Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Anon Tweeters: Why does the media love them so much?
After the childish debacle of the Telegraph having to pull down a web page that implied 13 injunctions posted by a Tweeter were true, Brendan O'Neill has blogged an interesting grown up article about anonymous tweets.
[BTW, Google never cached the Telegraph page but the link is still there (see the screen shot)]
"Some have argued that the right to remain anonymous on Twitter and elsewhere on the web (such as in the comment section of these blogs) is akin to the right of journalists to keep their sources secret. But there’s no comparison. An article that quotes from anonymous sources will still have a journalist’s byline and will have been nodded through by an editor. We trust that these named individuals know who the anonymous source is and can attest to his or her reliability. But purely anonymous Twitterers and bloggers could be anybody. There’s no reason we should take them seriously, and every reason to wonder about their honesty and trustworthiness.
Those fighting for “the right to tweet anonymously” are really demanding the right to behave like a schoolchild, to be free to do the modern-day equivalent of scrawling “Mr Higgins is a paedo” on the toilet wall without ever having to account for themselves. But freedom, true freedom, is about more than acting instinctively – it is also about having the cojones to take responsibility for your actions and to face down those who challenge or threaten you. In the balance of things, yes people should be free to tweet and blog and write anonymously if they want to – but there’s no reason the rest of us should believe what they say or indulge their warped fantasies about being brave whistleblowers."
Apologies for quoting so much, but these points are relevant.
So if the media hate anon Twitters, why do they source them in news articles?
By quoting Tweets, the media are legitimizing them. The reason they do is because they know many of these injunction busters are telling the truth and the media is so gagged and censored they get frustrated.
But guess what? Newspapers are selling more. Twitters value has gone up. The Human Rights Act 1998 has been discredited. People are actively debating the erosion of civil liberties in the UK. The introduction of a Bill of Rights looks ever closer. Lawyers like Mark Stephens of Finers Stephens Innocent LLP are gaining lots of TV exposure. The UK is looking less stupid.
More questions ...