Blogging Anonymously

This entry to the One Post Challenge comes from the anonymous author(s) of the Gates Keepers blog:

Gates Keepers amplifies civil society voices on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Anyone can join us in exercising our rights by blogging and commenting anonymously at

By Gates Keepers

If we want to develop a critical analysis of the activities of Big Philanthropy we need to exercise our rights to freedom of opinion and expression without interference. To exercise these rights without fear we must blog anonymously.

Digital technology has allowed those of us who disagree with mainstream views and manufactured consent on Big Philanthropy to safely amplify our voices. Where formerly we feared retribution from governments, foundations, and the private sector, we can now speak out about the hegemony of the philanthropy-industrial complex in setting the agenda for global development and public health.

In the case of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we are afraid of what we like to call ‘Bill Chill’. If we criticise the Foundation in our own names our funding will be cut or we will lose our jobs. Anonymity is necessary for us to survive in our professional activities and our daily work. It allows us to exercise our right to expression without fear.


  1. This is a tough one. Of course people have to be able to speak without fear of retribution, and no doubt there are times when anonymity is essential. For instance, reporters use “anonymous” sources, and without them, a lot of things might remain hidden from the public. But even anonymous sources have to be known to reporters who use what they tell them, and even vetted or confirmed before anything is published.
    But I have to admit to a certain discomfort knowing I’m reading a blog dedicated to being extremely critical of a particular foundation and not knowing who is doing the writing and their biases. I guess that requires me, as a reader, to exercise extra care in what I read. Then again, I’d be a fool if I didn’t do that whatever I read!

  2. It seems to me that anonymous blogs like Inside Foundations strike a good balance. “M” makes who she is, what her role is, her biases, etc very clear, without giving away her identity. Gates Keepers on the other hand is unwilling to reveal anything about themselves.

    Maybe they are a nonprofit who applied for a grant, got turned down, but still hope to get a grant in the future. Maybe they are the head of a major foundation. Maybe they work at the Gates Foundation. Any of those could be stated on the blog without giving away their identity. As it stands, I have a hard time taking Gates Keeper seriously. With no context, I can only assume that they have a vendetta against Gates. Maybe they have very legitimate concerns, but they won’t say enough about themselves to give the reader any context.

    It is too bad, I rather like the concept of a blog dedicated to watchdogging the Gates Foundation.

  3. EthanZ says:

    I’m a big supporter of the concept of anonymous blogging – I’ve written a guide designed to make anonymous blogging more accessible to whistleblowers around the world. But the Gates Keepers blog reveals one of the major problems with anonymity – generating credibility.

    When you blog without revealing your identity, you automatically invite speculation that you’ve got an axe to grind, that you were a spurned grantee, etc. The reason Inside Foundations seems more credible is that the author gives us some background on his/her background – education, path towards the foundation world, etc. It’s harder to know who’s writing the Gates Keeper posts, and what their agendas are.

    I’d love to see more blogging from within foundations. The Gates Keepers folks have a point – there’s much less public accountability over foundation funding than there is in government funding, and perhaps less than in corporate philanthropy. Given how important this sort of scrutiny is, it would be nice to see blogs coming from within the philanthropic community, especially signed, verifiable ones to help avoid this thorny set of questions about anonymity and believability.

  4. I think anonymous blogging has been great for the world. It has given us insights into how our medical services work and how our police services work from the inside. There is so much value in this. Its like being a fly on the wall.

  5. Gates Keeper says:

    It is disappointing for me to note that most commenters to this point have ignored the issue raised in the original posting: Anonymous blogging allows us to exercise without fear our human right to expression. The voices of people who would not ordinarily be heard can now be raised. Members of civil society now have a new way to amplify their voices. This should be cause for celebration rather than caution.

    Credibility appears to be a concern for some. If you consider more carefully what an anonymous author says than you do a named author then that increases the quality of your critical reading and thinking. What we Gate Keepers say is more important than who we are. Or in the words people who are often silenced for who they are, hip hop artists: “It aint where you from. It’s where you at!”

    It is all right for some major philanthropic donors to be anonymous. And it is certainly recognised that families benefit when Alcoholics are Anonymous. Editorial writers such as Thomas Jefferson were and are usually anonymous.

    BTW, the wonderful Inside Foundations blog, authored anonymously by the eponymous M, appears to have experienced a quiet death. Another anonymous voice has become silent.


  6. I don’t want to take issue with your professed motives. They sound genuine. But how can we know for sure? We don’t know who you are. Similarly, unlike any of the rest of us who write under our own names, you don’t have to worry about the brickbats that will fall from the heavens when you misspeak, get your facts wrong, do a sloppy job of reporting, or as I’ve been known to do, say dumb things.

    Similarly, I’m deeply disturbed by the fact that you want us to accept on face value that there is something so nefarious about your chosen subject and the risk of identifying yourself so great, that you you have no choice but to hide your identity. On what are we to base that unsupported claim?

  7. Bob Gustafson says:

    This is probably neither the place or time, but sometimes one just needs to vent. I work at a small elementary school; the school is a charter public school. This means it is subject to all federal and state legislation, but funds are allocated and restricted by the local school district.
    The school has an Arts focus, but without the funds to support an Arts program, consequently our Dance, Art, Strings, and Drums teachers do not have supplies or even instruments. Students from families w/o financial resouces cannot purchase or rent instruments or supplies for participation. So where does one turn?
    Philantropy is a lofty sounding term, but check out restraints and requirements. Individual schools, small programs, and those of a grass-roots nature do not warrant the interest or attention of major Foundations or Corporations. Projects must be grandiose with layers of bureaucracy or must be located in a geographical area of concern (which is never a small town or rural area).
    I see so much potential go unrealized because of a few thousand dollars, yet I see millions squandered elsewhere. Perhaps I am the only one who feels this way, but I do get ticked off….
    I apologize for the venting and perhaps anonymous blogs are a forum to release such thoughts.

  8. Bob, stops for stopping by and leaving your thoughts. Philanthropic capital does not flow to the highest impact places as you point out, but even the for-profit capital markets have trouble funding small entities well. Good luck, I’m a small business owner and can sympathize with you.

  9. Gates Keeper says:

    Thanks for your comments, Bruce. One can only judge my motives by my words, not by my name and position. This is also a valid way of judging the motives of ‘named’ bloggers. If I misspeak, get my facts wrong, do a sloppy job of reporting, or say dumb things, then the quality of analysis on Gates Keepers suffers. The blog will lose credibility because of my words, not because of my name.

    Sorry to deeply disturb you, but no one knows if it is dangerous to openly criticise the big Foundations in a watchdog manner. Where are the models that we can follow? Where are the watchdogs: EMCF Watch, Ford Watch, Rockefeller Watch, Ikea Watch, and Slim Watch? Gates Keepers is the first. I will assume that open watchdogging is dangerous until it is proven otherwise.

    Anyone can use their name in contributing material or commenting on Gates Keepers. But the moderators will, for the time being, exercise our right to remain anonymous.

  10. Dear Gates Keeper,

    Maybe someday we can have an offline conversation and you can tell me more about yourself. That’s one of the problems of blogging anonymously…some things that get started online, continue offline in emails, phone calls, and face-to-face conversations. Right now, it’s all one way. You know me, but I don’t know you. If you feel like taking the plunge — and trust me enough — I would love to talk.

  11. Gates Keeper, you should realize that your implication that it is dangerous for you to reveal your name if you are going to blog about the Gates Foundation makes you come across as paranoid and therefore throws into doubt your commentary. To the extent you gave context as to why you thought it was dangerous, you might actually get more people to take you seriously.

  12. Gates Keeper says:

    Even paranoids have enemies. But seriously, blogs are also a place for people with mental disorders to anonymously exercise their rights to expression. Gates Keepers will be judged on her words, not on a presumptive diagnosis of a mental illness.

    If I say my name is LaToya Jones of the Jones Foundation or Manuel Gonzales Peres of the Mexican National Institutes of Health or Jeff Bush of the University of Washington then readers will need to judge my words instead of my name. These names are not Googlable. Gates Keepers will be judged on her words, not on her name.

    Professional anonymous blogging is popular. Check it out at In the world of ‘philanthropy blogging’ it has not yet taken off. Gates Keepers predicts it will. And there will be many more of us judged on our words, not on our names.

    Ethan has more to say about anonymous blogging today at

  13. Gates Keeper says:

    Look at one Gates Keeper’s words over the last week, starting with the posting of November 18: These postings demonstrate she has expertise in global public health. If you look at other Gates Keepers’ postings you will find other fields of expertise. Judge us by our words. Not by our names.