Cllr Grower and sockpuppeting; we can see your email address, you know

Well I couldn’t go home today without writing something about this.

Views range from the absolutely-we-did-the-right-thing to the lazy-story-he’s-got-a-right-to-privacy.

What do I think? From a management of the community we’re building perspective, I’d like to have seen him privately warned tp cease and desist before we named and shamed him.

But from a news perspective, I think it’s a great story. I think he has attempted to deceive his electorate and if we’d been mid-election I’m fairly sure those comments could have seen us in breach of electoral regulations if we hadn’t named and shamed him once we knew.

But as Judith Townend from journalism.co.uk said to me today, where do we draw the line between silly and serious?

No harm has been done by the comments, so should we, as holders of private data and managers of a website where people are allowed, if not encouraged, to post under pseudonyms which currently range from Frying Leper to Lord Jesus, have told him to back off, register under his own name or stop bigging himself up? And what of the countless other commenters promoting their own agenda? Who’s allowed and who isn’t?

On reflection, I think I fall on the side of news here. He’s a public servant, paid by the tax payer. They deserve to know if he’s the kind of man who’ll post nice things about himself while trying his hardest to pretend he knows nothing about the story in question.  If he was a company, it would be illegal. Has it done us harm with our online readers? Maybe. But you can’t please all the people all the time.

But I will make a quick point about the age old issue of links.

Not a single one of the national stories (nor Iain Dale’s blog, which linked instead to the Indy) has a link to us, or any of the stories Cllr Grower commented on, or journalism.co.uk, who picked up the story first.

To be fair, the nats are all using PA copy. But why can’t PA include links in their feeds? And someone has made the choice to pull the PA story from the feed and highlight on those sites – it’s not hard to find the link to our story.  I know Alison Gow has complained about this before, and we’ll no doubt be more annoyed when we see how the print versions use it tomorrow. But if the link economy is part of our future model for news, then why not link to us? I am, courtesy of a Yahoo pipe, linking to them. How about they return the favour?

PS: the best part, in my view, was a complaint from Cllr Grower that people commenting on the story were pretending to be him. Not who they said they were. Oh the irony.

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2 thoughts on “Cllr Grower and sockpuppeting; we can see your email address, you know

  1. gingerelvis says:

    Some interesting posts about the Nazis controlling the internets.

    There are some genuine points about how much privacy you should expect from a forum/web community.
    I don’t think a newspaper cannot afford to let all and sundry say whatever they want while calling themselves GingerElvis (that name is taken, so back-off). We can argue that degoratory and libellous comments are removed as soon as we spot them or they’re reported, but show me a newspaper editor who wants to test that in court.
    So of course details of people’s accounts have to be held by web moderators, and we have the Data Protection Act to ensure their privacy.

    But to me, this is clearly in the public interest and there is a genuinely important news angle.
    A councillor has deliberately tried to mislead the people who vote for him. By faking praise for himself, he has sought to influence those who vote for him in a clandestine manner.
    Whether he deserves praise or not is irrelevant, and if he wants to praise himself then fine, but people have the right to know he tried to deceive them.
    Those who wish to represent the public (you can probably add journalists in here) have to be held to a higher standard, and they should be well aware of that when they enter politics.

  2. jtownend says:

    Nice post. It’s funny that even Dale didn’t link to your story.

    Looking at it a bit more broadly, it was an interesting reflection on the UK ‘news agenda’: suddenly it becomes ‘news’ and worthy of national coverage in several places when the wire picks it up. I’m wondering where PA first spotted it…

    Does the wire partly explain this linkless reporting do you think? I can’t bear reading stories which reference the web without links! It’s like reading a recipe without the ingredient list. You know it has flour in it, but how much?

    Anyway, at Journalism.co.uk towers we’re used to our stuff going unattributed. The irony is that the media publications who are most protective of content are the worst at attributing others.

    We often see quotes given to us used word-for-word, but unattributed to us (maybe they assume it comes from a press release?) and have even seen whole stories cut and pasted, totally sans links and no mention of our site.

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