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Sakmongkol ak 47

ariff.sabri@gmail.com

Sunday, 3 May 2009

The uses and misuses of Anonymity

In France there are actually laws against the use of anonymity. All messages on the Internet must be identified with the real identity of their source.

Prosecutors and judges often object to the use of all kinds of anonymity. For example, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia was reported to say "The very purpose of anonymity is to facilitate wrong by eliminating accountability"

Anonymity on rare occasions may have a place in protecting whistleblowers or honest journalistic sources fearful of retaliation. Fear of retaliation is suggestive of a repressive regime. Where Malaysia is concern, I would be hard-pressed to agree that it is repressive when it comes to freedom over the internet. To me that would make justification for the use of anonymity as a shield from retaliation, fallacious.

So, we must look elsewhere for the real justification in the use of anonymity.

Our misapprehension about anonymity arises because:-

  1. lately it is being misused in a variety of different contexts to destroy people and institutions
  2. It is used as a way for authors of all sorts to avoid responsibility for what they write.

As we have already acknowledged, there are uses of anonymity as well as misuses. Journalists are aware of the uses and misuses of anonymity. They continuously weigh the pros and cons of using it. That is, we are assuming they are conscientious.

What regulates and restraints them? Are there laws, regulations and ground rules? There are none, because the ground rules which someone suggests are non existent. There are no ground rules as such but what we have is adoption of personal ethical standards. Only we, the user know for what purpose we use that concept of anonymity. Do we use it to deceive people so that we can get information and then publish that information? Do we use anonymity to destroy others and institutions. Or do we use anonymity as a means to avoid unaccountability? Do we use them just to be abusive as some bloggers do believing it's their god given rights and they, are god's gifts to the world?.

Hence, we have the real possibility of everyday situations where authors and journalists fudge on their own ethical standards as they race to uncover the burning issues of the day such as the supposed ethical lapses of their government officials. It is also a real possibility that they also cheat on their own ethical standards by fabricating issues they themselves elevate to artificial importance.

So when we have situations where "we accuse" authors like the Voices and Bigdogs of this world, go out of their way to avoid using their own names , there is often a good suspicion why: They apparently don't look forward to questions about why and how exactly they wrote what they wrote. Put it simply: they just publish and be dammed.

What is it that confers on them this sense of invincibility? It is this concept known as anonymity that gives them free rein as judge and jury, exempt from cross-examination. This "trust me" practice goes against the very grain of the tradition of natural justice in allowing the aggrieved the right to face his accusers.

Rashid Yuosf is an unfortunate recent example in our country. He has been denied the probable chance of securing a post as press secretary to the DPM which is the second highest office in this country, simply because anonymous authors have acted as judge and jury condemning and defacing him while denying him the right to face his accusers. How could he, if he could not place who they are?

What if all those aspersions cast on Rashid proved to be false and indefensible? I sincerely hope the result of this abuse of anonymity is not more lasting damage to the authors than any temporary discomfort of fending off cross-examination. The Bigdogs and Voices can certainly become disgraced storytellers. (That's a downgrade- from frontline bloggers to just bedtime storytellers).

The loosely constituted federation of avant garde bloggers under the leadership of the master blogger will lose whatever credibility it has because it had sanctioned the publication of false stories by authors belonging to his camp. All the result of this unquestioning and blind attachment to this thing called anonymity.

It will go down that way, if the confederation of these hip authors under his wings continues to misuse and abuse the concept of anonymity.

But I suppose this aspect of ethics is not relevant to them and they will do a Rhett Butler- we don't give a damn to this kind of reasoning.

If the stories concerning Rashid Yusof prove to be a falsification prompted by hidden agenda players in Putrajaya, then the Bigdogs and Voices will sound goofier each time they offer their views and the credibility of their anonymously written 'security threats' and all that mumbo jumbo, shakier and shakier.

Our conclusion is this. Anonymity is a vicious but seductive Siren that lures its heedless listeners to shipwreck on the shoals.


 

10 comments:

Nik 3 May 2009 at 09:09  

Sak,

I would rather put the shoe on the other foot. If DPM is gullible enough to believe anonymous bloggers in deciding to chose who he needs to get the job done then you really can't blame the Anons....

I tend to be a bit skeptical of people who win without proper competition...

sakmongkol AK47 3 May 2009 at 09:16  

dear nik,

this is no longer about Rashid, Voice or Bigdog. i am discussing the uses/misuses of anonymity. i mentioned voices/bigdogs and cited Rashid as an example. no more particular person.
thank you and kind regards

kuldeep 3 May 2009 at 10:02  

We like gossip..the whispers in the dark,insinuations of words from the highest levels on a need to know basis..we want to believe that we are privy to the deepest secrets brought to us via cloak and daggers.

After all,in reality we all lead boring and regimented lifestyles.

Thus for a few glorious minutes we can have the joy of sharing news from people we like to believe are the ear,nose and throats of the leadership.And their anonymity gives the credence to our own fantasy.

I guess there's no harm in that.The harm comes when or if lies becomes the truth and vice versa...by design or by circumstances.

I believe the net essentially is policed by peer reviews i.e. we are all free to decide what to believe or even read.

matador 3 May 2009 at 11:43  

Sakmongkol,

I have been following your blog for a long time. I find it hard to believe that someone like you buys the idea that blogs, anonymous or otherwise, can really sway decisions by the powers that be.

They may take note of what is said in the blogs, yes, but to base their decisions solely on blogospheric judgments or to give undue weightage to blog postings (and anonymous ones at that) in their deliberations? Come on.

They deserve more credit than that don't you think? Unless of course your experience with the powers that be has convinced you that they are undeserving of that credit and they really are stupid.

No, the power of the blog lies in its ability to influence the common chattering class, the unthinking nodding heads, into believing that something that is not, is. And these people who allow themselves to be manipulated in that way deserve to be called fools.

So let's drop this tirade against anonymity in the Net shall we? It's getting a bit worn and tiresome.

sakmongkol AK47 3 May 2009 at 11:53  

matador, you said:-
No, the power of the blog lies in its ability to influence the common chattering class, the unthinking nodding heads, into believing that something that is not, is. And these people who allow themselves to be manipulated in that way deserve to be called fools.

that's why i am talking about misuses of anonymity.its no longer about decision making about the powers that be- those are used to drive home the above point.

Anonymous,  3 May 2009 at 13:58  

Dato

You said, "In France there are actually laws against the use of anonymity. All messages on the Internet must be identified with the real identity of their source".

Do we know how they are enforced? Do we have sufficient mechanism to trace and bring the culprits to book? Could you venture an opinion why the Government has not introduced such laws here?

Anonymity has allowed rampant expression of lies and half truths. To me, the most dangerous kinds are those that cause ill feelings, hatred and inciting tension among the races. Those who merely wish to express humble views without any ill intentions, but are not willing to identify themselves, are OK. But have laws that make every one come out in the open by all means, as they would lesson racial animosity.

Pro-Unity.

Wenger J Khairy 3 May 2009 at 16:54  

Matador,
I think the mistake people make on a daily basis is overestimating the intelligence of the powers that be. Dato Sak is spot on - anonmymity cannot be misused to cause harm to the innocent. And Rashid was innocent, and those who harmed him were guilty. I still find it appalling that some people cannot get this - perhaps its a lack of morality, decency and integrity, common characteristis amongst them and their ilk

kluangman 3 May 2009 at 20:16  

Sak, bukankah objektif kita untuk mendengar pendapat dan bukan melihat siapa yang memberi pendapat.

Jika sesuatu yang kita tidak bersetuju sepatutnya tidak menjadi kudis dan kita harus percaya kepada kebijaksanaan orang lain juga membuat penilaian dan akhirnya kebenaran akan muncul

sesuatu yang mungkin boleh kita belajar:http://sloone.wordpress.com/2009/05/03/i-am-your-freedom-of-speech/#more-4135

sakmongkol AK47 3 May 2009 at 20:54  

kluangman,
tentu saya setuju kepada kebijaksanaan public at large menentukan kebenaran sesuatu pendapat. saya tidak ada masalah dengan itu.
saya hanya ada masaalah dengan penghujjahan yang sering diselitkan dengan wishing bad for other people- sakit lah, tenatlah,- which means you are aiming at the orang yang beri pendapat.
saya juga ada masaalah dengan tormented souls yang menyerikan pendapat mereka dengan kata kata lucah- boleh jadi saya ni old school, tapi kita tidak di didik untuk menguatkan hujjah kita dengan mutha fucka dll.
saya tidak fikir dunia kewartawanan endorse penggunaan kata kata lucah. ia hanya membayangkan otak nut cases sahaja.
saya tidak kisah lansung perbezaan pendapat kerana saya sedar penghujjahan saya tidak semua betul tapi kita mempertahankan nya dengan penghujjahan bukan dengan makihamun.
sebagaicontoh, saya mungkin tidak ada benda baik untuk cakap pasal Mukhriz, tapi saya tidak sekali kali akan meenyebut dia sebagai motherfucker.
disebabkan ini, saya terpaksalah buat moderation. kepada mereka ini dan kepada saudara juga jika saudara terus menyerang pemberi pendapat bukan pendapat.
bagaimana saudara rasa, jika saya sentiasa mendoakan supaya saudara sakit tenat dan teruk? you ada famili tak?

hari ni saya tengok Voice ada response kepada artikel saya dengan memberi penghujjahan yang baik. cara ini yang meningkatkan kualitipublic discourse mengenai sesuatu.
salam.

matador 3 May 2009 at 22:56  

Wenger J Khairy,

I agree entirely with you and Sak that anonymity, whether thru the Net, sms, posters, letters, etc, shouldn't be used maliciously to harm others especially if they are innocent. Slander is a vicious weapon and that's the reason slander, whether done anonymously or otherwise, is a serious wrong in Islam.

Rashid may well be innocent, I've no opinion either way, but the post did say:

Rashid Yuosf.....He has been denied the probable chance of securing a post as press secretary to the DPM which is the second highest office in this country, simply because anonymous authors have acted as judge and jury condemning and defacing him while denying him the right to face his accusers.My argument is that I am doubtful that what A Voice or Bigdog wrote had any real bearing on the non-appointment of this Rashid, whom I do not know from Adam, as the DPM's press secretary. The second part of the quote gives too much credit to the opinions of the two now non-anonymous bloggers. There could be other factors in play on the issue of the (non)appointment.

Having said that, I think the Net is fairly neutral and there is nothing to stop Rashid or his friends from defending himself/him on the Net. They can do so either openly as you do or anonymously. Anonymity works both ways ie it works regardless of whether you are for or against a certain issue or person. It's the content that really matters to people who want to or have to make judgment calls on the issue or person being discussed.

Blogs or wikis or whatever are just improvements on the old and tested methods of whisperings and anonymous letters. These methods are still widely used as you will agree, I'm sure.

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