The Importance Of Protecting Anonymous Speech Online
from the it-may-not-be-pretty,-but-it's-worth-it dept
There tends to be this feeling of entitlement that anything someone doesn’t like must somehow be “illegal.” This is especially true when it comes to anonymous speech — even more so when it’s anonymous speech that’s “critical” of someone or some organization. The EFF is discussing an interesting case where the publisher of a newspaper is trying to uncover the identity of an anonymous blogger who runs a blog that has had several critical posts of the newspaper’s strategy to stop its employees from unionizing. According to the EFF report, this publisher has taken a hard line against any critic, suing two newspapers for their coverage and threatening suits against people for daring to put pro-union signs in their windows. In particular, the publisher is apparently annoyed that an anonymous third party commented on the anonymous blog, suggesting “acts of cybersabotage” against the newspaper’s management. The blogger quickly removed this comment, but the publisher claims that the comment itself influenced the union vote (the employees voted to unionize) and has sent a subpoena requesting information about the anonymous blogger. From the description, this sounds very much like an attempt at intimidation. The blogger in question wasn’t even the person who put up the comment, and the comment itself was removed. Trying to figure out the identity serves no reasonable purpose. In fact, as the EFF points out, the only place that information might have been useful was at the hearing to see whether the comment unfairly influenced the union vote — and that hearing already passed without the issue being mentioned. Anonymity can be messy, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be protected.