Someone speaking in an accent that is foreign to our ear isn’t as likely to be taken as seriously as someone who is speaking fluently, or without any apparent trace of an accent, according to recent research.
The effort required to understand an accented utterance means that the same fact is judged as less credible when uttered by an accented speaker, compared with a native speaker. This remains true even if the accented speaker is merely passing on a message from a native speaker.
I can’t say I’ve found this to be the case personally, I might have trouble understanding someone with a strong accent, but usually not to the point I doubt what they are saying.
While there’s plenty of misinformation to be found online, there is plenty of information that is perfectly accurate and correct. As in “real life” it’s a matter of shifting the wheat from the chaff with a little (or more, as the case may be) objective thinking.
The first thing we all need to know about information online is how to detect crap, a technical term I use for information tainted by ignorance, inept communication, or deliberate deception. Learning to be a critical consumer of Webinfo is not rocket science. It’s not even algebra. Becoming acquainted with the fundamentals of web credibility testing is easier than learning the multiplication tables. The hard part, as always, is the exercise of flabby think-for-yourself muscles.
The recent naming of award winning blogger Night Jack, a British police detective, has thrown the spotlight onto the topic of anonymous blogging in the last few weeks.
And while there are numerous – valid – reasons why some bloggers wish to conceal their identity, the question arises has to how such writers can hope to establish credibility and authority when, for all we know, their activities may be a charade.
After all it’s not difficult to set up a fake online persona and begin posting misinformation, gossip, and lies as mood dictates.
And besides what’s up with keeping it all hush-hush anyway? What if you wrote well and developed a large following? Wouldn’t you ultimately be doing yourself a disservice by keeping your identity under wraps?
So, why do people blog anonymously?
As I’ve said some bloggers have genuine reasons to hide their identity. They may be:
- Personal bloggers, people wishing to vent feelings about personal or family issues, or those who do not want their bosses or parents knowing the ins and outs of their social or love lives.
- Whistle blowers, or those trying to expose dubious corporate, government, etc, conduct of some sort, whose livelihoods could be threatened if their identities were to become known.
- Political activists living in places where freedom of speech is restricted or non-existent.
Abby Lee, author of “Girl with a One-Track Mind”, herself an anonymous blogger until being “outed” a few years ago, is especially mindful of the plight of this last group of bloggers:
With the current situation in Iran, we are reminded of the need for online anonymity for those people who are, quite literally, risking their lives to get their messages out, so this landmark ruling in the British courts is extremely worrying and a threat to all of our rights to privacy.
How do anonymous bloggers build credibility?
As I see it the personal bloggers, who rarely use real names or divulge information that could be directly traced back to the people or situations they are writing about, do not need to be as concerned about their credentials as other anonymous bloggers do.
These bloggers are usually writing for their own reasons and chances are their readers find their blogs entertaining or otherwise worthwhile. This audience is more likely to take what they read at face value without being too concerned as to its actual authenticity.
Otherwise what can bloggers, wishing to conceal their identity, do to be taken seriously? This is a good question.
- Write observations that can be corroborated against the posts of other independent bloggers, or media reports on the topic?
- Where possible make use of photos, videos, or link to other evidence that backups their claims?
- Garner the support and goodwill of a small group of people who are either thought leaders, or expert in the blogger’s subject matter, who are prepared to vouch for them?
Whistle blower or… disgruntled employee?
This scenario on the Technical Guide to Anonymous Blogging page caught my eye:
Sarah works in a government office as an accountant. She becomes aware that her boss, the deputy minister, is stealing large amounts of money from the government. She wants to let the world know that a crime is taking place but is worried about losing her job.
Sarah’s revelations might lead to an investigation of the deputy minister’s expenses, but what if her allegations turned out to be a fabrication, because she had a grudge against her boss?
While the deputy minister may eventually be cleared of wrong doing, his or her reputation may have been damaged in the interim.
Of course anyone, anonymous or not, can go online and say whatever they want, but it is obviously far easier to hold someone writing in their own name accountable for their words.
Are anonymous bloggers’ identities protected by law?
This depends on the laws of the jurisdiction that the blogger resides within, though if the Night Jack case is anything to go by, it looks like this is no longer a given.
It is the opinion of the British High Court that blogging is a public undertaking, and therefore bloggers writing anonymously, such as Night Jack, cannot necessarily rely on the courts to preserve their anonymity:
Refusing to grant Det Con Horton anonymity at the High Court yesterday, Justice Eady said that “blogging is essentially a public rather than a private activity”.