News & Information for Technology Purchasers NewsFactor Sites:     Enterprise Security Today     CRM Daily     Business Report     Sci-Tech Today  
This ad will display for the next 20 seconds. Please click for more information, or scroll down to pass the ad, or Close Ad.
Home Enterprise I.T. Cloud Computing Applications Hardware More Topics...
APC Free White Paper
Optimize your network investment &
Enter to win a Samsung Galaxy Note
World Wide Web
Fiercely productive scanners
Average Rating:
Rate this article:  
Defending Anonymous Speech Online
Defending Anonymous Speech Online

By Frederick Lane
January 10, 2008 3:34PM

    Bookmark and Share
Not everyone is happy about the prosecution of those who caused MySpace users Megan Meier to commit suicide. For example, Kurt Opsahl of the EFF said "Even if a theory of fraud against [MySpace] is viable, it should not impose any burdens on Web sites," he said. "A Web site would remain free to allow pseudonyms."

The controversy surrounding a fake MySpace account that allegedly drove 13-year-old Megan Meier to commit suicide in October 2006 is raising new questions about the use of pseudonyms and false identities on social networking sites.

The news that federal prosecutors in Los Angeles have asked a grand jury to investigate possible violations of federal wire fraud and cyberfraud laws in the case has sparked widespread debate about the appropriate balance between anonymous speech and potentially criminal activity.

At a press conference last month, Missouri prosecutor Jack Banas said that his office was unable to prove that the false MySpace account was set up with the intent to harm Megan Meier, and as a result, there were no charges that could be filed against the alleged perpetrators.

A Long History of Anonymous Speech

Kurt Opsahl, senior staff attorney for the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), said that there is a long history of anonymous speech in the United States, stretching all the way back to the Federalist Papers in 1787. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay wrote the Federalist Papers under the pseudonym "Publius" to advocate ratification of the United States Constitution, which was in danger of being rejected by New York state.

"If a prosecutor can maintain a case against a citizen who is merely using a pseudonym online, without more, it can have a chilling effect on free speech," Opsahl argued. "People can and should be responsible for their online actions, but one should address the actions, not the pseudonym."

Over the years, the Supreme Court has strongly supported the concept of anonymous speech, describing it as "a shield from the tyranny of the majority."

"It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights," the Supreme Court wrote in 1995, "and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation... at the hand of an intolerant society."

Anonymity Under Attack

With the rise of the Internet, however, new attacks are being levied against anonymous speech. Corporations and even some local governments have been particularly aggressive about pursuing anonymous bloggers who post critical comments about them. Just last month, for instance, the EFF helped quash a subpoena seeking the identity of a New Jersey blogger who criticized his town for filing a malpractice lawsuit against its former attorney.

Opsahl said it is important that the scope of the Los Angeles grand jury's investigation be limited. "Even if a theory of fraud against [MySpace] is viable, it should not impose any burdens on Web sites," he said. "A Web site would remain free to allow pseudonyms."

According to the EFF, a number of recent state and federal decisions have been handed down that protect anonymous speech on the Internet. Most recently, the Arizona court of appeals protected the identity of an employee who forwarded a copy of an e-mail he accidentally received that his company's CEO had originally sent to the CEO's mistress. In reaching its decision, the court applied a balancing test between the company's alleged need for the information and the individual's right to anonymity.

Tell Us What You Think


APC has an established a reputation for solid products that virtually pay for themselves upon installation. Who has time to spend worrying about system downtime? APC makes it easy for you to focus on business growth instead of business downtime with reliable data center systems and IT solutions. Learn more here.

 World Wide Web
1.   Twitter Acquires Data Analyzer Gnip
2.   Google Updates Gmail Terms of Service
3.   Google Grabs Droid-Maker
4.   Tips To Defeat the Heartbleed Bug
5.   Tech Stocks: From Giddy to Glum

Don't Reset Passwords for Heartbleed?
Added caution needed to ensure security.
Average Rating:
Internet Devices Lure Hackers
Mundane devices end up in online crime.
Average Rating:
Google, Viacom Settle Copyright Battle
Bury digital hatchet over YouTube.
Average Rating:
Product Information and Resources for Technology You Can Use To Boost Your Business

Network Security Spotlight
Tips To Defeat the Heartbleed Bug
Heartbleed headlines continue as IT admins scramble for answers no one has. Early reports of stolen personal data, including 900 social insurance numbers in Canada, are starting to trickle in.
NSC Backs Disclosing Software Vulnerabilities
Disclosing vulnerabilities in commercial and open source software is in the national interest and shouldn't be withheld unless there is a clear need, says the National Security Council.
Heartbleed Flaw Affects Hardware, Too
It appears the Heartbleed security bug affects not just Web sites, but also the networking equipment that connects businesses and homes to the Net, including Cisco and Juniper's equipment.

Enterprise Hardware Spotlight
Vaio Fit 11A Battery Danger Forces Recall by Sony
Using a Sony Vaio Fit 11A laptop? It's time to send it back to Sony. In fact, Sony is encouraging people to stop using the laptop after several reports of its Panasonic battery overheating.
Continued Drop in Global PC Shipments Slows
Worldwide shipments of PCs fell during the first three months of the year, but the global slump in PC demand may be easing, with a considerable slowdown from last year's drops.
Google Glass Finds a Home in Medical Education, Practice
Google Glass may find its first markets in verticals in which hands-free access to data is a boon. Medicine is among the most prominent of those, as seen in a number of Glass experiments under way.

Mobile Technology Spotlight
Is Amazon Launching a 3D Smartphone?
Once known for selling books on an e-commerce platform, Amazon is now a bona fide hardware maker -- and it's reportedly rolling out an innovative smartphone with a 3D screen.
Review: S5 Features Useful, Less About Gimmicks
There's a lot to like about Samsung's new Galaxy S5 smartphone -- among them, its relative lack of features. Samsung chose to focus on features people might actually want, not gimmicks.
Analyst: Samsung Galaxy S5 Won't Sway iPhone Lovers
The Samsung Galaxy S5 hits store shelves on Friday and the reviews are starting to pour in. The question is: Can the latest in the Galaxy line grab more market share from Appleā€™s iPhone?

NewsFactor Network
Home/Top News | Enterprise I.T. | Cloud Computing | Applications | Hardware | Mobile Tech | Big Data | Communications
World Wide Web | Network Security | Data Storage | Small Business | Microsoft/Windows | Apple/Mac | Linux/Open Source | Personal Tech
Press Releases
NewsFactor Network Enterprise I.T. Sites
NewsFactor Technology News | Enterprise Security Today | CRM Daily

NewsFactor Business and Innovation Sites
Sci-Tech Today | NewsFactor Business Report

NewsFactor Services
FreeNewsFeed | Free Newsletters | XML/RSS Feed

About NewsFactor Network | How To Contact Us | Article Reprints | Careers @ NewsFactor | Services for PR Pros | Top Tech Wire | How To Advertise

Privacy Policy | Terms of Service
© Copyright 2000-2014 NewsFactor Network. All rights reserved. Article rating technology by Blogowogo. Member of Accuserve Ad Network.