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Bad practice online community engagement: British councillor uses false name to praise himself

I saw this today on the ABC Australia news site. It made me laugh – I’m not sure what the lessons might be here other than that these things have a way of getting found out!

We block multiple logins on Bang the Table but I do find myself feeling some sympathy (but not much) for this hapless Councilor. Firstly because if a forum is anonymous it should be just that. Breaking that contract with the community just because it makes a good news story is really not acceptable. If I were a user of that site I would think twice about giving my details.

Also if you want to express an argument anonymously that may be legitimate. Being anonymous online removes people’s prejudices about you as an individual (what you look like, how you dress, age, gender, race, disability etc) and comments are judged on their merits alone. This is part of the power of the web – a great leveler.

Not so sure about praising yourself though – he really must think his constituents are pretty stupid!

Forum scam: British councillor uses false name to praise himself

A British councillor has come under fire after being caught using an alias to praise his own work on the local newspaper’s website.

The Daily Echo in Bournemouth, on the south coast of England, decided to name and shame Ben Grower after he posted comments under several names.

He admitted using false names but said it was a legitimate way to put his views across.

In one post, about plans to build Europe’s first artificial reef nearby, Cr Grower wrote: “At least two councillors seem to be concerned about this mess. Well done councillors Ratcliffe and Grower.”

In another, he praised himself among other “councillors who care about their residents” over a planning matter.

“As far as I am concerned this has and always will be a legitimate means of making comments,” the councillor said in an email to colleagues.

“It is perfectly legitimate to use pseudonyms, as indeed many others do.”

But Cr Claire Smith said: “Things like this cannot happen or the trust breaks down between councillors and members of your ward.”

The newspaper said it respected its readers’ right to anonymity but “we felt that when a councillor pretends to be somebody else to improve his reputation that it is of sufficient public interest to tell people about it”.

Photo Credits: Alex Turton

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14 January 2009
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