Journalism plays an important role in preserving the right to be informed in any country. Whether the news being reported is in favor of the government or against it, it acts as the people’s voice. Journalism offers tremendous opportunity and responsibility to journalists and helps them maintain the fragile balance of democracy.
Why Anonymity is Crucial for Journalism in the Digital Age
However, getting to the truth is no easy task. In the digital age, things have become even more complicated than just getting access to classified files. With government surveillance reaching historical heights, it is up to every journalist to protect themselves and the truth they want to tell.
If you are still in doubt about the importance of anonymity in journalism, let us elucidate our argument further.
Ensuring that the Sources are Secure
In the days before the internet drove the global economy, source anonymity was a simple matter. You just had to keep your mouth shut about your source and they would be protected. However, in today’s world, it is laughable how easy it is to track people.
Now, considering their lives might be at stake for divulging vital information, it is no surprise that sources are very cautious. The smart ones will almost always demand encryption on all communications and never talk over the phone.
You should get to know how to stay anonymous online while gathering your sources. This will not only help you keep them safe but also keep yourself and the info you gather safe as well.
Researching on Sensitive Topics
Nowadays, everything has a digital trail. There is hardly any information on any government or privately-funded activity that goes without a digital trail. This is the gold that all journalists are after. And if you have the right research skills, whether conventional or through means of hacking, you can get the data you want.
However, if you compromise your identity in doing so, your data and even your life could be at risk. As you might know, you are using a unique IP address right now which can be used to track your online activities. If you do not mask this IP address when searching for sensitive information, then you might appear on several surveillance radars.
Once you are on that list, it is pretty hard to keep yourself hidden. So, the best thing to do is to not be found at all. There are many ways of doing so ranging from proxies to anonymity-based browsers and quality privacy software like paid VPNs. Be smart. Learn how to deploy all of these when conducting an online research on a topic you think can bring you heat.
Online journalism has taken things to new levels. The internet is the literal embodiment of free media. However, if you are a realist, you know that freedom is not free at all. It comes at the cost of constant vigilance. If you are an online journalist, you need to keep your privacy and security in mind every step of the way.
Whether you are doing research or making sensitive or controversial posts, you should cover your digital tracks. Most online journalists are sensible enough to use multiple burner accounts to post information anonymously. However, this is only a thin veil that conceals your true identity.
If a surveillance agency or any other party with digital resources were to investigate your accounts, your privacy could easily be compromised. To avoid this, you need to know and selectively deploy the most effective kinds of anonymity tools and protocols. Learn about things like VPNs, HTTPS-only websites, and even anonymous email addresses. These will help you cover your online tracks and still put the information you want out there.
In today’s world, anyone can access anything from anywhere if they have the right tools and knowledge. In many cases, there are complicated laws governing such access that can be bypassed through certain means. For example, you can access a government website from a country with very liberal online laws like Switzerland. This will keep you shielded from online detection and even give you legal recourse in case your identity is compromised.
Alternatively, you can simply stay in your own country and use a VPN server to access the website. The idea is that your IP address will be masked and the connection will be bounced from international servers located in different countries. This will not only make you incredibly hard to locate but also potentially bypass robust security protocols.
However, keep in mind that if you overdo your anonymity efforts, you can be noticed distinctly by surveillance agencies. They could then keep tabs on your connections and even potentially circumvent your anonymity efforts. So the best thing to do is blend in and appear normal, just as you would do in any physical social situation.
Is There Anything Else to Know?
Yes, indeed! There is a world of information that you should know about anonymity as a journalist. We have listed some very prominent organizations that are dedicated to preserving free media worldwide:
- Access Now is an organization focused on helping journalists understand the technical aspects of doing research. For anonymity’s sake, this is the place you should start.
- Investigative Reporters and Editors or IRE should be your second place to visit. They are masters of investigative journalism and can help you enhance your skills greatly.
- Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has been involved in free press and media advocacy for a long time. If you want to exercise your democratic rights as a journalist, these people can be a great help.
- Freedom of the Press Foundation is a non-profit organization focused on online advocacy and other activities like crowdfunding to help journalists and whistleblowers do their jobs right.
- Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is another essential organization to follow. In case you land yourself in legal hot waters, they can be a great help. The RCFP frequently provides free legal aid and information to members.
Prudence is the way to survival and success in the online world. Get a VPN and learn to use anonymity tools to help you do your job and make the world a better place. Also, make sure you check out some of the organizations mentioned above to get journalistic help.