

Disclaimer: I am a UK citizen.

Personally I prefer the UK system.

Evidently that's because you don't understand it.

False defamation can cause a lot of damage that might never be fully taken back or fully compensated for. Why should somebody have to prove the defamation is false? That's rather harsh, don't you think?

The problem isn't that someone has to prove that the defamation is false (which is wrong, BTW), the problem is that in the UK it doesn't matter whether it's true or not - in the UK, if you accuse someone of defamation, they can be found guilty even if they can prove their statements were true.

That's like guilty until proven innocent.

Only because you're misrepresenting the facts. Neither the US nor the UK defamation laws work the way you believe.

Why 'fuck murdoch'? Nothing new. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28363677)

If this had been an immigration officer writing negatively about experiences in their job role, there would be dozens of established 'monitoring'/private-investigative "anti-facist" organisations dedicated to tracking them down. In my country, when a holocaust denier came to visit, a union-funded "anti-facist" organisation provably had him followed on the plane.

Given that Europe is essentially blanketed in politically motivated investigation clubs, I fail to see how this action raises any NEW issues. Except for dealing with the identity of a police officer instead of "fascists".

(absurdly) (2, Insightful)

Korbeau (913903) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363731)

Please do not state strong opinions out of nowhere in parenthesis without backing them up or giving a source in a first sentence of a summary.

The Biggest Danger (2, Insightful)

gijoel (628142) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363741)

I'm of two minds about this.

Firstly I think the cop did act in an unprofessional manner by airing opinions about cases that should only have been brought up in court. IANAL, but I wouldn't be surprised if some lawyer tried to use this blog as a way of getting their client reduced/dismissed charges.

Secondly, this is going to harm whistleblowers in the future. People are going to be less likely to air their thoughts and opinions if they have think its' going to be traced back to them.

We live in an age of spin. And that means controling the message. Whistle blowing bloggers are a loose cannon and have to be stopped at all costs. That means tracking them down, and bringing what ever pressure you can bear to make them shut and sit down. The Times has now justified any future partisan journalist's attempts to discredit whistle blowers.

what else? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28363763)

Perhaps someone's voting preferences will be made public now since it's done in public as well?

You Fail (3, Insightful)

mattwarden (699984) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363807)

Summary fails. Gagging the newspaper from printing newsworthy information it discovered would be outrageous.

And the alternative is...? (5, Insightful)

sirwired (27582) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363873)

Okay, let's say I did have a reasonable expectation of privacy when posting anonymously online... I own a restaurant and start spamming nasty (but not libelous) reviews about the competition. Does that make it illegal for my competitor to point out that my reviews come from their business rival (and therefore are biased) if they figure out it's me? Should they be able to use a subpeona to find out? No. But if they figure it out without breaking any laws, or abusing the legal process, why shouldn't they be able to publish what they have figured out?

Now that would be horrible violation of free speech. As anyone with any familiarity of 1st amendment law knows (and yes, I know this case is in the UK), prior restraint is subject to strict scrutiny. This doesn't even come close to meeting that standard. I can't imagine a single lowly district judge that wouldn't slap any such law down without hesitation.

SirWired

Not the government (5, Interesting)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363937)

I'm not sure if you are aware of what a "free press" is, but that means they are generally allowed to say what they want as long as it is not libelous. One of the only constraints regarding publishing a person's name is that, if they are not public figures, nor done something to get into the public record, they don't get their name published.

Since this guy was a public figure, and was doing things to get himself in the public record, he is not protected. So the court got it right.

What you seem to be saying is that, if I stand on a street corner spouting whatever political drivel I feel like, and I don't put my name on a placard in front of me, NO ONE is allowed to say who I am? So is someone is listening to me and says "Hey, who is this guy?" and someone else says "That's R2.0 - I recognize him from the same drivel on Slashdot", I can sue?

No win situation (3, Interesting)

jools33 (252092) | more than 5 years ago | (#28363949)

Whichever way this was ruled the paper could release the identity of the blogger - if they ruled against allowing publication of identity then the paper could just release the identity in an anonymous blog and with the new restriction in place noone could release the papers identity either... a catch 22.

Who wrote that summary? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28364045)

Someone should find out.

Rights means responsibility (3, Insightful)

DaveGod (703167) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364073)

I don't see why he should expect a right to privacy. If you are going to make public accusations and attacks, then the other parties have a right to defend. If he was merely debating a matter of principle (purely philosophical) then his person would be irrelevant to the argument and yes it would be at a minimum very bad form to name him. But he was pointing figures about specific organisations.

The right of free speech does not confer any kind of right to anonymity. That is a specific right only granted where it is in the public interest. Indeed it is the reverse: with rights comes responsibility; if you want to say things then be prepared to defend it. There is no question over free speech here, the newspaper is not restricting what he is saying on his blog, they are merely calling it to account (whether you agree with their argument or not).

That does not at all mean newspapers etc should have an automatic right to discover his information. But if they are able to discover the name via legitimate means, that's his fault for not covering himself.

Note he is the one actively publishing, publicising and promoting his allegations. This is important. It is only those whom publish allegations that should be held responsible for them. One issue with UK Law* is that it considers any comment posted online without restricted access to be publishing, failing to distinguish between what is really publishing and what is merely chit chat.

* (by UK law I mean the various laws in the UK member states, there is no such thing as "UK Law").

This is a ruling in favour of free speech! (4, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364179)

The court has not ruled that anonymity is illegal. The court has simply ruled that should a newspaper have some information that it considers newsworthy, it is entitled to publish.

Personally, I think it was rather reprehensible of a newspaper not to respect confidentiality as a matter of policy but it's their legal right and it's up to the blogger to protect his own anonymity.

Why not use ordinary whistleblower methods? (3, Interesting)

EWAdams (953502) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364203)

Whistleblowers are usually protected by the law, and get support from the press and friendly politicians into the bargain.

This guys breached his employment contract and doesn't want to take the consequences. Incidentally, all he got was a reprimand. AND he wrote an article (therefore got paid) for the very same publication that outed him!

They're missing the distinction (1)

PostPhil (739179) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364267)

IANAL, but I thought that *one* essential reason laws waive the expectation of privacy in "public places" is because by the *nature* of that place, it is essentially not private. For example, there is too much of a practical burden of enforcing privacy when I go walk outside, because that's actually *me* walking outside. There's only so much identity-hiding I can do.

But for a blog, by its very *nature* it works the other way around. Anonymity happens by the fact that the blog posting doesn't see who is actually sitting at the keyboard, so identity has to be proactively required by settling for something that substitutes, such as using a valid email for login registration. Here, regarding the enforcement burden, it's the other way around: there is more effort required to identify someone than not identify someone (e.g. you could allow anonymous posts, etc.).

The point:
Although I am sharing *data* that becomes public, *I* am not personally in a public place, so I should reasonably assume I can have anonymity.
 

Shameful excuse for a democracy... (1)

hackel (10452) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364353)

The real story here, is that the UK government is trying to censor the opinions of its employees. This is totally unacceptable. The officer should be free to express whatever political opinions he wants, including being critical of his superiors, as long as he does it when he is off-duty. This really makes me angry. Everyone seem to be ignoring just how bad this type of censorship is, instead focusing on the fact that they "outed" him. The real issue is the fact that he needed to be anonymous in the first place...

Re:Shameful excuse for a democracy... (3, Insightful)

gsslay (807818) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364587)

The real story here, is that the UK government is trying to censor the opinions of its employees.

No, that's not the real story. that's the story you've made up in your head. Where exactly is the involvement of the UK Government in this story? You won't find any, because there isn't any.

This police officer was in a position of trust, with access to sensitive information that has a very real impact on people's lives. And he was publishing it on the internet with flimsy anonymity. This is nothing to do with his political opinions, it's about flagrant abuse of his position. This is some guy gossiping about people's lives because he believed he knew better than everyone else.

Frankly, losing his own anonymity is the least of what he had coming.

This is not at all surprising. (1)

superdude72 (322167) | more than 5 years ago | (#28364543)

The right to privacy is pretty much limited to things you do inside your own home. Once you put something in a public space, it's not longer private. There has never been any right to publish anonymously, or be quoted anonymously. Think of all those investigative reporters who spent years trying to uncover Deep Throat. (Yes this is a US example, but law in the US and the UK are based on the same common law principles.)

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