Mea Culpa

Steven Gardner writes:

A couple of you have called me out for revealing the identity of an anonymous commenter. You’re right. I shouldn’t have done it. If we are going to allow anonymous comments, then those commenters have the right to expect that I will keep mum if I know who they are. You have my assurances that I won’t do that again.

39 thoughts on “Mea Culpa

  1. I am the poster you “outed.” The fact you outed the anonymous “Zombie Games” reveals that indeed even your parlour game is in fact partisan politics. As you recall I asked you the previous week in your “Blog Wars” thread about your “bias” or lack thereof and asked you a simple question your refused to answer.

    You also admitted in that exchange that you had “censored” some rather mild comments for what I preceive as biased reasons.

    I am saddened you won’t be outing all the poster/jokers who write under aliases but decry me for humorous reasons using a stage name.

    I wonder if Sound Politics wants to blog about Kitsap Sun’s breach of blog rules.

  2. The fact that both “James Olsen” and “Zombie games” used exactly the phraseology (buzz buzz) means that it doesn’t exactly take a rocket scientist to figure out who “Zombie games” is…

  3. I think it would improve the quality of the commentary if anonymous postings and those using pseudonyms were not allowed. Usually people use this means of disguise because they are being insulting or ridiculous.

    If people think that their ideas are so interesting and educational, they should be proud enough to put their names under them.

  4. The point is we have had this argument before and there is no middle ground. It is either confirmed names and identities or not. It has been noted in the past that individuals who use their real names post more on topic arguments. This appears to be very true lately. One thread about Washington Business was completely high jacked by an individual and their need to personally attack another individual when it had no relation, at all, to the topic at hand.

    Personally I do not like alias names and will not use one. But the rules of the blog are the rules of the blog. If it does not require real names then so be it. I don’t like it, but I accept it. We ALL need to participate per the rules.

    Elliott, it does not matter if “phraseology” means you can guess who someone is. If we are not going to “out” everybody then we should not “out” anybody. You took me to task about this topic on another thread. I heard everything you said and tried to learn something from it. Unfortunately you are letting your personal hatred for Mr Olson get in the way of hearing your own advice. This saddens me.

  5. “I wonder if Sound Politics wants to blog about Kitsap Sun’s breach of blog rules.”

    Blog rules my behind. Steve you did absolutly nothing wrong.

    A blog comments are owned by the author of the blog. It is entirely up to your discretion and your responsibility to decide what comments to publish.

    You should look up the Internet term “Sock Puppet” because that is what James M Olsen does. A sock puppet is a fake personality that is created make it appear that a fake conversation with multiple posters is real.

  6. See Sock Puppets destroy any attempt at having a decent online conversation.

    (I wonder if James Olsen has an issue with people using false addresses)

    You don’t publish letters to the editors where people are using fake names and addresses.

  7. Sockpuppet
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sockpuppet_%28Internet%29

    A sockpuppet is an online identity used for purposes of deception within an Internet community. In its earliest usage, a sockpuppet was a false identity through which a member of an Internet community speaks while pretending not to, like a puppeteer manipulating a hand puppet.[1]

    In current usage, the term has been extended beyond second identities of people who already post in a forum to include other uses of misleading online identities. For example, a recent NY Times article defines “sock-puppeting” as “the act of creating a fake online identity to praise, defend or create the illusion of support for one’s self, allies or company.”[2]

    The key difference between a sockpuppet and a regular pseudonym is the conveyance that the puppet is a third party who is not affiliated with the puppeteer.

  8. Posted by: Philip S. Griffey

    If people think that their ideas are so interesting and educational, they should be proud enough to put their names under them.

    Your making an excellent point . I think many conversatiopns would be more enlightening if we knew who we were .

    It does not stop the Jacob’s or Verns for making you appear to be promoting murder for the sake of oil if you disagree, but most people will exchange ideas intelligentlty .

    Thanks for apologizing Steve . Your a better man for it in my book .

  9. Thanks to Steve Gardner for his mea culpa – it’s something we don’t see often enough in the media (or our society at large, for that matter…)

    He’s correct. If a blog is going to allow anonymous posts, then it should respect the anonymity of the poster, especially if the blog is sponsored by – or deems itself to be part of – the media.

    Unfortunately, this is a concept that some people have a hard time wrapping their heads around. SoundPolitics once famously narc’d on an anonymous poster who criticized one of their authors – SoundPolitics backtracked through IP addresses and exposed the critic as a government employee who’d stolen a few minutes of work-time to correct an error/lie in the original article…

    Yes, it was wrong for this person to have been using a state-owned computer and internet connection to post on a blog – but it was a breech of whatever “journalistic integrity” SoundPolitics claims to have to expose this person, and it leaves us wondering if they exercise as much “investigative journalism” whenever someone supports one of their authors…

    Which brings me to a similar situation right here in our own little on-line community…

    It’s been pointed out in various forums that Lary Coppola’s “West Sound Politics” blog has a somewhat cozy relationship to the anonymously authored “614 Division” blog – far beyond the mere linking and citation sharing that is common among most blogs.

    “West Sound Politics” was the first – and still one of the few – to direct readers to what it generously described as “What Looks To Be A Provocative New Local Blog,” and there certainly seems to be a very convenient ideological back-scratching arrangement between them.

    It’s nearly impossible to find any issue where there is the least bit of political or philosophical daylight between “West Sound Politics” and “614 Division,” and both blogs consistently use nearly identical ad hominid attacks against local progressives such as Rep. Larry Seaquist and Commissioner Josh Brown while offering praise for conservatives…

    As Elliott pointed out above, it doesn’t exactly take rocket-science to figure this out…

    The problem here is that whoever is running “614” seems to want to eat their cake and have it too – they anonymously author a blog that could very well have a conflict of interest, while criticizing those who post anonymously…

    If Lary Coppola is the author of both blogs – or has any kind of relationship with those who are running “614” – then there is a serious issue of hypocrisy here, especially considering that both blogs consistently ridicule the integrity of our elected officials while Coppola himself is running for mayor of Port Orchard…

    I’d like to think that we might have at least one investigative journalist in Kitsap with the curiosity and resourcefulness to look into this – a candidate for mayor who uses an anonymous blog to cheerlead for himself and criticize his opponents is a newsworthy story the coverage of which would be a genuine public service.

    After all, as Coppola himself is all-too-eager to claim, character counts…

  10. There are many who avoid doing business with those having opposing views. I must admit that I am one of them. I would never hire Jake or Vern for any job. Therefore it is necessary for some of us to be anonymous.

  11. I always laugh when this topic comes up. I could right under the name Joseph Mammoth, and nobody would question my legitimacy… at least I am being honest about writing under a psuedonym.

    And why is it that people only challenge the anonymity of a poster, when that person makes a point that the others can’t think of a good rebuttal to?

    Either way, I won’t be participating much in this blog. I don’t think that censorship can be done fairly by one moderator. While profanity and obsene language should not be tolerated, those instances are very clear cut… unlike the vague ‘play nice’.

    Is calling Bush a liar or saying that Gregoire wasn’t really elected ‘playing nice’?

    Too often I find in the Kitsap sun blogs, that one type of comment is allowed to stand, while others are not. Call a liberal an america hating socialist, and that’s ok… but call an anti-immigration conservative a latinophobe and you get censored…

    So I suggest that the moderator only censor comments that violate a clear set of rules… not vague ones like “calling someone a liar without proof, are potentially libelous, or ‘are wrong’….”

  12. Nospin,

    From your post I gather you are not a moderate , defintely not a conservative , and a lefty who believes this blog is full of integrity and superior to others you mentioned .

    Thats Ok , the lefties like this one more . Perfectly understandable .

    But why I like the others is they are more likely to have information that Steve would not be inclined to report on .

    I too found his apology noble , but did notice another supporter here say he did nothing wrong . Obviously integrity, or lack there of knows no political boundry.

  13. 614 Division Street is AWOL — spending quality time with family or a few steps ahead of the creditors. Lary Coppola states emphatically he is NOT 614 Division Street blogger although some media wanabees spin that angle.

    614 Division Street R.I.P. AND keep truckin . . .

  14. After bloggers question a possible Lary Coppola/614 Division connection “614” disappears. Ironic coincidence? Curious and curiouser…

    Any crack investigative journalists out there? After all, our candidates are all for integrity and transparency, right?

  15. A blog is started by a person who wants to remain anonymous and indicates s/he is an insider who works for the county.

    A FOIA request is made to the county based upon some of the blogger’s comments, in an effort to determine identity of said blogger.

    Anonymous blogger removes blog.

    What’s the coincidence? Looks like a logical progression to me. As for the whole ‘is it Lary Coppola?’ bit, that question has been asked and answered.

  16. The Port Orchard Independent has an article about the blog 614 Division Street shutting down, its online now @ http://www.portorchardindependent.com/.

    From the article, “The sudden disappearance of the blog coincided with the filing of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the Kitsap News Group that was sought to determine the blogger’s identity.”

    My question is whether or not the Freedom of Information Act filing will be dropped or will it go forward?

  17. I am a proud paid card carrying member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation the defenders of our rights in the modern century (The ACLU and NRA are just so old school). They have published an extensive guide on the legal right of Bloggers that all should read. http://www.eff.org/bloggers

    I’ve been a blogger for five years now and I’ve gotten a book deal and published in several places on different publication because of my blog

  18. And what is Jake’s learned opinion on consistent application of policies on use of stage names or real names? How can this be verified? At what point does it become onerous for the blog host to play blog nanny? Thoughts?

    I know many sites have no problem with use of any humoress or not-humoress name and the sites are doing quite well. That was the odd thing about 614 Division Street, the school marmish lectures on “cowardly” use of nommes d’guerre and the host was a fiction. Oh, that’s right it was his “day job” that required that.

    Many sites do pre-screening and will not let outspoken bloggers on — for now the names of the sites are not critical.

    Let me know what the published Jake has to say.

  19. Good question Ian.

    Let’s please TRY to keep on the topic at hand. Shameless self promotion for the sake of self promotion aside.

  20. Well, according to the article the request was filed by the Kitsap News Group. Does that mean it could’ve been any reporter working for one of the local papers?

    The Sun isn’t part of KNG, is it?

    The suspense is killing me!

  21. Posted by: D. Keating

    ‘is it Lary Coppola?’ bit, that question has been asked and answered.

    I had reporter call me up and asked me who I thought it was , I said I had no clue . I don’t see how you can say one way or the other .

    I do notice one thing , it appears those who have political disagreements with Lary Copola seem to have made a case out of it . That is what is obvious to me . I thought Lary was a democrat , and democrats active in the partry don’t like him , and in his editorials he always put down the conservative part of the Republican party .

    Not too smart politically , I guess though his editorials appeared more honest , though maybe not to always my aggreement .

    He obviously ticked everyone off who believe in my party or else .
    What advantage would this blog be for him ?

  22. James if you use a different name on a blog comment or email but send it from the same internet connection you will have the same IP address unless you use an “Onion router” program like eff.org’s TOR.

    Sock puppets are just plain sad and don’t help. (And Dead Rising for Xbox 360 is my favorite zombie game of all time.)

    Now why would Google ( the owners of Blogger and blogspot where the anonymous right-wing blog was hosted.) respond to a FOAI request? I mean Google is not a government agency and their customer privacy information should be protected. Who was the FOAI request sent to?

    I think that 614 Division Street was badly written but I think the author should have the right to write whatever they want along as they comply with the Hatch Act and relevant laws. I do believe that bloggers and digital journalists should have the full protections of the law granted to traditional “Dead Tree Press” journalists.

  23. Mick Sheldon – I find it amusing that you assume that I am a “leftie” because I point out the hypocrisy of Lary Coppola, a Democrat…

    D. Keating – “A blog is started by a person who wants to remain anonymous and indicates s/he is an insider who works for the county….” I don’t know anyone who buys that excuse. Where were the “from the inside” stories that required a deep-throat source? All “614” ever posted was conjecture that anyone with the least amount of Kitsap political awareness could come up with. “614” was far more personal-opinion and cheerleading than anything else…

    Jake Metcalf – get over yourself…

    Me – I think that “614” being yanked is just a case of “if you can’t stand the heat…” where “heat” = “truth.”

  24. James,

    The FOIA request to the county was made so that the person(s) could piece together information regarding employees who have taken extended leave, and match this up with who might be the anonymous host at 614 Division. This is not quite the same as a legal request to reveal the anonymous identity of a blogger, though the county could cite Exemption 2 or Exemption 6 of FOIA. At which point, they would have to argue their case. Had Kitsap News Group requested IP or other information from Blogger.com, it is more likely this would be refused.

  25. Collen and Phil I believe you are right on , knowing who we are does bring respect and accountability to the conversations .

    And Gary I see your point , knowing who Vern and Jacob are if they were in private business I would not hire them either for what they have stated before on these blogs.
    Sam Adams use to write letters to the editor under a different name , afraid of some dude named King George getting on his case .

    I guess it depends on the Sun , do they want a community newspaper , with neigbors exchanging ideas and opinions , or do they want people who prove they can ridicule their neigbor better then the other person.

  26. Ian – From what I understand, the reporter is Charlie Bermant. Whether or not this is with the weight of the paper behind him, the safe assumption is that the answer is yes. Kitsap News Group is not the Sun to my knowledge, but the Sound Publishing papers (North Kitsap Herald, Port Orchard Independent, etc.).

    Mick – I agree with Lary on some things, and disagree with him on others. Either way, I prefer to exercise care regarding the choice to engage in accusations and/or smear campaigns.

    NoSpin – I don’t particularly care who buys what excuse. Nor do I care to characterise the blog, which I did not frequent. The only relevant matter here is the FOIA request to the county, and the facts of the case as they unfold.

  27. “nfortunately, this is a concept that some people have a hard time wrapping their heads around. SoundPolitics once famously narc’d on an anonymous poster who criticized one of their authors – SoundPolitics backtracked through IP addresses and exposed the critic as a government employee who’d stolen a few minutes of work-time to correct an error/lie in the original article…”

    You should point out it was none other than Rep. Geoff Simpson AKA “PDC Expert”, the author of the Anti-Kitsap Corporate-Welfare NASCAR legislation and spreader of fake lies about a prison plans in Kitsap if NASCAR failed. He was the one who was caught being a sock puppet comment troll on SoundPolitics.com.

    Steve if you ever write an article about Sock Puppets on blogs make sure to interview Geoff Simpson about it.

  28. If the FOIA request was about an employee’s medical issue it should have been refused out of the employees in question’s medical privacy protections under the federal 1996 HIPAA law.

  29. HIPAA is a law which governs how healthcare organizations and similar types handle a patient’s medical information. This is not the same as a FOIA request made to acquire information regarding which government employees took an extended leave during the months of May and June for a “family emergency”, especially if the reason wasn’t specifically requested.

    On the Hatch Act issue, local employees are prohibited from using their official authority to influence, interfere with, or affect the results of an election or nomination. So if Kitsap News really wanted to push this issue, they could argue that the anonymous blogger did this by talking up certain candidates whilst denigrating others.

    However, the posts were after work hours, so s/he wasn’t using county time. Thus, there could be an affirmative defence to the “official authority” argument, as well as whether or not expressing his or her opinion truly qualifies as influencing, affecting or interfering. The logic being, most people already have their minds made up about candidates, and aren’t hanging onto the words of bloggers to make or sway those decisions for them.

    In the end, Charlie filed the request more out of annoyance at the blogger for being anonymous yet failing to provide the solid or more ‘newsy’ information expected on an ‘insider’. I think he just wanted to rattle the cage. Now that he’s accomplished this, it seems unlikely he’ll pursue the matter further.

  30. Actually the medical privacy protections of HIPPA Section II covers all Americans and covers more than just the medical insurance industry.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_Insurance_Portability_and_Accountability_Act#The_Privacy_Rule

    “The Privacy Rule took effect April 14, 2003, with a one-year extension for certain “small plans.” It establishes regulations for the use and disclosure of Protected Health Information (PHI). PHI is any information about health status, provision of health care, or payment for health care that can be linked to an individual. This is interpreted rather broadly and includes any part of a patient’s medical record or payment history.”

    And actually the 1939 Hatch Act only applied to Federal employees and Federal elections not Kitsap County. (However I am unsure if we have a local regulation)

    But as long as the blogger didn’t disclose any workplace private information it would not be a violation of the Hatch if they were a Federal employee and running for a federal position.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatch_Act_of_1939#Rules_of_the_Act

  31. Nowhere in my post did I indicate it only covered the medical industry. What I did write is that HIPAA is a law which governs how healthcare organizations and similar types handle a patient’s medical information. Specifically, The Privacy and AS rules pertain to ‘covered entities’ and ‘Business Associate Contracts’, as defined. The recipient of this protection is obviously the patient, which translates into every American citizen. Your quote from Wikipedia in no way disagrees with my point, nor changes that the FOIA request made by Kitsap News did not request the medical information of the county’s employees.

    Had the county responded, it is more likely its legal counsel would advise it to merely provide a list of names of those who were on leave, and perhaps the dates in May or June. At the absolute most would be a generic reference which indicated family leave, vacation, medical, or other. Any private or protected information would be redacted. That is certainly how I would advise a client…

    Hatch Act also applies to state and local employees. The ‘use of official authority or influence’ regarding an election is the same at both this and the federal levels. You might consider OSC for Hatch over Wikipedia. A more ‘to the source’ link for HIPAA’s Privacy Rule can be found here.

  32. “Nowhere in my post did I indicate it only covered the medical industry.”
    Posted by: D. Keating | July 24, 2007 02:46 PM

    HIPAA is a law which governs how healthcare organizations and similar types handle a patient’s medical information.
    Posted by: D. Keating | July 23, 2007 04:29 PM
    (No mention of any other parts of the HIPPA law)

  33. “(No mention of any other parts of the HIPPA law)”

    There are enough points where we disagree without your having to fabricate a straw man.

    You misread and extrapolated my comments, then jumped at the chance to correct. Instead, you affirmed my point on HIPAA (not HIPPA) and were incorrect regarding Hatch. Now you’re trying to save face with a weak position that contextual reference to HIPAA is an inclusive representation of the law. Never mind that we were specifically discussing privacy and divulgence of medical information, even though the FOIA request didn’t include it..rendering your mention of HIPAA moot to begin with.

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