Blogs as whistleblowers

There is a story on the BBC News website about an exasperated police officer who blogged about having to spend too much time doing paperwork whose identity has now been exposed. According to the story – he “risked his job” to write the Policeman’s blog, and only now, as he leaves the UK to move to Canada, has his identity be revealed.

This poses interesting questions around the extend to which organisations should police the on-line activities of their employees when they comment about their organisation outside of work. The situation is perhaps more sensitive when the organisation is a public body, such as the police or the armed forces.

Yet despite the idea that an individual making comments of the sort Mr Davidson made could threaten his job – his blog seems to have had a positive impact. According to the report, the minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing, Tony McNulty, dismissed the blog, yet has now “shifted his position”, and, whilst not accepting that everything Mr Davidson has alleged is true, admits that things could be improved.

So if Mr Davidson had not started his blog, would Mr McNulty not be fully aware of the day-to-day activities of his officers on the ground? The government wants to protect whistle blowers yet at the same time is struggling to come to terms with technologies such as blogs which allow Mr Davidson to pass comment on sensitive and potentially embarrassing issues.

Where this case may be fairly straightforward as Mr Davidson is leaving the UK for Canada it becomes more complicated with organisations such as the armed forces, who were recently banned from blogging. Obviously there are very good operational reasons as to why unfiltered comment from serving personnel could compromise security, but without the opportunity to pass comment would incidences such as Abu Ghraib go unnoticed? As a final thought, a comment on the ThisIsLondon article above actually cites Abu Ghraib as a reason why army blogs should be banned – as it should have been kept secret to deny left-wing liberals the ammunition to attack the Iraq war!

Whatever your views on the rights or wrongs of that particular situation, one final thought is that throughout history society has progressed to being more open and more accountable and attempts to stem the tide ultimately fail.

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