Anonymity

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Anonymity

Post by C on Thu Oct 30, 2008 6:00 pm

Anonymity
http://www.eff.org/issues/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.
Anonymous communications have an important place in our political and social discourse. The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly
that the right to anonymous free speech is protected by the First Amendment. A much-cited 1995 Supreme Court ruling in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission reads:
Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse.
Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express
critical, minority views . . . 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 . . . at the hand of an
intolerant society.
The tradition of anonymous speech is older than the United States. Founders Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote the Federalist Papers under the pseudonym "Publius," and "the Federal Farmer" spoke up in rebuttal. The US Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized rights to speak anonymously derived from the First Amendment. The right to anonymous speech is also protected well beyond the printed page. Thus, in 2002, the Supreme Court struck down a law requiring proselytizers to register their true names with the Mayor's office before going door-to-door.

These long-standing rights to anonymity and the protections it affords are critically important for the Internet. As the Supreme Court has recognized, the Internet offers a new and powerful democratic forum in which anyone can become a "pamphleteer" or "a town crier with a voice that resonates farther than it could from any soapbox."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been involved in the fight to protect the rights of anonymous speakers online. As one court observed, in a case handled by EFF along with the ACLU of Washington, "The free exchange of ideas on the Internet is driven in large part by the ability of Internet users to communicate anonymously." We've challenged many efforts to impede anonymous communication, both in the courts or the legislatures. We also previously provided financial support to the developers of Tor, an anonymous Internet communications system. By combining legal and policy work with technical tools, we hope to maintain the Internet's ability to serve as a vehicle for free expression.

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Re: Anonymity

Post by Guest on Thu Oct 30, 2008 6:56 pm

Thank you, C.

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Re: Anonymity

Post by Timeout on Thu Oct 30, 2008 7:09 pm

Thank you C for this great post. I read a letter to the editor in yesterday's edition of the Rumford Fall Times in which Mr. and Mrs. Belanger offer support for Seth Carey, which in and of itself is a very nice thing. What didn't seem so nice was the attack on bloggers. There has been a great desire on the part of some to shut this blog down. The anonymity of the bloggers allows them to share views that represent a definite segment of the community, which is important.

For so long I have seen many people hurt by letters to the editor, calling them names and trying to ruin their reputations. In the Belangers' letter there is some comment that I paraphrase here about people eventually getting what they give...how true. Some of the aforementioned people have written quite hurtful things themselves and even signed their letters...how is that any better? Again, it's good that Seth has friends and support - everyone needs someone in their corner...perhaps the Belangers would be best to leave it at just that -support.

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Re: Anonymity

Post by C on Thu Oct 30, 2008 7:11 pm

The above posting was somewhat in response to a remark in Mark & Lucille Belanger's letter to the editor in this weeks Rumford Falls Times.


"The computer age has made it too easy for anyone to slam whoever they don't agree with on blogs by hiding behind false names and posting slanderous comments for all the world to see. This behavior simply reminds us that only cowards would choose that route. Surely, if an authentic signature was required blogs wouldn't exist."

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Re: Anonymity

Post by C on Thu Oct 30, 2008 7:20 pm

Surely, if an authentic signature was required blogs wouldn't exist.

Surely, they aren't that naive...

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Re: Anonymity

Post by Timeout on Thu Oct 30, 2008 7:22 pm

I suppose the computer age has its challenges for people just like the advent of the steam engine and the automobile...

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Re: Anonymity

Post by Timeout on Thu Oct 30, 2008 7:36 pm

There's a learning curve to using any media. The basic thing is that anything recorded is cyberspace leaves a trail for a limited time. A good rule of thumb is not to post anything you wouldn't want posted on the front page of the paper, whether you do it anonymously or not. One of the good things about a group like this is that we all encourage each other to behave (even when we don't feel like it...lol...). We have a shared investment in keeping this type of communication open and available for the community.

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Re: Anonymity

Post by xmashen on Thu Oct 30, 2008 8:08 pm

yeah, and i have never said anything i wouldn't say to a person's face, at least if i were backed up by my homies, and they were allowed to use force to protect me.

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Re: Anonymity

Post by xmashen on Thu Oct 30, 2008 8:23 pm

also, a note to the Belangers, who i am sure are sweet and well meaning... if there were no anonymity, the warsaw ghetto resistance (as well as many other movements that sought to protect freedoms and lives) would have been impossible. That may be taking the analogy a bit far, since even I don't think we're dealing with actual Nazis, but some of the behavior and tactics from some of the actors in this drama do remind me a little of the Third Reich

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Re: Anonymity

Post by Guest on Thu Oct 30, 2008 8:32 pm

The Belangers seem to support TRR, and we all know they allow anonymous postings (you have to use a fictitious name or sign yourself 'concerned citizen'.) I ask: Who is more anonymous....."bug" or "R Ortez"?

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Re: Anonymity

Post by Phil Blampied on Thu Oct 30, 2008 8:37 pm

I think anonymity for a whistle blower is an essential tool for correcting wrongs. I think anonymity for a source for a named journalist working for an established media outlet is often justified.

I would think that anonymity on these blogs in discussing abstract ideas is completely valid. You may have a cogent argument in favor of cannabalism, which might be intellectually stimulating, if somewhat disgusting, for people to debate, but it's better if you don't say who you are.

But if you attack people by name and speculate on their personal characteristics and psychological make-up, you are morally deficient if you don't reveal yourself. The question is, to what degree? Is this a venal sin or a mortal sin? Some people have a loose pseudonym everyone kind of knows who they are anyway and maybe that's okay. But the truly deeply anonymous posters, when they wade into character assasination, must know they are not doing the right thing. We all jaywalk and eat too many potato chips and so on. Is this a potato chip kind of thing, a minor naughty? Or does it do serious damage to our community?

I post on here sometimes in a mood of seeing the anonymous posters as potato chippers, thereby relieving myself of concerns that I am participating and thus perhaps encouraging something wrong. This is more so recently as the personal attacks have diminished. But sometimes, when you let loose with speculation about the personality and psychology of people who are not necessarily full-fledged public officials, it becomes hard to discount just how malicious anonymous posting can be.

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Re: Anonymity

Post by Guest on Thu Oct 30, 2008 8:42 pm

I am guilty of moral deficiency............................

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Re: Anonymity

Post by xmashen on Thu Oct 30, 2008 8:47 pm

sorry you feel that way, phil...

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Re: Anonymity

Post by Phil Blampied on Thu Oct 30, 2008 8:51 pm

Be anonymous if you wish, but take the pledge: no personal attacks.

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Re: Anonymity

Post by C on Thu Oct 30, 2008 8:55 pm

I agree to some extent. The OpenDoor was not a good example for anonymity and I always did my best to use my pseudonym. In our forum we've learned to identify members we like or dislike based on their personality and their behavior here. I feel I've built a reputation under my pseudonym which matches my personality and my opinions. I think having user names offers a balance of member obscurity (if they choose) but lets them build a reputation that they will value and want to protect.

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Re: Anonymity

Post by Timeout on Thu Oct 30, 2008 9:00 pm

Phil, I like the distinctions you've made...I prefer popcorn myself...

You always write with that ironic wit...I love the venial vs. mortal thing. I agree that public officials are fair game, i.e., Bush, Obama, Palin, etc. Seth poses an interesting case in that he has made himself a public figure, whether he holds an official title or not. TRR has long held itself as the "voice" of the community up until recently.

I think some of the stuff that is sexual or extremely crude in nature is out of line...as for analyzing psychological make-up and personal characteristics...I don't really know what the answer is to that. The thing I find helpful about making those assessments (even if erroneous) is that they help me to at least try and understand where the other guy is coming from. Sometimes I find that I've been trying to make sense out of someone everyone else knows has some kind of disability...kind of like that movie (can't remember title) in which some guy ends up in a place where everyone is crazy (politically incorrect word) and ends up thinking he's the crazy one.

This attack/counter-attack stuff is hard to resolve because it's just too ironic to be corrected by people who have done the same or have had friends do it for them. Yeah, yeah, I know, two rights don't make a wrong but sometimes the insanity of it all makes one feel they have to say something.

I try not to post the first thing that comes to my head...that's never much of a good idea. Sometimes we have to fake it before we make it. I know I have a fairly strong resentment against one person in particular and it's a weakness. I pray for that person on a regular basis...but the resentment lingers... now, would that resentment be considered a venial or mortal sin? Lol... I don't know. In the spirit of Dot Sanchas I didn't post anything yesterday when I read the letter in the RFT...I knew I wasn't going to be nice yesterday. It may not be much nicer today but I am angry about it. I know I'm not the only one.


Last edited by Timeout on Fri Oct 31, 2008 6:58 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Catholic spelling correction)

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Re: Anonymity

Post by Guest on Thu Oct 30, 2008 9:06 pm

Timeout,
Was the movie "King of Hearts"?

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Re: Anonymity

Post by Timeout on Thu Oct 30, 2008 9:07 pm

I think it was! Thank you, thank you...now I can sleep tonight Sleep

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Re: Anonymity

Post by T on Thu Oct 30, 2008 9:17 pm

Phil Blampied wrote:the personal attacks have diminished.
Of course the "personal attacks" have diminished here. The Rumford Reporter has not personally attacked anyone recently. But, when "they" do, "they" can expect a response.

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Re: Anonymity

Post by Guest on Fri Oct 31, 2008 6:46 am

Phil Blampied wrote:
“But if you attack people by name and speculate on their personal characteristics and psychological make-up, you are morally deficient if you don’t reveal yourself.”

I have debated whether to respond to this. For the most part, I agree with Phil. But in the case of TRR, I am choosing, here, to defend my anonymity.

Yes, TRR has been attacked by members of this site. Yes, some of us have “speculated” about the psychological make-up of the editor of that site. This has been done in response to what has been published on TRR.

The editor of TRR put herself in a position of public scrutiny, and in that position has often claimed moral superiority while falsely implying that she represents this town and community. In this position, she has publicly and vilely attacked many members of this community (i.e. Chief Carter, the RFD, the RPD, the Catholic school board, past and present selectmen) and done so “anonymously” by either singing her “letters” with a fictitious name (R Ortez) or as “concerned citizen”. In all her “editorials” she deceptively implies community backing. (Venial or mortal sin?)

Are members of this community supposed to ignore her slanderous diatribes? Isn’t it “morally deficient” to sit back in complacency while she spews her vendetta-based aggressions?

At first, TRR was like an annoying insect that I passively tried to shoo away. But now, I see it as disease-ridden, and I will swat when it comes near. And, yes, I do judge my own moral deficiencies. In this particular instance, I deem it wise to remain anonymous, and I will own this choice.

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Re: Anonymity

Post by KevinNSaisi on Fri Oct 31, 2008 8:24 am

So, her negative behavior justifies yours??
I have to agree with Phil. If you need to attack, you should be accountable for what you say.

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Re: Anonymity

Post by Timeout on Fri Oct 31, 2008 8:34 am

I think Bug has a good point when asking if it's morally deficient to sit back and do nothing. Being brave is a matter of perception...sometimes it takes courage to be quiet and sometimes it takes courage to say you've had enough...all depends on the situation. When a person continuously show poor judgment in their posting, they cannot expect that they will be wholeheartedly embraced when they do something good...like the boy who cried wolf...no one believed him when the wolf finally came. And so with TRR and others...it is hard not to think they are "up to something", because as you well know, they usually are.

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Re: Anonymity

Post by Guest on Fri Oct 31, 2008 8:43 am

I am ultimately accountable for what I say, whether I say it anonymously or not. I can live with that.
A great deal of my criticism of TRR is that she harshly judges anonymous posters while she, herself, hypocritically posts (anonymously) using made-up names and identities.

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Re: Anonymity

Post by Guest on Fri Oct 31, 2008 8:57 am

Phil and Kevin, I respect your thoughts on anonymous postings, I just don't agree with you.

I think there are times when someone needs to be anonymous for any number of reasons. I think making up a fictitious name to present a point is dishonest.

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Re: Anonymity

Post by Timeout on Fri Oct 31, 2008 9:25 am

Bug is right on this one. Bug doesn't call him/her self something else depending on what they post. Bug is always Bug.

One of the funny things I've discovered is that when you change your identity on the SJ posts now, it changes your name throughout the archives. It's easy to tell who writes what because when you look back at other posts anyone has written, the new identity is there. You can tell when someone removes a post or changes their identity, however, because people blogging on that topic often respond using the original name...it's pretty funny when someone responds to Q and Q is now B...or when people respond to a post that's obviously been removed...it's just not that hard to figure out.

People should be careful posting, especially on the newspaper blog because they can get set up by someone posting something outrageous as bait. A response can really look out of line when the provocative post has been removed. It is a very common TRR tactic...I've seen it used again and again.

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