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Anonymous Blogger Outed By Politician 300

Posted by kdawson
from the by-what-right dept.
Snoskred writes with the story of a blogger who chose to remain pseudonymous, who has been outed by an Alaskan politician in his legislative newsletter. Alaska Rep. Mike Doogan had been writing bizarre emails to people who emailed him, and the Alaskan blogger "Mudflats" was one of those who called him on it. (Mudflats first began getting noticed after blogging about Sarah Palin from a local point of view.) Doogan seems to have developed a particular itch to learn who Mudflats is, and he finally found out, though he got her last name wrong, and named her in his official newsletter. The Huffington Post is one of the many outlets writing about the affair. The blogger happens to be Democrat — as is Doogan — but that is immaterial to the question of the right to anonymity in political speech. Does an American have the right to post political opinion online anonymously? May a government official breach that anonymity absent a compelling state interest?
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Anonymous Blogger Outed By Politician

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 30, 2009 @11:47PM (#27397621)

    pleaase don't oust me :(

    please?

  • Uhhh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Monday March 30, 2009 @11:48PM (#27397625) Homepage Journal

    Does an American have the right to post political opinion online anonymously?

    Sure.

    May a government official breach that anonymity absent a compelling state interest?

    Why yes. Everyone has the right to keep their identity a secret.. but no-one has the right to prevent others from discovering their secrets.

    • Re:Uhhh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 30, 2009 @11:55PM (#27397671)

      but no-one has the right to prevent others from discovering their secrets.

      So does you proclamation apply to whisle blowers, people in witness protection, confidential documents, your SSN, trade secrets, etc.

      People have a perfect right to protect their secrets, otherwise they wouldn't be secrets.

      • by Animaether (411575) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @12:04AM (#27397751) Journal

        Of course they have 'the right' to protect their secrets - as in this case, their identity. However, do they have a legal leg to stand on in trying to fight somebody who has made that secret public? I'd say they don't.

        So, yes, anybody - politician or otherwise - should be perfectly allowed to blow somebody's 'anonymity' if there was no agreement between the two parties to maintain that anonymity (as in some court proceedings, witness protection program, etc. etc.).

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Yvanhoe (564877)
          That's why we need to begin to care for the trust metrics along all the chain of people who could blow our privacy : ISPs, web hosts, Echelon-guy, Google, the Firefox team...
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by JumpDrive (1437895)
          So it's okay for government officials to seek people who are using their first amendment right and not talking in a way which they agree with?

          So it's alright to out CIA agents and such who have different political views than those in power?

          This is just plain abuse of power and privilege and the Congressman should at the very least be censored if not taken out of his post.

          If the person was committing a libelous or slanderous act, then yes. But as a government official a third party should be called
      • Re:Uhhh (Score:5, Interesting)

        by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @12:06AM (#27397771) Homepage Journal

        Can you actually state any *laws* to that affect? Hiring a registered private investigator to discover the identity of a whistle blower.. yep, perfectly legal. Witness protection is more myth than fact. Confidential documents remain confidential until they are lawfully obtained by the people you want to keep them confidential from, then they no longer are. My SSN? I think I have one of those from back when I worked in the USA.. assuming that everyone else reading this has one or considers it a secret is a pretty big assumption. Trade secrets are exactly the same as confidential documents.. with the added fun of reverse engineering.. also perfectly legal as has been upheld by the supreme court dozens of times.

        People have a perfect right to protect their secrets, otherwise they wouldn't be secrets.

        No-one said they didn't.

        • Re:Uhhh (Score:5, Insightful)

          by gyrogeerloose (849181) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @12:50AM (#27398059) Journal

          Can you actually state any *laws* to that affect?

          I cant't cite any state laws but the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the right to anonymous speech as part of the right to free speech.

          • Re:Uhhh (Score:5, Insightful)

            by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @01:00AM (#27398123) Homepage Journal

            Yup, but the supreme court has never said "you can't try to find out who that anonymous person is".. if you want to remain anonymous it's your responsibility to protect your identity.. you have no legal right to that. You can't contact the police and say "hey, someone is trying to find out who I am, stop them!"

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            http://media.www.trinitytripod.com/media/storage/paper520/news/2002/12/31/SpecialFeature/Ralph.Morellis.Remarks.At.The.Daily.Jolt.Townhall.Meeting-342714-page2.shtml [trinitytripod.com]

            Anonymous and pseudonymous speech -- the use of pen names -- has had a long and important tradition in the US. Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" pamphlet, the Federalist Papers, and other pamphlets and books have played key roles in our revolution and history. The US Supreme Court has frequently protected anonymous pamphlets and other forms of commu

            • Re:Uhhh (Score:5, Informative)

              by xouumalperxe (815707) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @05:38AM (#27399561)

              As recently as 1995 (in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission) the Court ruled that anonymous pamphleting is protected by the First Amendment

              What that means is:

              • Posting anonymous pamphlets is legal;
              • You can't legislate to make it illegal (not american, can't recall whether 1st amendment rules at state or federal level);
              • Since anonymity is legal, you can't ask law enforcement to help you find out who posted something anonymous (or do anything else about it, for that matter) unless there's something else about it that makes it illegal.

              What it doesn't mean is:

              • If you spread an "anonymous" message via SMS, it doesn't bar people from just saying "look whose caller ID it is!"
              • If the speech itself is illegal (not sure what constitutes illegal speech in the US, but violence/hate inciting speech, or holocaust denial are recurring items elsewhere), anonymity doesn't suddenly make it OK because of the first amendment
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Loki_1929 (550940)

                Threats of physical violence, libel, incitement to violence, and speech which presents a "clear and present danger" (the example most commonly used is of shouting 'FIRE!' in a crowded theatre) are about the only examples of unprotected free speech in the US.

                Things like "hate speech" laws, holocaust denial laws, and other backwards anti-liberty, anti-speech laws haven't quite made it here yet, but they're probably coming at some point.

                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  by mea37 (1201159)

                  There are obscenity laws as well.

                  The truty is, it's not all that black-and-white anyway. There are degrees of "protected" when it comes to protected speech, and in any given case there's a seemingly-subjective 'weighing' of how "protected" the speech is against other concerns.

                  e.g. speech considered 'functional' is less protected than speech considered 'expressive' IIRC, and in any case speech considered 'political' in nature is always more protected than if it weren't political...

      • As long as the preventative measures are defensive rather than offensive.

        ie: you should be allowed to protect access to a document, but not retract any information they may have on the document, or the document itself if they came by it legally.

        Or, you can lock the door on your store, but you can't force someone to give back photos of what was in the store if it was in plain view.

      • Re:Uhhh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by religious freak (1005821) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @04:25AM (#27399171)
        There is no constitutional right to privacy. You can look and look, but there's nothing that says 'you have a right for the government to not look into your shit' (or any more respectful verbiage). The right to privacy has never been fully tested in the courts, in the opinion of at least some legal scholars.

        Fourth Amendment reads:

        The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

        That does NOT say you are guaranteed to privacy outside your house, or that the government can't snoop through your activities... That means that unless there are laws in existence governing the type of circumstance AC found herself in, the government can do what it pleases and be legal.

        Now, I personally think that the right to privacy implicitly exists in the constitution (our president shares this view), but many folks think this type of thing is just a guaranteed right to us as citizens... it's not.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          There is no constitutional right to privacy. You can look and look, but there's nothing that says 'you have a right for the government to not look into your shit'...

          That's probably because the U.S. Constitution was meant to enumerate the powers delegated to the federal government by the people, not to enumerate the rights held by individuals.

          (Yes, I know that's now generally considered an "outdated" way to look at the constitution, individual rights, and the powers of the federal government.)

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Loki_1929 (550940)

            At least someone else besides me has read the US Constitution without wearing Blinders of Idiocy +3.

            The troubling thing is that it'd be tough to put down on paper what the Constitution does in any more simple language. I find that troubling because if it takes so little time to completely distort the meaning of such simple words even in the face of so much supporting information on the meaning of those words (Federalist Papers, etc), then what can any of us do to preserve liberty over any length of time?

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Golddess (1361003)

              if it takes so little time to completely distort the meaning of such simple words even in the face of so much supporting information on the meaning of those words (Federalist Papers, etc), then what can any of us do to preserve liberty over any length of time?

              By following the words of I believe it was Thomas Jefferson.

              "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

        • Re:Uhhh (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Dun Malg (230075) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @08:43AM (#27400493) Homepage

          There is no constitutional right to privacy.

          Amendment IX - "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

          It's the ignorance of folks like you that opponents of the Bill of Rights were afraid of. They feared people would think the Bill of Rights was an exhaustive list of our rights, even if one of them explicitly stated it wasn't (i.e. the 9th). The US Constitution protects all rights, even ones not explicitly enumerated therein. The Bill of Rights was essentially a "Top 10 List" they felt were especially important. If the Supreme Court says that the right to privacy is a basic right, they don't have to justify it as an extension of the 4th. They originally did (which I think was a mistake) but they really needed only cite the 9th.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jadavis (473492)

            If the Supreme Court says that the right to privacy is a basic right, they don't have to justify it as an extension of the 4th.

            Let's say that there's a "right to privacy" that is protected by the 9th (I neither agree nor disagree with this assertion, because it's fairly vague).

            What does a "right" mean in the context of the Constitution? It's some limitation on the power of the federal government (and in many cases the state governments, as well). It may be that they can't punish you for something (free spee

    • Re:Uhhh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RodgerDodger (575834) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @12:01AM (#27397719)

      Actually, that is not the case. Government officials in particular have a greater duty to protect your privacy than the average citizen, due to their access to greater-than-normal tools to violate it.

      If, for example, Rep. Doogan abused his office to discover Mudflat's identity, then that would be a serious problem.

      • Re:Uhhh (Score:5, Interesting)

        by nedlohs (1335013) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @12:22AM (#27397865)

        But then it's not the exposing of identity that is the problem, it's the abuse of power and resources. It would be just as much an abuse if he then kept the knowledge to himself.

        If I want to work out who is sending me anonymous emails I can look at the headers and notice they all come from an IP used by a local internet cafe and they seem to be sent at 10am each Saturday, nothing wrong with me going there at that time the next Saturday and seeing if there's anyone who's the likely sender. Nothing wrong with a policeman or a politician doing the same. As soon as the policeman or politician uses their additional powers (flashing a badge and asking to see the credit card receipts and user lists, etc) then we have a problem.

      • by dmomo (256005)

        And to that, I would not so much say He was failing to protect our privacy as I would that He intentionally obstructed that privacy.

    • Re:Uhhh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by julioody (867484) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @12:11AM (#27397807) Homepage

      Except he's a public official. I for one very much doubt he did this in his own time, or with his own money.

      The blogger committed no crime, as from TFA. So what gives?

      Hate to state the obvious, but that strikes me as a personal vendetta being pursued while the fine representative should be more concerned with matters of public interest.

      • Re:Uhhh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75@yahoo.STRAWcom minus berry> on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @12:45AM (#27398027)

        Except he's a public official. I for one very much doubt he did this in his own time, or with his own money.

        But you're turning this around. Again, that's a question of abuse of power, which really has nothing to do with protection of privacy. Politicians can and do abuse their power in any number of ways to get what they want. Whether that happened here is a separate issue.

        The question is "do you have a right to anonymity when making political editorials?" That's a different question than "do you have the right to make anonymous political editorials?" The answer to the latter question is "of course". The answer to the former question is "of course not".

        There's no protection of privacy when making editorials, especially ones that by design are intended to hurt someone else. Whether or not that hurt is justified and the editorial truthful is immaterial - just as an accused defendant has the right to know his accuser in court, so too is it elsewhere in our society.

        Look at it this way. Imagine if, instead of some random person, this blogger was instead a member of the Republican National Committee executing a covert strategy to take down this Democratic representative. Would their privacy be protected then? If not, why not?

        There can't be a double standard for the obvious reason that you don't know who you're dealing with or what their motives are until they are unmasked. And both the accused and the public have a right to know that.

        Anonymity has its uses, but this country has a much longer history - and a long legal basis - in people dealing with each other face to face, with all the cards on the table.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by isa-kuruption (317695)

          Anonymity has its uses, but this country has a much longer history - and a long legal basis - in people dealing with each other face to face, with all the cards on the table.

          And I think that sums it up. In the Internet age, people have become accepting of information from anonymous sources with no concrete information.

          Whistle blower laws were put in to protect people who reported illegal behavior without fear of reprisal. The point was that in order to provide the details of the behavior one would be giving away who they were because the information was only available to a limited number of people, making it easy to narrow down who the whistle blower was.

          At one point, a sourc

    • Re:Uhhh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dexmachina (1341273) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @12:16AM (#27397831)
      I agree, with one reservation. If Rep. Doogan discovered the blogger's identity using channels that would be available to anyone, then he was well within his rights to "oust him"...otherwise, you're effectively arguing that Mudflats' right to anonymity trumps Doogan's right to free speech. However, if he used his position as a government official to access information not available to the general public, then his actions were an abuse of power.
    • by Reziac (43301) *

      Yes, I agree there is no restriction on anyone's right to investigate anything they wish, through ordinary lawful channels (breaking into accounts wouldn't qualify), and if they HAPPEN to identify an anonymous poster, oh well. The freedom to speak anonymously does NOT confer the requirement that everyone else look away so they can't tell who is speaking.

      BUT -- they don't have the right to use *government resources* or their *political power* to out anyone -- legally, that's no different from having your pet

    • by jabithew (1340853)

      It must surely depend on how he found out. If it was from an email exchange and the use of some grey matter then I think the rep. was well within his rights. If he used access to government files to do it, then things are a little different.

  • by pwizard2 (920421) on Monday March 30, 2009 @11:51PM (#27397639)
    I'm disturbed that an American would feel that they should have to be anonymous to post political speech. There should be no threat of reprisal whatsoever; in fact the politicians should be the ones who are worried about what the electorate thinks of them.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 30, 2009 @11:54PM (#27397663)

      I'd guess that it isn't the politicians that one would be worried about.

      • by Vectronic (1221470) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @12:24AM (#27397877)

        Not directly, but indirectly.

        Fear of saying what you want to because you might get fired, but why would the company have any reason to fear it's employees opinions unless the company could be harassed by politic(ian)s.

        Same goes for the FBI, IRS and the rest of bullshit organizations, someone speaks out about what they think, and somehow that gives the FBI, or IRS the right to arbitrarily investigate you, the police to follow you, why?

        The government is there to serve the people, the people aren't there to serve the government.

        • by LoverOfJoy (820058) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @12:48AM (#27398041) Homepage
          I don't know. If you worked in public relations, for instance, then I'm not so sure your boss would be happy about you also being a vocal political activist. It's not so much that he'd fear reprisals from the government. It could just as easily be boycotts of their products from people of the opposite political persuasion.

          We saw this in action a bit with Proposition 8. There were websites listing the highest donors in the area and people boycotted their places of business and even vandalized property. That doesn't mean I would agree with any firings but I can understand wanting anonymity without fearing the government directly or indirectly.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Vectronic (1221470)

            Mhmm, thats why I said "...unless the company could be harassed by politic(ian)s "

            But even still, the politics of that company, are probably that way because they are sucking up to a politician/political party for less taxes, more this, less that, whatever...

            Although, if your politics differ that strongly from your employer, then you are sort of trapped into mental slavery if you continue to work there. I've left some, and got intentionally fired from a few jobs for that reason because to me it's like, figh

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 30, 2009 @11:54PM (#27397665)

      It's only Common Sense.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Sense_(pamphlet) [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dbIII (701233)
      Why? Because journalists posting political opinions have been have been defamed for being gay or (gasp!) Canadian.
      It appears that the tactic of attacking the messenger and not the message is the most common form of "debate" in a lot of places at the moment. I can't solely blame the poor standards of US education for that problem.
      An example that many here might have heard of was PJ of Groklaw fame being criticised in truly bizzare and irrelevant ways by another writer working on material from the SCO situa
      • by pwizard2 (920421)

        It appears that the tactic of attacking the messenger and not the message is the most common form of "debate" in a lot of places at the moment. I can't solely blame the poor standards of US education for that problem.

        I can see where you're coming from, and it is a concern. However, we can only hope that most rational people will be able to see ad hominem attacks for what they are and filter them out from any real differing points of view.

        • by cbiltcliffe (186293) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @01:19AM (#27398217) Homepage Journal

          I can see where you're coming from, and it is a concern. However, we can only hope that most rational people will be able to see ad hominem attacks for what they are and filter them out from any real differing points of view.

          If people were good at filtering out ad hominem attacks, then people wouldn't use ad hominem attacks, because they wouldn't work.

          Unfortunately, people are idiots, ad hominem attacks do work, and "Think of the children! Why do you hate children? Are you a pedophile?" frequently does more to discount your argument to a crowd than any logical, well debated argument.

          • by Anonymusing (1450747) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @06:58AM (#27399931)

            Unfortunately, people are idiots

            So you're saying kids are idiots? Think of the children! Why do you hate them? Are you a pedophile?

    • Well yeah... but this is the real world. What should be and what are and universes apart. Not just in the U.S. but everywhere.

    • by hairyfeet (841228) <{bassbeast1968} {at} {gmail.com}> on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @12:51AM (#27398063) Journal

      In case you missed it, there were these "town meetings" things held by McCain during the election where nice folk(whom I would personally term rabid) were screaming things like "Kill him!" about the senator's opponent. Remember that? When you have got those kinds of nutballs running around wouldn't YOU not want them to know where you live if you were writing about their precious leader? I know I would.

      I think there should be an IMMEDIATE investigation. Not because he outed the blogger, but because i can't picture a rep doing the work required to find this out on his own, and I doubt very seriously he paid out of his own pocket to have it done. That makes it a misuse of government resources and an abuse of power. if he did abuse his power and privilege to get the identity of this blogger, then bust his ass. Because the last thing we need right now is politicians using their power to go after one of the last places we still have free speech. I agree that if he did the work himself and found out that is one thing, but how many here actually believe he did that? Nope, me neither.

      • I agree that if he did the work himself and found out that is one thing, but how many here actually believe he did that? Nope, me neither.

        I don't either, but that doesn't mean it's valid to just assume he used government resources to find out. Who's to say he didn't ask a IT-knowledgeable family member/friend/business associate? Or maybe just engaged a PI? Just because you doubt he'd use his own money doesn't mean he didn't - lots of powerful people exercise that power through the use of their own res
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by east coast (590680)
        I think there should be an IMMEDIATE investigation. Not because he outed the blogger, but because i can't picture a rep doing the work required to find this out on his own, and I doubt very seriously he paid out of his own pocket to have it done.

        So he has to prove himself innocent to satisfy you why?

        Odd how many people throw around legal this and that and suddenly think *they* are in the position to demand proof from others on any subject. Sorry, unless this guy is caught red-handed he doesn't have to p
  • I thought this would be about an anonymous blogger outing a politician.
  • by rindeee (530084) on Monday March 30, 2009 @11:56PM (#27397677)
    He discovered her identity fair and square. Would you propose that one must pretend not to know who someone behind a publication is based on some arbitrary set of circumstances. "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" and whatnot.
    • Did he? You do not know that. Did he use government agencies or tools to discover information that is non-public? If the latter, he stepped over the line and I believe is subject to suit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by grcumb (781340)

      He discovered her identity fair and square. Would you propose that one must pretend not to know who someone behind a publication is based on some arbitrary set of circumstances. "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" and whatnot.

      That's not the issue. What's being questioned here is what purpose is served by sharing that knowledge with a few thousand of his closest friends via his political mailing list.

      It's not so much that he's broken any laws that sticks on my craw, it's the fact that he felt it necessary to expose a critic (from within his own party, no less) to ad hominem attack. He could have engaged constructively with the ideas themselves, but instead he felt it necessary to spend all his time and effort simply putting a nam

  • Anonymity (Score:4, Insightful)

    by actionbastard (1206160) on Monday March 30, 2009 @11:56PM (#27397679)
    Is not a pre-requisite to freedom of speech. Whether you chose to shout your comments from the gallery or in front of a microphone, the right to express one's opinion -on any subject- should not be subject to persecution by any person. That is why it is the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution. To the citizens of the burgeoning republic, there was nothing more important than the right to speak freely and without retribution.
    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      If there was nothing more important, why would it be in the first amendment, instead of in, say, the original constitution itself?

      • by Pfhorrest (545131) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @04:58AM (#27399365) Homepage Journal

        If there was nothing more important, why would it be in the first amendment, instead of in, say, the original constitution itself?

        Because the original constitution was written on the premise that people had every right that the constitution didn't explicitly give government the power to curtail. Note the language there; the constitution grants powers to the government (which otherwise has none), not rights to the people (who otherwise have all of them). It was feared that explicitly enumerating rights might imply that such a list was exhaustive, ruling out any rights not listed.

        The Bill of Rights was only added because many states only agreed to ratify the constitution once such a bill of rights was promised to be added. The ninth and tenth amendments were the compromise added to quell the fears of the list being taken as exhaustive (the ninth explicitly stating that the list of people's rights is not exhaustive, and the tenth explicitly stating that the list of the Federal government's powers is exhaustive).

        And of the rights people were worried about explicitly enumerating, freedom of speech (and the press, and religion, and assembly, all bundled together) was priority #1.

    • the right to express one's opinion -on any subject- should not be subject to persecution by any person. That is why it is the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

      No, that only applies to the *government* persecuting you for your speech. The Constitution doesn't bind citizens and businesses as it does the government, and it certainly is not a "get out of jail, free" card to avoid the consequences of one's speech. If I have an employee that continually badmouths me anonymously, and I find out who
  • Isn't that what blogging anonymously is?
  • ahem (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thatskinnyguy (1129515) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @12:00AM (#27397713)

    Does an American have the right to post political opinion online anonymously?

    Yes. And anywhere else for that matter.

    May a government official breach that anonymity absent a compelling state interest?

    No. See The Constitutional Amendment #1. Yes, that old thing is still kicking around these days.

    • Re:ahem (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ContractualObligatio (850987) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @12:37AM (#27397987)

      Rather than simple assertions and "that old thing" wisecracks, perhaps you should explain how the right to free speech means that, in this case, Doogan has no right to free speech?

    • by Alascom (95042)

      "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

      Sorry, but nowhere in the First Amendment is there a right to blog anonymously, or even have any sort of anonymous speech.
      Seems parent needs to re-read Constitutional Amendment #1.

  • A what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zappepcs (820751) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @12:01AM (#27397721) Journal

    Just exactly who is going to decide what "... a compelling state interest" is?

    Let me guess? The same people that will charge you with treason or terrorism?

    Yes, I think anonymous speech should be protected... until it become defamation or slander. Both are pretty difficult slopes to tread when the figure being defamed or slandered is a public figure. On another note, a political figure is both public and a part of the government. They have even less right to any privacy regarding their lives than probably anyone else. Despite the allure of any resulting tapes, Pamela Anderson has a right to expect privacy... no matter who she is fucking. A political leader... not so much.

  • by darkmeridian (119044) <william...chuang@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @12:23AM (#27397873) Homepage

    Free speech cannot exist without the protection of anonymity. Without anonymous speech, the fear of reprisal would chill discussion. Keep in mind that the Founding Fathers published many of their seminal documents under pen names, lest they lose their heads to the King.

    At the same time, the government has an interest in identifying certain publishers. Libel or slander should not be protected because it is a crime that hurts its victims. The government has to balance the interests of protecting anonymous speech against the rights of victims to seek relief. These factors have to be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not to grant government power such as subpoenas to pierce the veil of anonymity.

    Here, the posts do not seem to be libel or slander. However, we do not know if any government force was used to identify the blogger. I think that it is perfectly fine if the blogger was careless or was betrayed by a friend she told. But if the politician used his office to investigate or to subpoena the information, I would be bullshit mad.

  • IANAL, I believe dexmachina has it right.

    "Does an American have the right to post political opinion online anonymously?"

    Unquestionably YES, as long as it is opinion and not libelous (which, being about a public figure, is hard to show).

    "May a government official breach that anonymity absent a compelling state interest?"

    No, IF he used non-public information to do it.
  • The pseudonym of the blogger in question is actually AKMuckraker [themudflats.net], who is the author of The Mudflats [themudflats.net] blog.

    I mean, come on... it's only on the second paragraph [huffingtonpost.com] of the HuffPo link you posted:

    "Mudflats blogger "Alaska Muckraker" (AKM) rose to blogger fame almost instantaneously..."

    *sigh*

  • If the blog system had used something like TOR, and also not forced the creation of an account with a real email address, she would have had a better chance of staying 'muddy'.

    Or I guess if she'd wanted to she could have posted from random web cafes, without logging in to an account, but I guess in Alaska, not too many of those cafes, and the neighbours would be gossipin' about her strange furtiveness in the cafe.

    • by JoshuaZ (1134087)
      In my experience the vast majority of times people have their True Names revealed on the net it has nothing to do with IP addresses. The people make off hand remarks about where they are from or what school they went to. Or they leave a trail to another website where their name is public. When IP addresses are an issue it is more often than not because one isn't using TOR or similar software when visiting a website run by the outer.
  • Everyone has a right to speak their mind. It is protected by the Constitution of the United States.

    The argument, "everyone is entitled to their opinion" is a rhetorical and logical fallacy on more than one count, which is why I make the distinction about free expression rather than dubious rights or entitlements. However, some of "Mudflats" blogs were put-downs, innuendos and accusations of dubious veracity and rife with unsupported opinions. A person entitled to free speech is also RESPONSIBLE for the cont

  • The submitter of this story and various people in various internet forums [cough.] seem to be under the impression that this story has something to do with a possible violation of rights, online or otherwise. Even the various blog posts linked to in the summary, however, only detail Alaska State Rep. Mike Doogan's puerile tendency engage in online name-calling, and Nixonesque paranoia and obsession with the press. Doogan didn't obtain any information illegally (indeed, likely and luckily, he lacks the pow
    • Doogan didn't obtain any information illegally

      How do we know that?

      Even if he did find out legally, did he use the powers of his office to find out?

      if anyone thinks that there a right to publish anonymously... that person is the one who lacks an understanding of the first amendment.

      You apparently lack an understanding of the first amendment. In the majority opinion for McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission [cornell.edu], Justice Stevens wrote: "Accordingly, an author's decision to remain anonymous, like other decisi

  • ... as in voted out at the next election.
  • Democracy is a 2 way street when information is unlimited. Your politicians can vote you out just as easily as you vote your politicians out. Had the same thing happen with Keith Cowing. If U don't support the right agenda, don't be surprised if you're unemployed the next day.

  • Ooops not in there. Then again, I also grep'd Privacy, and it's not in there either.

    Oh well.

    An anonymous blog is like an anonymous flyer posted on a telephone pole. It's not illegal to post, and the anonymity only lasts as long as you aren't caught.

    If you post too much information, you're bound to get caught. There is no right to be anonymous, only dumb luck.

    And stop whining that Senator Doogan is a tattle tale.. aren't you a bit old for that?

  • Does an American have the right to post political opinion online anonymously?

    Of course. Many SCOTUS decisions bear that out.

    May a government official breach that anonymity absent a compelling state interest?

    A more difficult question. It could depend upon how the official found out the identity of the person. It also could depend upon how that anonymity is breached. It seems inappropriate for the official to use his government position to do so. A newsletter paid for by the government should not be u

  • by sldghmr (1519841) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @01:21AM (#27398233)
    Everyone has a right to face their accusers, american or not, politician or not. If someone chooses the internet as the ground to make accusations or critical comments then they should be ready to take whatever fair response comes from their target on the same grounds (internet). As a politician Doogan has to choose words carefully, he should participate to the point he defends his position and outlines why it's the right position, he should also consider that getting too caught up in an argument only makes him seem childish and not fit for his role. On another note, the alaskans I've met sure dont seem to the types to care if we know who they are or not, if they have something to say they are gonna say it and if we dont like it well thats our problem. LOL!
  • Yes, an American has the right to post anonymously.

    But every American has the right to try as hard as they can to find out the identity of that person.

    There is nothing wrong about trying to find out the identity of who said what. The exception is that a politician or government official should not be able to use governmental intelligence resources not normally available to the general public (i.e. CIA, NSA, FBI [certain services are available],InterPol, DOJ, etc.) and using a government position to obtain s

  • You have the right to post anonymously.

    You don't have the right to stay anonymous.

    It's quite a different game when suddenly you have to own the words you type. Suddenly, it isn't enough to just say things, you have to make sure they're credible or you lose the credibility you have. You have to own the content and the language and the demeanor you go about expressing yourself, and people will judge you for it. It's one thing if this Rep went about abusing his power to try to find out who the blogger is.

  • by jandersen (462034) on Tuesday March 31, 2009 @03:46AM (#27398959)

    I expect most /.ers to disagree with me, but I think it is worth keeping in mind that freedom of speech is not only not the same as a guaranteed right to speak anonymously, but it is actually intended to make anonymity irrelevant - at least when it comes to speaking your opinion about important issues of politicas, faith etc. - by giving legal protection from any persecution from the state. It is a very specific right, not meant to be a cover-all that gives anybody the right to say anything, however acrimonious, or spread rumours and snipe at people from a safe cover.

    That aside - I don't know the specifics of this story. To me it seems obvious that if you have some important viewpoints and observations, you have the right to speak out about it in public and should have the courage to show your face - if you hide behind anonymity, you appear less credible, as if you are ashamed of yourself or you know that what you have to say is bullshit.

    As far as I am concerned, it may be permissible to allow anonymity in some cases to protect those who might otherwise suffer unjust retaliation - eg. if they are whistleblowers, or particularly vulnerable witnesses in court - but I think it has to be limited to when there is a special need to show extra concern. I don't think this generally apllies to bloggers.

    Now, go on, hate me forever and all that.

  • Just because you wish for someone to not know you wrote something, that doesn't automatically give you the right to protect that information.

    The identity of a blogger, especially a popular one, can easily be argued to be in the public interest and provided finding this information doesn't involve breaching data protection regulations (ie using a confidential database that you use as part of your job), anyone, be it the president or a blogger can talk about it.

    I find it incredibly ironic for a blogger to whi

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