Sifted’s first choice is to always name the people we interview and our sources given our aims of transparency and accountability.
We do, however, understand that there may be instances where sources prefer to stay unnamed for various reasons, including but not limited to fear of the impact on their career, the fact that they signed a non-disclosure agreement with an employer or for fear of other kinds of retribution. In this case, we are willing to use unnamed sources. (We usually use false names for sources and tell our readers that the names are false.)
We also need to protect our credibility, so we need to be sure of the identity of an unnamed source before we present any information from that source to our readers. This means we also don’t pay for tips or information.
We can verify someone’s identity through some of the following ways:
- See documents that prove the person works at the company — ie. documents that someone wouldn’t otherwise have access to;
- See screenshots of documents or messages that would identify the person;
- Checking someone’s identity against a social media like LinkedIn;
- Getting confirmation from a third party that that person is who they say they are.
The terms of working with unnamed sources
We believe that journalists have a moral obligation to protect confidential sources of information.
We do not sign NDAs with our sources, but we discuss the terms of collaboration to protect our sources to the best of our ability. That can include discussing how we attribute information — can we attribute information to this source or is it just a tip? We can also discuss with sources how we identify a source — do we say “an employee of company A” or “someone who has read the pitch deck”?
We also take information security very seriously with our sources. Our journalists have encrypted messaging and email services (like Proton Mail and Signal) in addition to their regular Sifted email accounts.