More Mixed Rulings On The Right To Be Anonymous Online

from the depends-on-the-court dept

Paul Alan Levy alerts us to the news of two recent rulings about internet anonymity, where courts refused to identify some anonymous commenters (in the second case, some were identified and others weren’t). There are a fair number of twists and turns in those rulings, and you can read all the details at that link. But what struck me about this is that it comes just a few days after we saw a different story about a different court that agreed to unmask anonymous commenters using a much lower standard than other cases have used.

If you read through both stories you see that judges basically seem to be making it up as they go along as to what standards to use in deciding whether or not online anonymity is protectable. The famous case in this realm is the Dendrite case, but all of the judges seem to pick and choose what they like or don’t like about the Dendrite standard, and we’re left with a very unclear landscape in terms of understanding what is and what is not protectable anonymity. Basically, you have to hope you end up in a court that buys into the concept, and that seems dangerous for those who believe that anonymity is an important part of First Amendment protections.

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Comments on “More Mixed Rulings On The Right To Be Anonymous Online”

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7 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

first myth,
No where does the constitution say you have the right to anonymous speech, you have freedom of speech, you can say what you want, within limits, but when called out, you better stand up and be counted for saying it, or STFU don’t say anything at all

you just can’t walk down the street and say whatever you want to people, you can, but you better be prepared to take the consequences, arrest or an ass whooping, your claim of freedom of speech wont go far

So where does this fallacy of anonymous speech come from??
People who want to be vile, rude, disgusting, racist, homophobic, anti-semite etc… think they have some “right” to do it on the internet

AcesLucky says:

Right To Be Anonymous Online

Not right to free speech, right to privacy.

source: http://www.usconstitution.net/constnot.html#privacy

“The Constitution does not specifically mention a right to privacy. However, Supreme Court decisions over the years have established that the right to privacy is a basic human right, and as such is protected by virtue of the 9th Amendment. …

In addition, it is said that a right to privacy is inherent in many of the amendments in the Bill of Rights, such as the 3rd, the 4th’s search and seizure limits, and the 5th’s self-incrimination limit.”

Okay, this might sound a bit tricky but we’re talking about the right to privacy in a public forum. Think 5th amendment. We have a right both to free speech AND a right to not incriminate ourselves or be improperly searched (without warrant).

But what establishes “warrant?” Libel? Slander? Fair enough, since these are already limits on free speech. But if I support a site that gives “opinions” on the reckless behavior of a company, do they have a right to know who is making the opinion or the identity of the site owner?

If neither I nor any commenter has made a factual misrepresentation material to unlawful speech, then privacy should be a right.

But if I claim BP has killed 20,000 people in its disregard for human safety, and I claim they should be boycotted, I damn well better be able to prove my case in open court!

Like free speech, anonymity should be used responsibly.

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