Civil servants, blogs and anonymity

Back onto one of my favourite subjects: bloggers’ anonymity. There’s plenty of background here.

Paul Johnston wrote in the comments:

Great to see this upswing in civil servant blogging, but quite understandably they seem to be anonymous. Very understandable in my opinion and in my view quite acceptable if that is what suits the individuals best. I assume these civil servants want to remain anonymous a) to reduce the likelihood of the media doing anything silly with what they write b) to emphasize that what they say has nothing to do with the views of their employer. Are you still uncomfortable with that, Dave?

I replied that it doesn’t make me uncomfortable, just that I think transparency is always preferable. Besides, Mark O’Neill of DCMS has revealed his identity, it’s just Chris the Digital Pioneer who is staying in the shadows for now. I guess it depends on what you are doing, and one of the victims of the brevity of the guidance is that it’s hard to apply it all to every way a civil servant can participate online.

Take the recent example of Dylan Jeffrey from DCLG posting a comment on this blog, giving his department’s position on a topic under discussion. Had he done this anonymously, it would have been pretty useless.

Jeremy Gould blogs openly as himself, and as a result has become influential in the world of eGov, and has done a significant amount to push the agenda forward. This wouldn’t have been posible if no-one knew who he was.

As for the liklihood of media twisting words or messages – well, Civil Serf pretty much answers that one. Point one is that the media will report it even if it is anonymous; and number two is that discovering the identity of the blogger becomes part of the game. In the meantime, the anonymous blogger, perhaps lulled into a false sense of security, has blogged things that perhaps they really shouldn’t and ends up in even more trouble once they are outed, which is inevitable.

I don’t really have that much of a problem with anonymous bloggers, really, I just think that nobody really stays anonymous for long and that whatever they are trying to achieve with their blog in the vast majority of cases would be more successful if their identity is known. There are exceptions: people in oppressive regimes, etc, but for civil servants, as the guidance says, “be a civil servant”!

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Dave Briggs

Digital oddbod.