Anonymous Blogging: David Lat and Jonathan Adler

I’m at the panel on anonymous blogging at the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy Conference. Jonathan Adler (formerly Juan Non-Volokh) and David Lat (formerly Article III Groupie) told their stories about blogging under a pseudonym.

Adler explained that when he began blogging at the Volokh Conspiracy in 2002, he was unsure about how blogging would be received in the legal academy. It was Eugene Volokh that proposed the idea to Adler that he blog under a pseudonym. Adler said that his main reason for blogging under a pseudonym was not because of his political views but because he was uncertain about whether his colleagues would think his blogging would take away time and focus from his scholarship. Adler thought he’d be unmasked in about a year, and he was surprised that he managed to stay anonymous. Adler said that he probably wouldn’t blog under a pseudonym if he were an untenured professor beginning to blog today since blogging is generally well-received in the academy.

David Lat created Article III Groupie (“A3G” for short, a nickname bestowed upon Lat by Judge Alex Kozinski) in a way to make a persona with very different characteristics than Lat. When he first began blogging, Lat wasn’t very careful about blogging anonymously; he would email under his real name with the same IP address as he used in his blogging sessions and in his A3G email. Judge Kozinski once emailed A3G and asked: “Do you know about safe emailing?” Lat said no. Judge Kozinski then gave A3G a brief lesson in careful emailing. Afterwards, Lat took more care and began using anonymizing software.

Lat decided to come out because he wanted some recongition for his blogging. He really enjoyed blogging and was getting a lot of media attention for it. Some friends and others began figuring out A3G was Lat. He once received an email from someone who said: “Hey, wanna get coffee in Newark sometime?” (Lat worked as a federal prosecutor in Newark). Therefore, Lat began thinking of an exit strategy so he could go out on his own terms. The opportunity came when Jeff Toobin of The New Yorker wanted to interview A3G in person. Lat agreed to meet him for lunch. When Toobin saw Lat, his jaw dropped: “So you’re a guy??” Toobin said.

Lat said that the week after he revealed his identity was a stressful one. The U.S. Attorney office wanted him to stop the blog, but they didn’t threaten to fire him at all. But then the opportunity to blog at Wonkette, the popular political gossip blog, came along, and Lat left his job to blog full-time at Wonkette.

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1 Response

  1. Seth R. says:

    It should probably be noted that a large part of the appeal and news media hype surrounding those blogs was due to the anonymity factor (lent an aura of mystery that spins well in a news piece). Good content helped too, of course.