Google Ordered To Reveal Blogger Identity
In another assault on people’s right to anonymity, a judge has ordered Google to reveal the identity of an anonymous blogger who apparently had some “less than complimentary” things to say about the Vogue cover model Liskula Cohen.
I think that there’s a couple of lessons here. First, even when writing in a so-called “anonymous” blog on blogger, the things you write can easily come back to haunt you, especially if they fit the legal definition of libel. Second, If you want to blog anonymously it *IS* possible to do so but it takes somewhat more than just signing up for a blogger account, even if you do so with phony information
It seems to me that it almost doesn’t matter what the topic is. Somebody could write that they think rice-burners are more prone to accidents and before you know it they’re hit with a lawsuit by a Japanese motorcycle maker and they’re hoping that their San Jose motorcycle accident attorney can help them come up with numbers to back up their statement in order to quash a libel suit.
Part of the whole issue with anonymous (both those using casual or strong anonymity) is the same issue faced by everybody else that takes time to so much as tweet something and that is the ever growing tendency for people to slap somebody with a lawsuit at the slightest hint of anything that even might be considered legally actionable.
Anyone planning to write an anonymous blog (or do anything anonymously) needs to remember that “In Most Cases, You Only THINK You’re Anonymous“. Just simply creating a Blogger account, even with false information, does NOT make you anonymous by any stretch of the imagination.
To be truly anonymous takes some effort. One very good place to start would be to use the Tor Browser Bundle to browse anonymously. It’s a combination of the TOR network and a portable version of Firefox that’s had it’s settings tweaked to maximize privacy.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not in any way support using tools like this for criminal or libelous purposes. However I *DO* support and strongly believe in the right of people to be anonymous. Anonymity is an important part of any free society, something that was expressed very nicely by Justice Stevens in the McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission case in 1996:
“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.”
The problem is that while the majority of people who use anonymity software are never heard from, there are always a vocal minority who will abuse it and make life difficult for those who truly need to be anonymous.
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