The end of blogging as we know it in the UK?

In perhaps the most daft attack on blogging as free speech, the High Court in London (UK) has ruled bloggers have no right to anonymity, as reported by Yahoo! News UK.

The basis of the ruling comes under the assertion that “blogging is essentially a public rather than a private activity.” I am horrified at the implication made here, as many things one does that would nominally qualify as public activities, one would still expect some degree of anonymity.

Granted, the case here involves a public official and is far from an ideal test case. But it’s a chilling effect, and sadly, I would expect no better from certain US courts. (This is par for the course in e.g. China and maybe even Iran under the current administration there.)

There are and will always be peer-to-peer anonymity-friendly networks like Freenet, though the chilling effect is still present because moving content such as a blog-like journal to such a network reduces the audience substantially. However, it is my stance now, and has been for some time, that true free speech comes only with anonymity, in light of the fact that most censorship comes “after the fact.” Thomas Paine originally published the pamphlet “Common Sense” anonymously during the American Revolution–and for good reason (as shown in this Wikipedia illustration).

Today, Paine would probably write a blog, and/or post to an online Web-based forum. In much the same way that “crimes of the high seas” has been re-interpreted to include air travel, freedom of the press and freedom of speech include publishing via the Internet and similar electronic media.

In summary, the authoring of a pamphlet such as Paine’s is no more a public activity than writing a blog accessible via the Internet, and the latter is in fact the modern day equivalent of the former. I think it is unfortunate that the High Court in London has found nearly the exact opposite to be true.

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