Quote of the Day - If I wouldn't say it to a reporter, I wouldn't say it on my blog.
The latest and perhaps one of the most expensive falls of an anonymous blogger happened this week after Ivy League-educated pediatrician Robert P. Lindeman sat on the stand in Massachusetts's Suffolk Superior Court, where he defended himself in a malpractice suit over the death of his 12-year-old patient resulting from an alleged misdiagnosis of the child's diabetes. Lindeman had been blogging anonymously under the nom de plume "Flea," a derogatory term surgeons called him in medical school because he was studying to be a pediatrician.
Flea blogged the trial everyday, and included details only someone who had been attending the trial would know. Opposing counsel noticed, and she (nicknamed by Flea as "Clarissa Lunt, a nail biter") confronted him with his blogging on the stand. It turns out the blogging was not flattering to the trial, and likewise not to Dr. Lindeman's benefit in the trial. As an example, according to a Boston Globe article about the event, "In April, before the trial began, he wrote about meeting with an expert on juries who advised him how to act when he was cross-examined. Flea was instructed to angle his chair slightly toward the jury, keep his hands folded in his lap, and face the jury when answering questions, slowly. 'Answers should be kept to no more than three sentences,' he wrote."
Within a day after the Plaintiff's counsel questioned Dr. Lindeman about his blog, the case settled. The blog is now down, and although you can read three pages of it on The Wayback Machine, there's nothing that relates to the malpractice case. It is, however, obvious that the anonmymity Dr. Flea thought he had allowed him to blog about events and people he shouldn't have blogged about, such as particulars of his patients and their visits to his office and the hospital. Other local bloggers recognize the dangers, and changed some of their posts.
Anonymous blogging encourages a certain freedom in writing that can be dangerous. Witness Washingontonienne, who now faces an invasion of privacy lawsuit arising from her anonymous description of sexual escapades with a man who did not want to be publicly outed. Anonymous blogging allows a double cachet - the writer feels able to say more than good taste, social mores and perhaps the law may otherwise allow, and the reader voyeuristically enjoys an insight not otherwise available. There are even recommendations on ways to unmask anonymous bloggers, although they do enjoy some level of First Amendment protections despite the six degrees of anonymity. Others scorn anonymous bloggers.
The apparent double win frequently leads to a major loss for the anonymous blogger. David Lat, a former U.S. Attorney started "Underneath Their Robes" offering sometimes startling insights into federal judges. Lat voluntarily left his job after being discovered.