Sunday, 29 March 2009

Anonymous blogging

I have gleaned some material quoted in comments on various sites regarding internet anonymity and added a bit of research for quick reference.


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. (EFF)

Is anonymous speech a right?

Yes. Anonymous speech is presumptively protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Anonymous pamphleteering played an important role for the Founding Fathers, including James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, whose Federalist Papers were first published anonymously. And the Supreme Court has consistently backed up that tradition, ruling, for example, that an Ohio law requiring authors to put their names on campaign literature was a violation of the First Amendment. Indeed, the Supreme Court has ruled that protecting anonymous speech has the same purpose as the First Amendment itself: to "protect unpopular individuals from retaliation ­ and their ideas from suppression." (Cyberslapp)

"Anonymous speech on the Internet lets people make criticisms that are difficult to state openly, and share information and support about topics that might be stigmatizing, such as addiction or sexual abuse,"" said Ann Beeson, Staff Counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union. "Unless online anonymity is protected, whistleblowers who want to criticize their employers, parents who want to criticize the principal of their children's school - and many others - may be afraid to speak out. That would be a loss for our country." Beeson pointed out that the Supreme Court has repeatedly found that anonymous speech is a right protected by the First Amendment. (ACLU)

A blogger describes her experiences (2006)

This outing thing is really getting out of hand.

This is the way she informed me that she’d figured out who I was.

And she has. Congratulations, Ann, you guessed right. You know who I am, and where I work. And you’ve been very clear that you don’t like pseudonymity, and you’ve been just as clear that you don’t care for me. You’ve also made it clear that you’re not above threatening to out people you don’t care for when you’re angry. So, what’s your next move?

You could sue me. Of course, as my Civil Procedure professor used to say, “You can always sue. The question is, can you win?”

And what do you hope to recover after all that? A few bucks? A little vindication? Any victory you might have would be singularly Pyrrhic, I would imagine. Your reputation will suffer more from a suit than it would from my comments.

All at a cost of thousands of dollars in legal fees and costs on both sides. More likely tens of thousands of dollars.

And all because you couldn’t leave well enough alone and had to find out who I was. Because it’s pseudonymity that you find so appalling, that you think can be abused. (Feministe)

It would appear to me that Mike Doogan acted impulsively in his need for revenge once he obtained the information he wanted so badly. Mudflats had been critical of some of his actions and instead of defending his position with valid arguments, he retaliated by divulging AKM's identity on his official website. The implications of his actions are immense and the consequences will be far more serious for himself than for AKM. He didn't stop to consider all the possibilities before he opened his big mouth.

Mike Doogan defended himself in an interview with Alaska Dispatch: Doogan said that from his point of view, as soon as she began to influence public policy she gave up her right to remain anonymous. "If this was a group of people sitting around the living room, relentlessly attacking public figures, that would be one thing. But she's been doing that on the Internet--which goes everywhere--for the better part of the year, and she's allowed to do that anonymously? Where's the benefit of that to our state or our country?" (Alaska Dispatch)

The answer to his question becomes abundantly clear by reading the first part of this post.

Perhaps he should have acquainted himself with the Constitution of his country before embarking in such reckless conduct.


Lynn D said...

Regina well written and puts this together in a nutshell! I am tired of people who think they are the only ones who have rights and we must all agree with them or suffer. He was terrorizing someone to do his will. Period. Misuse of his office and morally indefensible. IMHO

Witsendnj said...

Excellent post. It is imperative to make clear that anonymous publishing is a long and hallowed tradition, from the Ben Franklin to the Federalist Papers to whistle-blowers like Deep Throat. The RIGHT to privacy and anonymity is critically important to our democracy and Doogan should be held accountable for abusing his position.

Love your blog Regina!

midnightcajun said...

I use a pseudonym because I'm a fiction writer and I don't want to lose readers who might disagree with my politics and opinions; it's pure economics. Which has me really scratching my head because Doogan is a fiction writer. I suspect he had no idea just how many people he offended and enraged by what he did. I think it's more than Doogan having a thin skin for criticism: I think he's jealous of AKM's incredible success as a writer. He recognized that she has something he never will. What he hasn't recognized is that "something" is a pure heart.

Anonymous said...

We have a short memory, now that Obama is the President. Not so long ago, during the 2006 elections when Bush was President, there was no public dissent or criticism allowed. People who wore T-shirts with the wrong slogan were physically ejected from a rally by the Secret Service (not their job description). It didn't have to be a Democratic slogan; even being Pro-Envirnoment was a no-no.

When we look back at the runup to the war in Iraq, there was no criticism; people who had an different point of view were simply called "traitors." There was no discussing the facts; there were no facts.

Given that kind of dangerous atmosphere, as the blogosphere gained strength and grew, it's no wonder than people chose a Screen Name, no different from the pen name of an author. AKM began posting during the Bush Administration and had every right to privacy, given the strong-arm tactics that they used to stifle an opposing voice. The irony is that Doogan is said to be a Democrat. People who offer comments here can sign any name they wish. It should be our choice whether or not to believe each poster, trust their information or just move on to the next comment. If we have been laughing because Sarah Palin has such a thin skin, and responds to every unflattering article in the media, imagine how thin Doogan's skin is that he spent months plotting his sick revenge. Letting the blogging continue!

SoCalWolfGal said...

Excellent post Regina. Doogan, I would be willing to wage big money on has not a clue about the Federalist Papers. He has accomplished nothing more that making bloggers more determined than ever. And he is jealous of AKM, of that I have no doubt. This was incredibly stupid of him, and it will be interesting indeed to watch the fallout.

FEDUP!!! said...

"It would appear to me that Mike Doogan acted impulsively in his need for revenge. ... He didn't stop to think before he opened his big mouth."

No, I do not agree with you on this one.
I believe he did NOT act on the spur of the moment - this was deliberate, and long in the coming. He stalked AKM, and he used his government sources to get to her.
He thought about what he was about to do, and he gleefully sent her an email the evening before, that he would 'out' her the next day.
He still has to divulge his source(s), and I am sure we will not be very surprised by them (anyone ever heard the names 'GINO' or 'First Dud' before? ... look at her Lincoln speech last week...)

regina said...


I meant he acted impulsively once he had the information he spent so many months trying to obtain. He felt so smug about his findings that he didn't stop to think about the consequences.

He didn't care what the consequences could be for AKM, but he forgot to take into account what the consequences could be for himself!

regina said...

I did a little edit to reflect what I said in the comment @18:46

regina said...

Correction: @ 18:36!

crystalwolf aka caligrl said...

Reg, I love you pic, looks like doo-doo himself.
FEDUP!- do you know where a copy of the transcript of that speech is? I am trying to find it. I suspect GIINO KNEW AKM was @ the speech.And I don't think doo-doo acted alone.
The stalking and getting even, well we know who MO that is!

Anonymous said...

FEDUP, I agree with you.

GINO has been complaining:
-Her office is paralyzed by having to answer "bogus" and "frivolous" ethics complaints and also too on and on....
-She might need a to set up a legal defense fund.
-Another bogus and asinine EC.
-She wont take a bribe.

So, she circles the wagons:
-Posts A press release "Aren't Alaskans tired of......." that might as well have said:
Doogan, when are you going to deliver? Fox News, get over here!
To those of You who I like to pray with, get creative, be rabid!!
W.A.R., join me and be my shield!

Now protected by the turmoil caused, WHO is going to make HER work on or pay attention to what she does with:
-The natural gas pipeline.
-Rural Alaska.
-Replacement of Rep. who went to work for Obama.
-The permanent fund.
-Any other issue that pertains to "progressing" ALASKA.

If she thinks Mt. Redoubt is taking side with her, she is sorely mistaken.

The legislature should censure Rep. Doogan and remove Palin.

basheert said...

Regina and Everyone:
I truly believe that doogan (small d deserved) had NO clue of what can of worms he opened. I also truly believe that nilaP is behind it or at least encouraging these types of things.
The fact that today McCain came out and said he didn't know if he could support her speaks volumes. McCain is a vampire (he's mine thanks) and a carpetbagger bought and paid for with mafia money (google Joe Bonanno) and the Hensley money.
I personally hold the belief that the Hensley family is appalled with nilaP. Cindy McMealticket was undoubtedly horrified the first time word-salad opened her big mouth. She is a classless social climber and unfortunately Alaska now looks like a state of fruitcakes who won't hold her even to her office duties.
I think doogan did us a favor ... he opened some doors and showed basically the entire world just how bad it is in Alaska for individual citizens.
The fact that W.A.R. will be attorney general is frankly frightening. No one will be held to any legal standards at all nor will citizens be free to express opinions or file complaints.
That is why this issue must be addressed legally. I kept hoping a lawyer would stand up and make an offer...for all I know, someone has contacted AKM.
Part of me wishes she could walk away (and I'll respect her if that is what she chooses), but there is more at stake here.
For 8 years, the R party of NO has trounced on our Constitution and conducted torture on human beings. People were harrassed, snooped on and arrested for bumper stickers.
I truly believe the American public has seen the Bushies for what they were.
Now comes nalip ... but this is not her time. And it won't be. The American people spoke in November - the trouncing on people's individual rights was chosen over the Party of NO.

Anonymous said...

Please check out the story at Politico today, good analysis of Palin's "team." It's called "Staff Infection" LOL, and we can start taking bets on how soon thin-skined Sarah and Staff issue their response.

Anonymous said...

I think this comment is most telling,

"If this was a group of people sitting around the living room, relentlessly attacking public figures, that would be one thing. But she's been doing that on the Internet--which goes everywhere",

in theory you can intimidate a small group of people in someones living room. The hundreds of thousands across the globe that read The Mudflats are unreachable, their power is unstoppable. What a horrible time to be a politician, and a wonderful time to be a citizen, they can't hide anymore.

Daisydem said...

Please do not forget how he outed AKM. He used the State of Alaska's resources. He outed her from a public/governmental platform. This is more than unethical. It has to be illegal in more ways than one. As a government official he outed a private citizen.

regina said...


The clown in the picture is an urinal...


teal said... soon as I saw the picture, I said "Perfect!"

Great post Regina!

mdlw56 said...

Wonderful post, Regina. Great job. Methinks some folks just don't get it, I refer to Mr. Poe's statement on The Mudflats. I guess my thinking was wrong, him being a lawyer. But, still, outing AKM to the public through emails (loud speaker, froghorn) obvious with malice. Maybe posting that YouTube clip of GINO looking around the room as others have described? Piece of evidence?

---Basheert. Great post! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Call me paranoid, call me suspicious.
Strange that this is coming out, right at the time Sarah Palin
has had quite a few days of bad publicity. The major publicity about her disconnect with the Alaska legislature, multiple Internet and media criticisms of SP, the protestors on the steps at Juneau (with pictures for the world to see), the ethics complaint re: her wearing the Arctic Cat jacket.
All these seeming to be building toward a critical mass.

What better way to deflect attention from Miss Sarah than this bombshell of outing an anonymous blogger?

Politics make strange bedfellows.

GretalostitoverPalin said...

Recently Greta wrote that in court you have a right to face your accusers and she was against people just writing "sources stated"- a typical and necessary part of journalism. She knows you don't always name sources and that many important cases would not have come to light if not for the protection there.
Additionally, internet discussions posted online add other reasons to not give out too much information.
Greta is sounding just like whiny Palin.