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In Defense of Anonymous Speech ~pj
Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 03:11 PM EST

Julie Zhuo, a product design manager at Facebook, wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times in November 2010, but it's the first I saw it, Where Anonymity Breeds Contempt, arguing that anonymous speech encourages trolling and so it should not be allowed in comments on the Internet:
Instead of waiting around for human nature to change, let’s start to rein in bad behavior by promoting accountability. Content providers, stop allowing anonymous comments. Moderate your comments and forums. Look into using comment services to improve the quality of engagement on your site. Ask your users to report trolls and call them out for polluting the conversation.
Anonymous comments will always be allowed on Groklaw, and I'd like to explain why. She argues that there are no free speech, privacy, or First Amendment issues with such a decision to cut off anonymous speech. But there are.

She writes:
Some may argue that denying Internet users the ability to post anonymously is a breach of their privacy and freedom of expression. But until the age of the Internet, anonymity was a rare thing. When someone spoke in public, his audience would naturally be able to see who was talking.
That's not true, unless you lived in a very small town where everyone knew everyone else. If you did, then you could spread leaflets or publish articles anonymously.

Think of the Federalist Papers, written anonymously to encourage ratification of the US Constitution. If anonymous speech is so toxic, how do you explain the Federalist Papers? A logical answer would have to be that anonymity may not be the actual cause of the problem. One of the authors, James Madison, later ended up president of the country, and it's believed that others included Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, so they were not trolls. At the time they wrote anonymously because they wanted folks to focus on the ideas, not where they came from, and because they were talking on a matter then quite controversial. You could speak anonymously back then in print, not just in person. That's a closer comparison to the Internet than standing up in a public place.

Even in person, if you went to a public square and started to speak, people could see you, but they didn't necessarily know who you were if you were in a city -- they didn't know your name, your phone, your home address, your place of employment, your family's makeup and names, where your kids went to school, and they couldn't track where you went day by day via GPS -- all of which can be done today on the Internet with just a name to start with. Nor were there widespread governmental cameras taking your picture, or even smartphones equipped with cameras. Nor were there databases retained for months, even years at a time. And the government wasn't tracking all that speech in such databases. Any policy regarding commenting on the Internet has to factor in that the world has changed to make anonymity very hard, and that once it's gone, there is a treasure trove of information about you available to whoever is interested in doing the research.

And then what might happen? Zhou argues that forcing identity to be revealed encourages accountability. Let's talk about accountability.


Once your identity is known, it's known to everyone. Trolls are certainly annoying, but stalkers, crazed ex's on a rampage, corporations trying to bully folks into shutting up about them, and governments (think Syria or Iran or China or Malaysia) who might like to kill a speaker, torture him or her, or throw him or her in jail for life are worse. These are all real problems some experience. Here's just one case, Koch Industries v. John Does 1-25, where the court had to step in to protect anonymous free speech. Malaysia just deported a blogger back to Saudi Arabia, where it is feared he faces execution for his speech on the Internet. He is 23 years old. How can anyone responsibly plan any commenting system without thinking about these vulnerable people? -- without considering that forbidding anonymous speech means either endangering them or cutting them off from being able to speak at all? Trolls are a very small problem in comparison. Civil speech is nice, but civil behavior is more important. Saving lives trumps pleasant speech, don't you think?

EFF has a page on anonymity:

Many people don't want the things they say online to be connected with their offline identities. They may be concerned about political or economic retribution harassment or even threats to their lives. Whistleblowers report news that companies and governments would prefer to suppress; human rights workers struggle against repressive governments; parents try to create a safe way for children to explore; victims of domestic violence attempt to rebuild their lives where abusers cannot follow.

Instead of using their true names to communicate these people choose to speak using pseudonyms (assumed names) or anonymously (no name at all). For these individuals and the organizations that support them secure anonymity is critical. It may literally save lives.

Here's a case, John Doe No. 1 v. Cahill, where someone didn't like what was written, claimed defamation and sought to obtain the identity of the online commenters. One of the John Does fought back. The appeals court wouldn't allow it, and here's why:
The defendant-appellant, John Doe No.1, anonymously posted allegedly defamatory statements about the plaintiff-appellee, Cahill, on an internet blog. Cahill brought a defamation action. Seeking to serve process on Doe, Cahill sought to compel the disclosure of his identity from a third party that had the information. A Superior Court judge applied a good faith standard to test the plaintiff’s complaint and ordered the third party to disclose Doe’s identity. Doe appeals from the Superior Court’s order. Because the trial judge applied a standard insufficiently protective of Doe’s First Amendment right to speak anonymously, we reverse that judgment.
Why would that be a bad thing? The court explained:
We are concerned that setting the standard too low will chill potential posters from exercising their First Amendment right to speak anonymously. ...The possibility of losing anonymity in a future lawsuit could intimidate anonymous posters into self-censoring their comments or simply not commenting at all.
Lawsuits are brought sometimes not for money or redress but as a weapon to suppress speech or to intimidate. I've experienced that personally, so trust me, it's so. The court took into consideration that the Internet changes everything, including who is able to express ideas to the world:
The advent of the internet dramatically changed the nature of public discourse by allowing more and diverse people to engage in public debate. Unlike thirty years ago, when “many citizens [were] barred from meaningful participation in public discourse by financial or status inequalities and a relatively small number of powerful speakers [could] dominate the marketplace of ideas” the internet now allows anyone with a phone line to “become a town crier with a voice that resonates farther than it could from any soapbox.” Through the internet, speakers can bypass mainstream media to speak directly to “an audience larger and more diverse than any the Framers could have imagined.” Moreover, speakers on internet chat rooms and blogs can speak directly to other people with similar interests. A person in Alaska can have a conversation with a person in Japan about beekeeping in Bangladesh, just as easily as several Smyrna residents can have a conversation about Smyrna politics.

Internet speech is often anonymous. “Many participants in cyberspace discussions employ pseudonymous identities, and, even when a speaker chooses to reveal her real name, she may still be anonymous for all practical purposes.” For better or worse, then, “the audience must evaluate [a] speaker’s ideas based on her words alone.” “This unique feature of [the internet] promises to make public debate in cyberspace less hierarchical and discriminatory” than in the real world because it disguises status indicators such as race, class, and age.

It is clear that speech over the internet is entitled to First Amendment protection. This protection extends to anonymous internet speech. Anonymous internet speech in blogs or chat rooms in some instances can become the modern equivalent of political pamphleteering. As the United States Supreme Court recently noted, “anonymous pamphleteering is not a pernicious, fraudulent practice, but an honorable tradition of advocacy and dissent.”

How do you influence others if every time you open your mouth, you risk being jailed, executed, stalked, humiliated, tortured or even just sued? Careful silence is your only protection. As I wrote in the article about Cahill, and you can read the entire ruling as text at the link:
Ben Franklin wrote anonymously sometimes too. It's an American tradition.... The prudent founding fathers coped with difficult times and intolerance with practical methods designed to protect a man's ability to keep speaking safely. The whole point of the Federalist Papers was to get readers to support the Constitution, and it worked.

So, anonymous speech in the US holds an honored place.... The very First Amendment to the Constitution says that the government has no authority to establish what is "proper" speech or to make people say things they don't believe or want to say. It was a revolutionary idea at the time, breaking completely with the European tradition....

The First Amendment applies to the government, but one can broadly apply the principle. People talk about their rights to say whatever they wish, but the true right is the right to speak honestly without being viciously attacked for it. That is the historic American tradition of free speech, that you can express your true beliefs, and there is no penalty for doing so.

The Constitution stands between the unpopular idea and any governmental entity wishing to punish anyone espousing that unpopular idea. The idea the founding fathers had is this: in a democracy, everything depends on an educated population, on a dynamic marketplace of ideas, and so protecting free expression was considered so vital, it was made a foundation legal value. They were sick of persecution and pressure to think or say anything but what they really did think or really want to say.

Those naive and privileged kids at Facebook need to grow up and realize the real and present harm they are causing by their philosophies instead of glorifying it as a method to force civility on the Internet. What an insular world they live in, if they imagine trolls are the world's biggest problem. America is not the entire world. That's if this suggestion to cut off anonymous speech is a philosophy and not just an effort to force even more personal ad tracking for *Facebook's* financial benefit, not ours. Do they think anti-SLAPP laws were created because there is no need?

Speaking of civility, the First Amendment isn't about enforcing civility. Quite the contrary. It's designed to allow the most despicable speech, from the standpoint of the majority, from the least favored, least powerful persons in society. The founding fathers came from Europe, for the most part, where they had experienced or witnessed governmental oppression against whatever group was not in favor, and they designed the Constitution in such a way as to prevent it from happening in America. America was constructed to protect individuals from the overwhelming force of government or the meanness of the majority or just the powerful.

What About The Law?

Here's an article by EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, about what anonymity is for, and it begins with a quotation from a famous case, McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission:

"Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority ... It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation--and their ideas from suppression--at the hand of an intolerant society."

In three cases, spanning from 1960 to 1999, the Supreme Court has reaffirmed the principle that sacrificing anonymity "might deter perfectly peaceful discussions of public matters of importance."

Anonymity--the ability to conceal one's identity while communicating--enables the expression of political ideas, participation in the government process, membership in political associations, and the practice of religious belief without fear of government intimidation or public retaliation.

Disclosure laws have been upheld only where there is a compelling government interest at stake, such as assuring the integrity of the election process by requiring campaign contribution disclosures.

Here's that case if you'd like to read more, McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm'n, with the full quotation:
"Anonymous pamphlets, leaflets, brochures and even books have played an important role in the progress of mankind." Talley v. California, 362 U.S. 60, 64 (1960). Great works of literature have frequently been produced by authors writing under assumed names. Despite readers' curiosity and the public's interest in identifying the creator of a work of art, an author generally is free to decide whether or not to disclose her true identity. The decision in favor of anonymity may be motivated by fear of economic or official retaliation, by concern about social ostracism, or merely by a desire to preserve as much of one's privacy as possible. Whatever the motivation may be, at least in the field of literary endeavor, the interest in having anonymous works enter the marketplace of ideas unquestionably outweighs any public interest in requiring disclosure as a condition of entry. Accordingly, an author's decision to remain anonymous, like other decisions concerning omissions or additions to the content of a publication, is an aspect of the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment....

Under our Constitution, anonymous pamphleteering is not a pernicious, fraudulent practice, but an honorable tradition of advocacy and of dissent. Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation - and their ideas from suppression - at the hand of an intolerant society."

Here's another case, ACLU v. Reno:
Cutting through the acronyms and argot that littered the hearing testimony, the Internet may fairly be regarded as a never-ending worldwide conversation. The Government may not, through the CDA, interrupt that conversation. As the most participatory form of mass speech yet developed, the Internet deserves the highest protection from governmental intrusion.

True it is that many find some of the speech on the Internet to be offensive, and amid the din of cyberspace many hear discordant voices that they regard as indecent. The absence of governmental regulation of Internet content has unquestionably produced a kind of chaos, but as one of plaintiffs' experts put it with such resonance at the hearing:

What achieved success was the very chaos that the Internet is. The strength of the Internet is that chaos.
Just as the strength of the Internet is chaos, so the strength of our liberty depends upon the chaos and cacophony of the unfettered speech the First Amendment protects.
That is the answer to what Ms. Zhou wrote.

If you loved SOPA, you'll love Facebook's vision of limiting speech on the Internet so that only those who are "civil" (and who gets to decide what that is?) can speak without fear of reprisal. It seems everyone suddenly wants to limit what can be said on the Internet, from Iran to Facebook.

Now, Facebook is not the government, so it can do what it pleases, and our remedy if we don't like it is to avoid Facebook. That's what I do. But to argue that anonymity is toxic, that it encourages speech that they don't enjoy, at the same time claiming that there is no danger to free speech or the First Amendment is childishly naive and legally incorrect.

They should probably read the Constitution at Facebook. Until they do, you'll never, ever find me on Facebook. And Groklaw will always allow anonymous commenting, even though it requires a lot of our time to deal with trolls, who are indeed annoying, but at the same time, I must say some of our most important contributions to our work at Groklaw have come from anonymous contributors, who may have any number of reasons to speak that way, including worries about retaliation.

I know I said I'd publish the text of Microsoft's Memorandum in Support of its Renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law next. But it's 137 pages long, and I'm still working on it. And the First Amendment is more important than Microsoft, so when I saw the Times piece when a reader sent it to me, my heart impelled me to speak.


In Defense of Anonymous Speech ~pj | 161 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Hear! Hear!
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 03:29 PM EST
If you loved SOPA, you'll love Facebook's vision of limiting speech on the Internet so that only those who are "civil" (and who gets to decide what that is?) can speak without fear of reprisal. It seems everyone suddenly wants to limit what can be said on the Internet, from Iran to Facebook.

As one you has been reading GL since the beginning and occasionally posting, I cannot agree more.

PJ, send this to the NYT. More people need to read it.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Hear! Hear! - Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 04:15 PM EST
  • Hear! Hear! - Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 04:24 PM EST
    • Change of Heart? - Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 05:11 PM EST
  • Amen, God bless you PJ n/t - Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 08:20 PM EST
  • Hear! Hear! - Authored by: ka1axy on Monday, February 13 2012 @ 11:07 AM EST
Non-Anonymous Corrections thread
Authored by: nsomos on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 03:42 PM EST
If there be any corrections needed, please post in this thread.
A summary in the title may be helpful.

[ Reply to This | # ]

In Defense of Anonymous Speech - Answering Facebook's Julie Zhuo ~pj
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 03:44 PM EST
Sadly the bill of rights is being eroded more and more as
each year passes. You want to write anonymously? You must be
a troll or wanting to hide something. You don't want an
officer to 'search' your car/house/person? You must be a
terrorist! You pay cash for things? You must be a
terrorist/criminal laundering money. It's really quite
disgusting really and not what I swore to defend when I was
in the military. Yet it seems daily I read about yet another
small erosion of our basic rights and another power grab by
the elite.

America land of the previously free.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Why would Facebook take this stance?
Authored by: complex_number on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 03:49 PM EST
Simple really.

Anonymous Contributors can't be monetized.
Anonymous Contributors can't have targetted adverts

Get my gist?

Ubuntu & 'apt-get' are not the answer to Life, The Universe & Everything which
is of course, "42" or is it 1.618?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Unprincipled hypocrisy
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 04:14 PM EST

As others have pointed out, Facebook's business model depends on known who does
what on the web, and monetizing that. In addition, Facebook is trying to
promote FB accounts as a web identity--many blogs and blog platforms now permit
users to log in with FB accounts, and more than a few useful blogs,
unfortunately, require it. (You can't post comments at Slate without a FB
account, and by default the comments you post in Slate forums will show up on
your wall).

So really--Zhou's article is little more than a sales pitch, trying to take out
the competition--in this case, the "competition" being other ways of
establishing one's identity on the web--or choosing not to.

[ Reply to This | # ]

let’s start to rein in bad behavior by promoting accountability
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 04:18 PM EST
Yup, any blog operator can do that, to reflect their own morality.
PJ has the power of [Delete], and she explains in the article above
why she doesn't often need to use it. The clientele here can recognise
a troll and educate them in their errors, civilly and intelligently (mostly).
I've moved in some of the darker parts of the 'net, and I've seen
discussion boards that solved such problems with foul mouthed
flame wars, but always returning to the central beliefs of that
segment of society. I haven't yet met a discussion area that could
truly be described as anarchic, in spite of all the nyms and anons.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Follow the Money
Authored by: KayZee on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 04:22 PM EST
Facebook lives off of personal information. They don't want
anonymous speech because that prevents them from tacking and
selling your personal information. Follow the money.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: JamesK on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 04:23 PM EST


(I am not a lawyer and I don't play one on TV)

[ Reply to This | # ]

In Defense of Anonymous Speech - Answering Facebook's Julie Zhuo ~pj
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 04:26 PM EST
They are not "naive" at facebook - the are very very very *greedy*.
Anonymity is the antithesis of facebook's raison d'etre. If people are
anonymous they can't be tracked, profiled and that information sold on. So
consequently facebook are/will engage in a war against anonymity - just as they
have engaged, and continue to engage, in a war on the privacy of those who have
already given up their anonymity.

So there you go - an anonymous comment. God forbid that my "bad
behavior" go unpunished in the "enlightened" world facebook want
to create and control.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Trusted Commenters
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 04:29 PM EST
with the power to promote others to trusted level. Allowing users
to rate one anothers' comments. Now where have I seen this before?
Slashdot? No, surely not, they allow anonymous postings...

[ Reply to This | # ]

Facebook IPO - Another bubble to pop
Authored by: SpaceLifeForm on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 04:33 PM EST
The article, that so rightly got PJ's hackles up,
is also *ALL ABOUT MONEY*.

Just think, get the darkside drooling over being
able to spy on everyone via Facebook.


Facebook is a complete joke, full of people that
will not spend their time in meaningful forums,
but have plenty of time to waste on the 'friends'.

Facebook is a distraction, keeping people from
paying attention to the real attacks on freedom.

Your loss of freedom is profit for darksiders.


You are being MICROattacked, from various angles, in a SOFT manner.

[ Reply to This | # ]

In Defense of Anonymous Speech - Answering Facebook's Julie Zhuo ~pj
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 04:36 PM EST

Plain and simple, this information cannot be stressed enough. Each time it is, this information simply grows more powerful and more important.

I hope to live to see a day where such constant re- statements of what is so obvious and basic are no longer needed.
I can dream, can't I?

[ Reply to This | # ]

FaceBook and the need for an IMPORTANT-button
Authored by: BJ on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 04:50 PM EST
Where's the disLIKE button to rate Ms. Zhou's article?

In all seriousness, what did we expect from a company
that thinks any and all that is expressed in words can
be rated with a LIKE-button?

Maybe FaceBook should invent the IMPORTANT-button?


[ Reply to This | # ]

It's a Matter of Convenience
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 05:07 PM EST
Where Anonymity Breeds Contempt, arguing that anonymous speech encourages trolling and so it should not be allowed in comments on the Internet:

The entire idea behind "social media" businesses like Facebook or Twitter ("Facetwit") is the elimination of privacy and the aggregation and sale of that information to advertisers, governments, and political parties. To Facetwit companies, anonymity is "uncivil" because it runs contrary to the whole concept behind their businesses.

Or to put it more simply, if people are more careful about their privacy Facetwit won't make as much money. People won't put their lives on display if they get mocked for it.

Trolling isn't something that is new or unique to the Internet, or to anonymous comments. Their are plenty of television and radio presenters and entertainers and newspaper writers who make their living from trolling the public. Plenty of them are effectively anonymous as well, as they don't necessarily use their real names in their public persona. Some of these trolls don't in fact exist at all as real persons, but are rather creations of teams of writers.

So, if we're going to start eliminating "trolling", how about starting with blowhard pundits, "reputation management" consultants, and corporate bloggers who want to eliminate privacy?

[ Reply to This | # ]

It is about the money
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 05:35 PM EST
Demanding identity has nothing to do with hate speech or
civility. It is simply about the increased amounts of money
advertisers will pay for information tied to a specific
individual. The "civility" argument is just something
people make up when they need a reason and don't want to
tell you the real reason. It is a convenient thing that
they have learned people will accept without questioning too

If identity lead to civility in discourse, talk-radio would
not exist. People like Rush Limbaugh spew their hate

Would people today really prohibit the publication of the
Federalist Papers? Would we jail Franklinh for writing as
Silence Dogood? The founders thought they made their points
more strongly, in some cases, by writing anonymously. They
were not afraid of anonymous speech. Why should we be?

[ Reply to This | # ]

In Defense of Anonymous Speech ~pj
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 05:40 PM EST
I remember the old good days of Usenet and anonymizers like Mixmaster...
The anonymous speach was then an obvious feature.
Anybody is still using it for something reasonable?
Maybe we should return to those old good solutions ;-)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Kinda makes you appreciate the signers of the Declaration of Independence
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 05:40 PM EST
They knew the risk they were taking and they were willing to
accept those risks and put their names to one of the greatest
documents on earth.

Whichever way anyone comes down on this issue, you have to
admire their grit in light of what's been written here.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Thank you PJ for addressing the stalking issue.
Authored by: cxd on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 06:30 PM EST
Our oldest daughter was admitted to high school right out of 6th
grade. You all can guess the rest. The Older High School boy
starts to make our 11 year old daughters life a living nightmare.
Meetings with the boys parents, school security, the police, and
school administration. The results.... Changes of her email
address, Total block of Facebook and the shut down of her
account, a block of Twitter, and my daughters blog at blog-spot
had to shut down as well. Thanks to Facebook anyone can learn
who your friends are. Then it was easy for him to find out from
those friends what our daughters new email address was, or what
her new cell phone number was. Then the cycle repeats all over
again. 3 new email addresses and 5 new cell phone numbers were
needed. Only when faced with legal action did the boy and his
parents get the message. It also helps when the boy turns 18 and
as a senior in High School can be held fully accountable and not
use his position as a minor as a defense.
Keep your children's information private for as long as you can.
In our case the safety of our young daughter was threatened.
Threatened, because of our ignorance, but also because of the
policies of Facebook. As Pj may attest to, when people start
showing up attempting to locate your residence, and start looking
in your windows privacy suddenly becomes very serious. I would
like to personally condemn Facebook for letting this boy have
access to my daughters friends so that even when we shut down her
account he could contact every one of them to find out what ever
new information he could. Thank you Facebook for two years of
ongoing hell. (sorry for the language, but I could think of no
better way to describe what Facebook did to our family) We have
not started with Google +, but the only way that will happen is
if pseudonyms are allowed.


[ Reply to This | # ]

Oh the orony.
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 07:19 PM EST
Yes, Groklaw does allow anononymous comment, mostly.

The corrolary being that PJ simply deletes anything she doesn't like or doesn't
fit in with the party line, as being a troll.

So ... seeing an article defending free speech and anonymous speech on Groklaw
somewhat tickled my irony sensors.

Lets see how long this comment last before ~pj sweeps it under the carpet ...

[ Reply to This | # ]

In Defense of Anonymous Speech ~pj
Authored by: mschmitz on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 07:28 PM EST

thank you so much for the succinct rebuttal of Zhuo's arguments. Anonymous or
pseudonymous speech still serves the same purpose today as it did hundreds of
years ago, and attempts to erode it have to be fought tooth and nail these days.

Unfortunately, I fear that FB is using the accountability argument just as a
straw man. Even though the article predates the IPO hype by a few months,
erosion of privacy for commercial gain long has been the overarching goal of FB.
As they say: if you're not paying for it, you are the product, not the client.

They will attack again from another angle soon enough, depend on it.

-- mschmitz

[ Reply to This | # ]

Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" and Ben Franklin's stuff are a argument against rather than for.
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 08:39 PM EST
Recall that all that anonymous speech such as Thomas Paine's "Common
Sense" pamphlet, and Ben Franklin's lobbying of Europe to support the
colonies managed to practically overthrow an empire, and kicked it out of half
of the world.

Sure, winners relabeled it as patriotism, but at the time it was advocating
treason and sedition.

Yet thanks to the anon speech, Anonymous won that battle and England fell.

Isn't that a compelling argument *against* common speech?

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Half a world? - Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 09:15 PM EST
Make your choice.
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 08:40 PM EST
PJ and Co remove content they consider inappropriate.. so they allow anon.
Would they allow that if they couldn't comb through and weed out stuff they
didn't want here?

What's better? Compulsory moderation or owning what you write?

We tell oppressive governments off removing the content they don't like from the
web accessible to their people, in effect moderating the internet.

Anonymous posting is what allows companies like Microsoft to fill comments on
news articles with astro turfing users telling people how wonderful MS stuff is
and how rubbish everything else is and get away with it..

I'm not sure how I feel about either... I understand they need some people have
for animity, but I see the damage done by others who cloak themselves in it.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Make your choice. - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 13 2012 @ 12:07 AM EST
    • Actually - Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 14 2012 @ 04:00 PM EST
Anonymous Accountability
Authored by: Glorat on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 08:54 PM EST
This is Groklaw and we have a number of techies lurking here (like me). There
shouldn't be a straight choice between allowing anonymous commentary and having
accountability. There are surely options available to us that could strike a
better balance not just in those two dimensions but possibly others.

As others have noted, Groklaw policy allows anonymous comments but relies on
moderation to control the trolls - with presumably some basic tooling like IP
and cookie tracking.

So as techies, what else can we offer? Here's one: How about allowing anonymous
but accountable posting. What one can have is that one can anonymously sign up
for an identity (e.g. OpenID is the current flavour) and use that to post
anonymously. It doesn't help with trolling. But what it does is allow people to
make multiple posts across a site (or many sites!) and for readers to know they
all came from the same person, thus assigning some level of identity from that
poster. However, no personal identification ever needs to be attached to that
identity. In effect, all you know about that identity is all what he/she chooses
to post, which is exactly what some those twitterers in oppressive regimes want

Another way of implementing such anonymity is to create yourself a website (e.g.
Groklaw), give yourself a pseudonym (e.g. PJ) and ensure you have control of
what gets published over the medium and sign it (e.g. - pj)

Not rocket science to come up with alternatives!

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despicable speach
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 09:06 PM EST
A speaker was due to speak at our college union and there was a great deal of
controversy over their message. Basically they were a politician with very
racist views. There was a very crowded debate held to get them banned as they
had been in other universities. The result was an overwhelming one to let them
speak as a ban would amount to censorship. It was up to us to not listen to
their message.

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Too much speech
Authored by: swmcd on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 09:23 PM EST
There was a ruling, I can't remember where, I think it was ACLU vs. Reno (the CDA case), possibly one of the lower court rulings before the case made it up to the Supreme Court. The judge was going through the ins and outs of the case, and the government's position, and finally concluded by saying something like
The proposition that there is "too much speech" in this medium [the internet] is simply untenable.
I've always liked that line. It's been on my to-do list for a long time to hunt it down so I can quote it an attribute it correctly.

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The Joy of Handles
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 09:53 PM EST

These same issues about allowing anonymity on computer forums were being debated twenty years ago. Here is an article from then, titled The Joy of Handles:

The Joy of Handles; FidoNews Vol. 9 No. 9

Here is an introductory excerpt:

Not long ago in Fidonet's BCSNET echo (the Boston Computer Society's national conference), the following was posted by the conference moderator to a user calling himself "Captain Kirk":

"May we ask dear Captain Kirk that it would be very polite if you could use your real name in an echomail conference? This particular message area is shared with BBS's all across the country and everyone else is using their real name. It is only common courtesy to do so in an echomail conference."

One of us (mkj) responded with a post questioning that policy. Soon the conference had erupted into a heated debate! Although mkj had worried that the subject might be dismissed as trivial, it apparently touched a nerve. It brought forth debate over issues and perceptions central to computer communications in general, and it revealed profound disparities in fundamental values and assumptions among participants.

This article is a response to that debate, and to the prevailing negative attitudes regarding the use of handles.

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Off Topic Thread
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, February 12 2012 @ 10:32 PM EST
Go to it.

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In Defense of Anonymous Speech ~pj
Authored by: Miravlix on Monday, February 13 2012 @ 12:49 AM EST
When I joined the Internet something like 20 years ago, there was less hate,
over the years it pretty much gone to hell. When it was just us geeks we argued,
but we didn't actually hate each other, not the way normal people has completely
polluted anything public on the net these days, the geeks is awkward socially,
not ANTI-social, that result in them having a REASON to socialize when they can
get it. Normal people on the other hand already has their social groups and has
no reason what so ever to be nice to strangers, because there is no benefit to

Free Speech only works if PEOPLES natural behavior promotes it. As we see on the
Internet, their is NOTHING what so ever natural about people respecting free
speech, they only respect things because society and laws gives them benefits to
respecting it in there day to day life.

Without PERSONAL benefits things degrade into lunacy and the net current
behavior shows this off at it's worst.

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Anonymity and accountability
Authored by: tknarr on Monday, February 13 2012 @ 01:41 AM EST

I guess what annoys me the most about the people who prattle on about "accountability" and invoke it to justify minimizing or removing anonymity is that they mostly don't care about holding anyone accountable. Half of them seem to be in the business of associating information with an actual identity and selling the combination, and I'm automatically wary of anyone who's going to directly benefit from what they're advocating. It gives the impression their primary interest is their own profit, and I don't find that a compelling argument for eliminating anonymity.

The other half are worse. The first are just greedy. The other half seem to want to avoid accountability, despite invoking it. The first step in holding someone accountable is to show that they've done something to be held accountable for. Yet everything demanded skips that step and goes straight to identifying and punishing the "perpetrator". IMO the first step in stripping someone of anonymity should be for the accuser to stand up and present their case for why the speech is actionable in the first place. If it's not actionable then there's no need to know who said it, and if it's actionable then it should be actionable regardless of the actual identity of the speaker and you should be able to make the case for it being actionable without knowing who said it. Yet all the proposals set down steps for stripping anonymity before the case for the speech being actionable is even presented. That's just not right, and not necessary if the goal is to hold the speaker accountable. It's only necessary if the goal is to punish regardless of whether they've done anything actionable, and I see no reason society should permit that. I can see why certain entities would want that, but just because they want it doesn't mean the rest of us are obliged to give it to them.

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Facebook group demands execution (prox 10000 members)
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 13 2012 @ 06:37 AM EST
For a non-anonymous tweeter.
Because they feel offended on the subject of
their Diety
(I'll use a capital not to offend anyone here)
And extradited he was
Strange role of interpol as well wannanowmore?
or here

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In Defense of Anonymous Speech ~pj
Authored by: jhhdk on Monday, February 13 2012 @ 07:23 AM EST
Considered posting this anonymously, but knowing many regulars
on this site ignore anonymous comments I chose not to.

Simple question PJ. If you hold anonymous comments in such
high regard, why have you succumbed to pressure for making it
easy to ignore them on this site?

Kind Regards
Jan Hornbøll Hansen

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In Defense of Anonymous Speech ~pj
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 13 2012 @ 08:14 AM EST

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Free Speech vs Political Correctness
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 13 2012 @ 08:27 AM EST

"Political correctness is an effort to abrogate the First
Amendment under the assumption that there exists a right to
not be offended and that it has priority." - The Toberman

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Anonymity is Protection
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 13 2012 @ 10:29 AM EST

Some of us need it. I used to live near a woman who was terrified her
husband would find her. He'd tried to kill her in front of her son, who was
old enough to remember the attack.

I used to use an alias online to protect the company I was working for.
Some of my personal opinions might not have been acceptable to our
customers, so I hide my online actions under a string of names, of which
you know one.

Whenever I hear someone squawking about how anonymity ruins
discourse, I wonder why they want to know who they are talking to. What
are they planning to do?


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As long as Jillian York works for the EFF...
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 13 2012 @ 12:37 PM EST
...they are in no position to call themselves "defenders of online anonymity".

And this is why. (Language warning, salient to my point.)

The best thing they can do to save their reputation, is to jettison her from their organization.

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In Defense of Anonymous Speech ~pj
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 13 2012 @ 03:36 PM EST
I find it embarrassing that this simple concept needed explaining! Shows the
depths that elementary schools have lowered to in just the last few years.
After a founding against such nonsense, a couple of hundred years and a few wars
fought against the same, it's hard to understand how that isn't fully ingrained.

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But YOU delete comments that you find "uncivil", don't you?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 14 2012 @ 08:06 PM EST
I guess free speech is something that you think is great in theory.

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In Defense of Anonymous Speech ~pj
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 14 2012 @ 08:25 PM EST
The following should be read in commedian Jeff Foxworthy's

- If yew USE yer TV to prop up yer laptop, but do not
actually drink beer and watch it...
- If yoU pay fer your venti coffee with a FIVE-doller
- If you have ever defended someone's right to post online

Yyew miIIIiIIght. be a tERrErrist.

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My 2 cents
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 20 2012 @ 04:32 PM EST
I am only posting anonymously because your website is not currently allowing
registrations. My name is Nabil Stendardo (MSc), and my e-mail address is (replace _NOSPAM_ by @). You can probably find some
information about me on the internet (embarassing and less embarassing). If not,
ask Facebook employees, they probably know about me more than my own parents;-)

Why am I saying all this? I follow the principle (dear to the World Wide Web) of
"liberal in what to accept - strict in what to emit". While being
strongly in favour of anonimity, I very seldom post anonymously (practically
only when registration is too much of a burden, only once have I felt like
anonimity was actually useful) and the last time I used a pseudonym probably was
when I was a teenager (I am 26 now). I don't seem to have any need to be
anonymous, I have no shame of what I believe in (or more precisely, of what I
post online). Again, I was very much against so-called "anti-piracy
laws" (even having my autistic tantrums because of it), however I try to
"pirate" as little as possible (IIRC I never downloaded any music or
movies illegally, and I now try to buy most software legally, or get a FOSS
alternative), because of both the guilt it produces and to avoid "proving
the lawmakers right". However, I do use software that could infringe on
patents (i.e. I am a software user - any piece of software, FOSS or proprietary,
can technically infringe on a patent unbeknownst to the authors - only with
proprietary software nobody can do a code audit to reveal the use of a patented
algorithm) ;-)

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