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Outing Etiquette

In relation to the recent topic of conversation on the Twit-o-sphere, Facebook and blogs, I thought I’d take a minute to explain my philosophy on “outing,” or rather, revealing personal information about people that they did not purposely reveal. There are instances where I think this passes the fairly low Internet ethics test:

  • The anonymity in question is used for the purposes of sock puppetry. Sock puppetry is distinct from operating under a pseudonym. I don’t make any pretenses that Sebastian is a separate and real person from myself. It is merely a pen name. If I was indeed creating a separate identity, that would be sock puppetry. There have been examples of sock puppets having their true identity outed on both sides, and I think it’s acceptable.
  • If the person seeking anonymity is well known in the community under which they are seeking the anonymity of a pseudonym, and are using that anonymity to gain some sort of personal advantage. Most of the time this would be sock puppetry, but there are some cases where it isn’t, but unmasking would still be ethical. For instance if someone well known in the community were using a pseudonym to release damaging information about other people within that community, that would be an example of non-sock-puppetry which would still allow the individual to be ethically unmasked.
  • The person being unmasked is hiding behind anonymity to make viscous, personal attacks, or to engage in real harassment. I’ve seen some of the Anonymous comments Joan Peterson has approved on her site, and they are vile. I think if she discovered the identity of these commenters and unmasked them, that would be completely ethical.

But I don’t think most blogging under a pseudonym is problematic. Publius, from the Federalist Papers, is a famous example of this. I generally don’t ever consider it acceptable to out personal information in a public forum, when the person has chosen to use a pseudonym. Umasking, i.e. revealing the person’s true identity, is about as far as it should go unless there’s real harassment or something exceptionally vile.

Most of us are blogging under pseudonym’s for professional reasons, and unlike what CSGV may think, not because I work for NRA. They suggest “we now know he works directly with the NRA-ILA,” well duh, I’m a volunteer. I would hope their volunteers work directly with them rather than aimlessly doing their own thing. But, to disappoint CSGV, all my contacts with NRA have been developed through blogging and volunteering. Before that, I was just a number in their database, and someone who kicked in a few extra bucks here and there above membership dues.

Perhaps if CSGV engaged with their active members, and tried to actually organize them for action, rather than just get them frothing at the mouth, they’d actually get somewhere.

16 Responses to “Outing Etiquette”

  1. Redeemeed Boyd says:

    Well said, “Sebastian.”

  2. Weer'd Beard says:

    I would also say that use of a pseudonym or nom-de-plume also helps isolate our day jobs from our night jobs, so-to-speak.

    I didn’t ask my employer’s thoughts on the 2nd Amendment before I took this or any other jobs I work. My political views, as well as my side hobby is irrelevant to them as my sexuality, or to what religious beliefs I ascribe to.

    I simply don’t want any old joe to google my name and decide they will deal with me differently because I disagree with them on a political issue.

    Also I live in Massachusetts, and I have a HUGE problem with the political corruption, as well as the abusive gun laws here.

    My police chief could demote my permit and force me to liquidate my extensive collection simply because he doesn’t like my expressed views on my blog. This IS a very real fear for me, tho hopefully unfounded, as my only recourse would be to spend thousands of dollars suing the very police force I expect to help me in a time of need.

    We are NOT anonymous if we are on the internet. I post pictures of myself, and my real name is out there, both on the internet, and in most of the bloggers and industry people who I have met through my blog.

    My political actions here should not effect my the day-to-day life of my family, or myself.

    But anti-rights people have attempted to do just that simply to silence a voice of opposition and reason.

  3. Sebastian says:

    “I would also say that use of a pseudonym or nom-de-plume also helps isolate our day jobs from our night jobs, so-to-speak.”

    That’s why I use one. Though, sometimes my day job is my night job, and vica versa. :)

  4. Sebastian says:

    My police chief could demote my permit and force me to liquidate my extensive collection simply because he doesn’t like my expressed views on my blog. This IS a very real fear for me, tho hopefully unfounded, as my only recourse would be to spend thousands of dollars suing the very police force I expect to help me in a time of need.

    And you are exactly right about this.

  5. Andy says:

    Wait a minute. Wasn’t there a case in a MAY issue state where a permit was revoked based on the holder’s politics? And didn’t that result in a lawsuit where the Sheriff was ordered to re-issue the permit and take classes in the Constitution for violating first amendment rights?

    Fortunately for me, where I work everybody knows my opinions on politics and guns and they simply don’t care. Though at a previous job I have had an issue with my employer not liking something on my blog.

  6. Jake says:

    I didn’t ask my employer’s thoughts on the 2nd Amendment before I took this or any other jobs I work. My political views, as well as my side hobby is irrelevant to them as my sexuality, or to what religious beliefs I ascribe to.

    This.

    I don’t use my full name, and try to be non-specific about certain activities, for exactly this reason. There are other reasons, too. I’m not in the closet about being gay, but I do choose who I reveal that information to in my non-electronic life – both because some people I work with are extremely vocal about their dislike of gays, and because some of my relatives don’t know and wouldn’t be able to handle it. Linking my real name with my blogging activities could potentially have some uncomfortable repercussions.

    Though I am aware of and accept the risks, because they’re small, I would still rather avoid them.

    Their tactics are simply low, and they are probably hoping for the worst. They can’t win with logic and facts, and lying hasn’t been working so well for them lately, so they’ll stoop to any tactic they think they can get away with.

  7. ZK says:

    Looking at his tweets, I’m actually curious if he’s gearing up to file a nuisance lawsuit.

  8. Matthew Carberry says:

    Maybe it bothers Joan and the CSGV that the NRA-ILA has more unpaid local volunteers than they have members en toto.

    Heck, there are probably more pro-gun but unaffiliated bloggers on line than there are members of those organizations.

    Poor babys.

  9. Arnie says:

    I wrote a pro-2nd and 9th Amendment opinion piece to the major newspaper in my State which to get published requires a real name and hometown. As a result, I got harassing letters in my mailbox from ignorant liberals who called me a traitor, a nazi, and essentially a right-wing revolutionary (ok, maybe that last one fits) for simply quoting our Founding Fathers (unfortunately, the editors inexplicably censored the sources and left out most of the quotation marks, making most of the quotes appear to simply be my own opinion. I wrote them a letter scolding them for that.) What was really hypocritical is that the harassing letters and blog entries were all anonymous and without home addresses – the typical cowardly liberals!

  10. mobo says:

    Yeah, the Daily News wanted my real name and address for an opinion piece I wrote, but I refused to give it to them. My fear was that my “character and reputation” could arbitrarily be deemed unsuitable for LTCF renewal.

    I pointed out that Ben Franklin frequently wrote as Richard Saunders in Poor Richard’s and used several pseudonyms when writing to the newspapers, sometimes replying to his own letters.

    And then there was Cato, Brutus, The Federal Farmer, Publius, Pacificus, Helvidious, etc. I could go on forever, but the point is made already….

  11. thirdpower says:

    Perhaps they don’t ‘engage’ w/ ‘active members’ because they have nothing in common except for frothing at the mouth hatred.

    Whereas we can go out to the range w/ ‘gun lobby’ staffers and have a good time.

  12. Robert says:

    “For instance if someone well known in the community were using a pseudonym to release damaging information about other people within that community, that would be an example of non-sock-puppetry which would still allow the individual to be ethically unmasked.”

    Damaging information about a legal activity, or damaging information about an illegal activity? Seems that one would be OK and the other would not.

  13. Alpheus says:

    In this day and age, with identity fraud being the problem it is, some level of anonymity on the internet is *highly* desirable. This is the primary reason why I don’t like using my full name publicly.

    As for my blog, since my stated purpose is to “defend the little things”, and since “epsilon” is a Greek letter used in mathematics to denote small values, I thought it only natural to take up the name of “Epsilon Given”, a common mathematical phrase.

    While I wouldn’t lose sleep being “outed”, I’d rather be just left alone as well…

  14. TS says:

    This is why I don’t have internet or phone at my house. I save these messages on a thumb drive and a courier takes them to an internet café.

  15. doba says:

    These people hide from the consequences of their lies, actions and omissions through anonymity. Posting their personal information provides accountability and civility and a measure self restraint. Incivility, lies, etc. provide them weapons they they use freely and with accountability removes from them. For there are consequences to lies and incivility which most of these people are not willing to risk if the become known.

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