/ 31 May 2007

SA sex blogger calls it a day

Following two weeks of debate and legal wrangling about the identity and actions of an anonymous blogger publishing graphic descriptions of the sex he allegedly had with South African celebrities while working as a male prostitute, the blog has come to a sudden end.

The Mail & Guardian Online last week revealed that the blogger claimed to have serviced celebrities ranging from a stage performer and a rugby star to well-known journalists and an Afrikaans church minister. The blogger described himself as a South African living in Australia.

On Thursday, all content on the blog was removed apart from a notice saying the blogger, who signed his name as “Skye”, had stopped his tell-all campaign after reaching an agreement via email with a legal representative of five of his alleged former clients (two of whom had been named on the blog).

In exchange for the legal representative not making public the blogger’s real identity, the blogger agreed to remove all his blog entries and stop publishing. The notice also said he would not communicate with the media, take part in online debates about the matter or register other websites or blogs to duplicate the controversial content.

He said his intention had been to put an end to the “selfish” way celebrities act towards sex workers. “I am convinced that many will realise in time that what I started doing was the right thing at the right time … That it was not the most ethical thing to do is debatable.”

The blog came to light after Independent Democrats MP Simon Grindrod — one of those named on it — laid a charge of defamation. “I challenge this individual to come forward,” he said this week. “Then we can sue him and he can have his day in court.”

There was also much speculation about his identity among blog readers. “Don’t you think that these people know who you are?” read a comment on the sex blog, but another said: “I doubt these people will be personally identifying this guy. If they do so, it is potential proof of their guilt.”

While certain blog readers encouraged the blogger to “name and shame” — “Go for it, boet,” one said — others pointed out that celebrities the world over had been using sex workers for many years. “Surely you were paid for your services rendered and knew what you were in for doing such work. You opted to do the work and I am sure nobody held a gun against your head. So why expose people (be they famous or not)?” asked one reader; another warned the blogger against “destroying innocent people’s lives”.

According to telecommunications lawyer Dominic Cull, the easiest course of action for those named on the blog would have been to serve a takedown notice on the blog’s hosting service, rather than pursuing a case of defamation across country borders.

There is no legal precedent for a matter like this. Though there are international bodies tasked with developing protocols for such matters, it’s an “almost impossible task”, he said, suggesting that a future possibility would be a treaty compelling all signatory countries to enforce related judgements made at national level.

Cull this week agreed that an offending blogger could very easily set up shop elsewhere. At some point, though, a complainant such as Grindrod would have to cut his losses. “At least he will be seen to have done something,” he said.