Under The Cover of Anonymity

Anonymous masks

People can choose to vote one way, and say they voted another way, and so it was during the many elections the country has seen so far, that the Bhutanese electorate realised the benefit of being anonymous.

Anonymity has its place, and has always had a place in Bhutanese society.

Perhaps conditioned by its culture and, given the small society that it is, Bhutanese normally do not deny anything openly and directly.

In a way, it helped people cast their secret ballots without feeling guilty about the commitments they made to political parties and candidates of local government elections and, of course, without fear.

That is probably one of benefits secret ballots accord people, and one of the contributing factors to well-run democracies.

That was at the national level and the use of the anonymous veil at a totally different level.

Today, however, it has to do more with online forums, and the space the internet affords people, which is confined to the urbanites, where such facilities are available.

Chatrooms, nowadays, are full of it, from those complaining about their jobs, salaries, attacks on government policies, to ones that are critical to democracy, of flaws in the application of laws.

These groups of people would say nothing at all, had there been no anonymity.

At a time, when the Bhutanese bureaucracy is all too cagey about the information that otherwise belongs to the people, and should be in the public domain, such a forum shakes the status quo.

Whistleblowers and sources that leak information to the people and the news media outlets through the internet and other online forums are a good example of why anonymity is necessary in the country.

And the fact that bureaucrats in senior positions and the government are often after such whistleblowers to fire them or ruin their careers, the need for anonymity becomes all the more crucial.

Sometimes, the same people, under the guise of anonymity, can abuse that freedom to further their own agendas and interests at the cost of someone else’s life.

If not moderated, online forums are full of personal attacks on personalities, government agencies and corporations that are often libelled by those, who spread false information.

That makes anonymity undesirable and one of the reasons why the election commission has framed a policy, which is, of course, subject to discussion, to screen and classify what materials can be used and cannot be used during the lead up to the next general election.

But what some of the moderated online forums also tell us is how this anonymous internet that people find refuge in, sharing their candid views with the world, is not really secure after all.

As internet users become more and more identifiable through their internet protocol (IP) addresses, it is only a question of time before people begin asking themselves just how much longer they can enjoy anonymity.

 

———-

Kuensel Editorial on the 3 September, 2012.

———-

This story from Sonam Pem

Sonam Pem has the distinction of being our very first author on Bhutanomics.

Comments

  1. Interesting, this one coming from Kuensel. Over the years, Kuensel has exposed the IDs of so many people from their forums. The latest being that Home Ministry guy who wrote about the RAPA girls.

    Maybe your intentions are there, but being a govt. paper, you are obliged when asked.

  2. LearnedLama says:

    Most Kuensel staff dont even know it. On twitter, 1 reporter swore that they they did not snitch the IP of the home ministry man. Poor man has been severely punished.

Comment?