Sock Puppets Get Newspaperman Disciplined

As reported in the New York Times,

[The Los Angeles Times] suspended the blog of one of its columnists after it was revealed that he had posted comments on the paper’s website and elsewhere on the web under false names…. [The actions] had violated the newspaper’s ethics guidelines, “which requires editors and reporters to identify themselves when dealing with the public.” That policy “applies to both the print and online editions of the newspaper.”

I like that guideline, although I hadn’t heard of it before as part of a code of ethics. Would that more companies adopted it… I’m thinking here specifically of Alias, whose Executive Director, Mike S. Miller, has been found using similar sock puppets on Newsarama.

A “sock puppet” is, according to Wikipedia,

an additional account created by an existing member of an internet community. This account allows them to pose as a completely different user, sometimes to manufacture the illusion of support in a vote or argument.

Miller was revealed to be using a psuedonym of “Angry Monkey” (and lying about it) to allow him to gay-bash “without the weight of who I am in the industry giving it any more or less attention than any of the other 95% of posters here who use handles.”

Since I know many people whose opinion of Miller influences their opinion of the comics put out by the company he’s associated with, I suspect the real reason is somewhat different. Anyway, I think we can all agree hiding your identity on the internet in such a case is, if not unethical, immature at best.


6 Responses to “Sock Puppets Get Newspaperman Disciplined”

  1. David Oakes Says:

    You hadn’t heard of identification before? It’s been SOP for as long as I have known about ethics. You get the same thing with doctors, police, pretty much any “official” position. I have even heard tales of freelancers who got in trouble because they didn’t say right off the bat that an interview was going in a specific paper. (Though more I am sure are caught implying that it would go somewhere better than it was.)

    It’s presented as “jounalistic integrity” and “transparency”, and probably was at one time, but I think now it’s an extention of the Corporate mindset – “We own you, and we want to know what you are doing at all times”.

  2. Lyle Says:

    Sigh, this situation frustrates me a lot because I used to read Hizlik’s blog for a while and liked it. Being an LA Times blog, it attracted a bunch of trolls and I thought Hizlik’s comments (as himself) handled them well (until I just got too annoyed).

    It’s the whole annoyance with seeing people who should know better do really stupid things.

  3. Johanna Says:

    David, you are SUCH a cynic! I guess I hadn’t made the connection before between identification and usernames. But then, I’ve always been me online (with the exception of the one time I tried to go undercover in a chat — it lasted about 30 minutes before someone said “Johanna, is that you?”).

    Lyle, I’m sorry you’re going to miss out.

  4. Rachel Says:

    In a way, I understand using an alias, especially if you are far from your normal haunts and just want to start afresh without attracting much attention from people who might recognize you. Maybe you want to try being someone else online. Although, creating a new alias in territory you have already claimed seems a bit devious to me. I’ve considered it in the (long, long, long ago) past, but I’ve always come to the conclusion that if I felt awkward saying something via my pre-existing online presence, I either wasn’t forming my opinions in a persuasive or diplomatic manner or they were better kept to myself.

    Of course, you cannot shamelessly promote yourself or your work if you are pretending to be someone else, either.

    I wonder how they get caught? IP addresses maybe? Perhaps they just let their facades slip occasionally.

  5. Johanna Says:

    Oh, I can think of several good reasons for using an alias, and it’s one of the wonderful qualities of the internet that you can be who you think you are instead of who others perceive you to be externally. But as you say, “I don’t want to have to stand behind my unpopular opinions” or “I want to make it look like more people agree with me” aren’t good reasons.

  6. Scott Hassler Says:

    on comics blogs these false IDs should be called sock monkeys instead of sock puppets.

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