British blogger Darren Shrubsole has revealed how he used a GoogleWhack and IP tracking to create an early warning system for the anonymity of sex worker and writer Belle de Jour, who was outed in the press this week.
Darren has run a link blog - linkmachinego.com - since well before the mainstream media had even heard of blogging. As a result he was able to work out Belle de Jour's real world identity and act to protect it, and gave the writer a heads-up when it was clear her exposure was imminent.
The first clue was that Belle de Jour sent her own blog to Darren - which suggested a pretty decent knowledge of the then nascent blogging scene (she was a blogger who became a sex worker, not a sex worker who became a blogger). Secondly he was convinced by her writing style. He wrote: "I never believed that a professional writer could be BdJ - apparently effortless blog writing takes practice, and required an understanding of a new medium which not many people had at the time. So I asked myself: which blogger is it?"
The final part of the jigsaw was a blog piece on whisky written by Brooke Magnanti which convinced him that Brooke and Belle were one and the same.
Next he stashed a GoogleWhack page on his blog which contained the words Belle de Jour and Brooke Magnanti with the intention of spotting anyone searching for those terms together. Then he waited five years.
About a fortnight ago he started seeing referrers pointing back to an IP number under the control of Associated Newspapers - owners of the Mail and the Mail on Sunday.
He got in touch with Brooke to warn her that the papers were getting close. As a result of this, and an ex-boyfriend going to the Mail, Brooke took her story to the Sunday Times hoping for less hysterical treatment than was likely from the Mail.
Commenting on his blog post, Belle said: "Darren *did* contact me to let me know, I’d already had another heads-up but his message convinced me it was serious.
"And I always thought Malted would be the one that fingered me. But I can’t resist :-)"
Dr Magnanti is no longer despunking businessmen, having returned to her day job of researching child cancers at Bristol University. ®