Social Enterprise

The case of anonymity in social media

Social media expert Jason Falls weighs in on the pros and cons of anonymity on the web.

This is a guest post by Jason Falls, coauthor of the book No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing and CEO of Social Media Explorer, an education and information products company focused on digital and social media marketing.

Anonymous comments are often the bane of every community manager's existence. Even the website editorial staffs for major newspapers -- perhaps the biggest perpetrators of allowing anonymity online -- hate the fact that random people can leave random anything on their websites.

Gannett, one of the largest publishers of newspapers and media properties in the world, introduced article comments in 2006, and according to social media director Jodi Gersh, the company's dismay with comments has grown. Now the media giant is pushing toward holding commentors accountable for their words.

"The level of conversation on stories turned into a place for racial slurs, name bashing and other negative behaviors," Gersh said. "We worked tirelessly to resolve the issue, however the problem remained. We began to notice on the same articles shared on Facebook, comments left there were more positive and raised the level of conversation around our content."

Gersh reports that Gannett is piloting Facebook Comments -- using the social network's commenting system as a website's native feedback function, thus tying the comment to the individual's Facebook profile -- on four Gannett news websites. She says the company has been "pleased with the results" and has seen increased civility in comment threads, along with increased participation from local public figures and other news sources.

You clean up the neighborhood, and people treat it with more respect, right?

But what happened to the typical journalistic argument that anonymity was some sort of right?

"This is not a First Amendment issue," declared Jeffrey Weiss, a writer who has participated on online news sites that range from mainstream media sites like the Dallas Morning News to online-only news sites including Politics Daily and Real Clear Religion. "The First Amendment outlaws government restriction on speech. What I want to restrict in my living room or on my website has nothing to do with that."

"There may be some name calling on a particularly controversial topic, but as the person who's in charge of the site I reserve the right to delete anything that's profane or otherwise beyond the bounds of decency," he explained. "I think regulars to sites get to know the other posters and eventually comment back and forth. If it's a personal attack on someone in the news or another commenter, I try to police that by giving a warning and/or deleting the comment."

Rick Redding, who runs the politics-heavy local issue site Louisvilleky.com, supports anonymous commenting, saying it often begets better comments.

Redding also says he thinks the nastiness of anonymous comments is dwindling. Regardless, more and more traditional media sites are moving to the moderated or full disclosure approaches.

WKYT, a Lexington, Kentucky, based television station with an active comment community on its digital property, allows anonymous commenting, but with a layer of station moderation. Tim Coles, the station's digital sales manager, said people don't come to the site specifically to comment, but then react to the news of the day, which can sometimes produce emotional responses.

Protecting readers or viewers who don't wish to be publicly identified is important, he says, because more people feel free to chime in. Site visitors have the option to connect via Facebook and tie themselves to the comment. Coles says about 50 percent of users do.

The moderation, though time and labor intensive, helps keep the conversation decorum at a comfortable level for the station. He says as long as the station's human resources can keep up with the volume of comments, they will allow anonymity.

"The reason that many media sites are moving to eliminate anonymous comments and/or requiring moderation at some level is simple: Total freedom resulted in a level of ‘conversation' at sharp odds with the tone the site wanted to maintain," Weiss said.

So the trend is at least moving away from anonymity without some level of filtering. And it's a good thing because the courts are beginning to show clear signs of agreement that pure anonymity without limitations is not wise.

Atlanta-based executive Paul Syiek won a substantial defamation case against a former employee who posted accusations against him on an anonymous bulletin board on TheRipOffReport.com. The post accused Syiek of several things, including violations of U.S. Department of Labor regulations. Since the accusations were able to be proven false in court, the poster committed libel against Syiek.

The ruling was for a shade under $200,000. For one post. By one person. On one site.

"A good rule of thumb is whether or not the accusation is ‘verifiably false,'" Syiek's attorney, Luke Lantta of the Bryan Cave law firm said. "There is a constitutional right to anonymity on the Internet, up to a point. When you cross that line from protected speech to that which is truly harmful, there's a good opportunity to hold you accountable for what you posted."

Lantta also warns potential commentors that there's no such thing as true anonymity. He reports uncovering several anonymous poster identities in work with his clients over the years. In Georgia alone, 2011 has seen three cases of anonymous posters brought to court and fined in excess of $100,000.

The saving grace for companies and their IT or social media decision makers is that the website hosting the offending comments is not typically in the path of litigation. According to Lantta, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provides immunity to websites that host user-generated content. The websites can't be held liable for the post, but they can be compelled to reveal information about the poster.

Lantta says we're really only at the beginning of the courts policing anonymous commenting on websites. "It's a growing trend," he confirmed. "There are more judgments and cases filed over the last few years than all the previous years.

59 comments
canewshound
canewshound

I don't care if posts are anonomous or signed, but I will not post using Facebook. The newspaper should have their own post registry or allow guest posts asking for real names. In the past I am sure letters were submitted to the editor signed with a false name to conceal identity, but that does not necessarily invalidate the validity of the letter (or a post). The crud can easily be filtered out by and editor. Facebook discourages many from posting.

andrew232006
andrew232006

Who says John Smith from texas is real? Why does he care if some random group on the internet thinks he is a racist? But assuming we could force everyone to use their real names, would that really help matters? People might not use racial slurs as much but they'd still have the same beliefs. They'd still broadcast their stereotypes and insult people in a more "civil" manner. And they'd have more ways to harass suzy lou who had the gall to publicly disagree with them. Personally I'd rather read a few vulgar words than walk into a web of thinly veiled ignorance. The real name of anyone on a forum doesn't matter to me, it shouldn't matter.

MartyL
MartyL

Very good - a valid observation. The right to speak does not include the right to be heard. One accepts the consequences of their speech by the act of speaking, much like accepting the terms of use of a web site by accessing it. The villagers, however, are enjoined from entering upon my premises, and can - freely and without further obligation - make and use their own forum. And barbeque sauce. (I have, by the way, had occasion to shop in a Piggly-Wiggly. That tangent would spawn a whole other thread (rolling of eyes). ) -------------------- Niggardly is not a racial slur; picayunish is not a religion; theodolites do not live in caves.

MartyL
MartyL

I have the right to say what I please, on any topic I please. I have that right because I choose to claim and exercise it. I have the right to express myself without fear of the local villagers marching up to my gate with their torches and farm implements, and that requires anonymity, which I also claim as my right. Far better a forum where some are offended than one where no one dare speak. I am, by the way, often offended - easily and profoundly. When I am offended I take comfort in the data published in my ephemeris. This shows me over and over again that, no matter how offended any of us may be, the sun will continue to rise and set at the expected time - thus demonstrating the relative impact of our sensitivity on the universe. Get some perspective. Is it more important that the forum operator (or operator's employer) know who I am or that they know what I have to say? ------- It's not my job to prove the world is round - it's my job to help the Flat-Earthers find the edge.

suncatTR
suncatTR

I posted a vaguely job related link to a friend on Facebook. She freaked out -- "no work!" "no work!" not on FB!!! There are too many people who could be in big trouble at their jobs because of online comments that can be tracked back to them. I'm not talking about flames or random lies. These are honest comments and reports. Some forums are OK to identify yourself, but many are dangerous and/or toxic. I'm often considering twice before posting an interesting comment to a forum or site where I don't have the choice to identify myself or not.

IT Support23
IT Support23

Facebook is doing a great job with the comment posting thing. I think all of the sites, whether its a social sites or blog etc. should adopt the same system so people commenting will be held responsible for the things that they write/posts. :)

king_salman_heart
king_salman_heart

[b]"Trolling"[/b] should not be allowed. Plain and simple. [b]Freedom of speech[/b] does not grant any one the [b]license to abuse[/b]. So speak, share your views but do not abuse. And i think we can all share some what common definition of what is abuse and what is not abuse.

totefrosch
totefrosch

Having lived in Thailand 4 years I can say that posting "true and accurate" comments on a social website that may offend someone in the Thai government, police, army, or ruling elite could and has resulted in up to 15 years in a Thai prison, westerners included. There is a place for anonymity in freedom of speech and in revealing the truth. Mind you, there are many, many countries where one could end up in prison for just doing what you guys think is an every day thing.

tutor4pc
tutor4pc

Many web sites are now using Facebook almost exclusively for logging into their fora. That is supporting a monopolist tendency which I resent strongly. Give me a choice but do not force me to use one venue only. Some of these web sites offer a choice of login providers like Yahoo! or Google. Funny, though, that I always get a message: Server not available. Please, get Facebook off my back!

tutor4pc
tutor4pc

Good article! My home country has much better privacy protection than the US. May be that is because to many US citizens have exhibitionist tendencies. Facebook should be outlawed and not a role model. I created an account that I used to log into fora. Suddenly my account is disabled and I have no clue why. I do not use insults or dirty language. In fact, I resent both. On the other hand, allowing free speech in a forum is important. I use MarketWatch a lot where I can report abuse with a mouse click. That seems to me like a good way of users policing their realm themselves. We also need some tolerance for anger. It's a normal human sentiment. Once in a while I remind people not to attack each other but I can handle their posts as I am an adult and not some mimosa.

sysop-dr
sysop-dr

The comment that you are never completely anonymous on the net is false on it's face. If you go to the trouble of doing it right anonymity is not hard to achieve. No I am not going to tell you how, most of the readers of this site will know how anyway and if you don't are you here by mistake and you really wanted to go to YouTube?

vucliriel
vucliriel

Political correctness is the cancer of human intelligence. Censorship is societal suicide. Anonymity is the only guarantee of democracy. If you need to read more to understand these fundamental principles, it's already too late.

alan.routier
alan.routier

My issue with Facebook comments is the requirement to get a Facebook account. I should not have to sell my soul to Facebook and abide by their horrific privacy policy just to participate in a public discussion. Anonymous posting allows those with justifiable fears of retaliation to join the conversation. The best commenting systems that I have seen let a user login using a third party email account, and have both filtering software that flags potentially offensive posts for review by a human moderator as well as a link in the message allowing users to flag a post as offense with a field requiring the user to explain why the user considers the post to be offensive. I USED to participate in the discussion at my hometown Gannett newspaper, but Gannett's decision to use Facebook comments has excluded me.

jschmidt
jschmidt

This is of course why you only flame someone while connected through the Tor network.

Zorched
Zorched

...is to provide security for those making a statement. This works for the speaker no matter what the comment. The effect on society depends on what the comment is. If that anonymity is protecting a total slimeball making racial or other slurs, then it's bad. If it's a factual comment and that anonymity is protecting the commenter from retaliation from whoever he commented on, then it's a good thing. To update the old saying: "It's better for 10 guilty people go free than 1 innocent jailed", to "It's better to tolerate 10 idiots than silence one whistle-blower." The issue is not anonymity, it's the social compass of the posters. Somewhere, people decided that the anonymity allowed them to let their slimeball side run free, instead of imposing self control and posting responsibly. We need to address the reasons behind why people feel that they need to make posts like that. Unfortunately, repeated education cuts rather points to the problem.

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

I don't really have an issue with not being anonymous, but I find I wouldn't leave comments on sites that I have to create an account on. It's usually when I am looking for a solution to a problem and I run across a problem I can help with. The extra effort to create an account so that I can help with a problem just isn't worth it. Bill

Gopi Krishna Nuti
Gopi Krishna Nuti

Does First Amendment excuse me for taking a loudspeaker and shouting racial slurs? I am sure I would be arrested if I did such a thing. Then why is First Amendment an excuse for online anonymity. Internet is a medium just like speech or print. Just like slander or libel are unacceptable, impolite behavior online is unacceptable. Gopi K Nuti

minstrelmike
minstrelmike

I used to participate in the Gannet (local paper) discussions and they were interesting. Now that the fBook attitude took over, the discussions are lame. 'Local leaders may participate more' is a fact, but that means essentially more lameness. The local pols don't -have- opinions, they obey them. The discussions on slashdot are all over the board. So what if there is name-calling and hatred and other crap? Sticks and stones. At least there is participation. Gannet is going downhill quickly _because_ they cannot engage the local communities well. (And newspaper subscriptions are never going to go back up). and imo, I thought Gannet went to the fBook because they had a corporate deal to push more users and increase the IPO. Perhaps I'm wrong but it's certainly something that won't ever be discussed on a Gannet discussion page.

wboettch
wboettch

Newspapers would retaliate against "bothersome" commenters with slanted news stories if they could. Some commenters point out specific bias and prove it, for instance linking a photo to a politically correct rally showing far less people than the newspaper reported, perhaps forcing a correction. This kind of thing does make them rail against "random comments. "Yeah, who is that guy so I can put him on my list?" In my town the newspaper stopped anonymous comments three months before the 2000 election - "too much information" was being commented on regarding their endorsed candidates. The excuse was too much vitriol but really, there wasn't that much. They changed to registered full name comments only after the election and only a very few people showed up. After a few years of a few boring comments on few stories by few people, they went back to anonymous names but still with registration. The editors do not have access to the registration info, just the web administrators and newspaper advocate. The paper is self moderating, comments can be reported by other commenters for violation of guidelines and are then released or allowed. With anonymous comments the comment section of the newspaper is a rip-roaring discussion that generates a lot of "hits" for the online paper. Full name disclosure will end that.

Glenn from Iowa
Glenn from Iowa

I read the Takeaway sentence and eagerly continued down to the article, expecting a discussion of the pros and cons of anonymity. What I found was an argument against anonymity, but no arguments for. I agree that comments on websites, especially for large news organizations like Gannett, are better if they are not anonymous. And I find it interesting that Gannett is piloting Facebook Comments, as one of our local news stations has started doing that also, with great results, in my opinion. But, aside from comments (and perhaps even for comments in some situations), I believe there is a case to be made for anonymity on the internet. Not that I don't want to be held responsible for what I say. I agree with Palmetto that my moniker on this website is my personal brand, and I stand behind any comments I've made here. But do millions of people need to know my full name, address and other personal details to have me function as a part of the internet community. In many cases, I think not! Facebook was somewhat unique when it started, because it insisted that you use your real name, when many other websites didn't care what name you used. I think Facebook may become the universal login that entities like Microsoft Passport tried to be years ago. But I personally hope it doesn't become universally required to participate in most internet communities, especially because of the privacy mistakes Facebook has made in the past, but also because there are some sites, especially gaming sites, where I enjoy my anonymity and nobody really needs to know who I am for me to participate responsibly. I guess I was just disappointed that the article didn't match up to the Takeaway. It seemed like the discussion was just getting started, and I missed the rest of the discussion.

peter
peter

Interested to read that US law states the site that provides the means for commenting is not liable for the comments placed on its pages. In the UK, the law is still a bit murky around libel cases in forums or comments on news pages. One judge stated that a conversation on the internet is no different to that held in a bar, and you can't be libel for here'say such as that. Unfortunately there have been a few cases that haven't hit the courts but have gone through lots of channels - and the rule of thumb is that if you can moderate comments you should remove libellous comments when you (as a site owner) have been notified of them, within a timely manner. The costs of the case against you then depend on the reach and influence of your website and your speed to react to the removal request. As a publisher you are responsible for all content that you publish to the general public, be it your own content or UGC.

vucliriel
vucliriel

I completely agree. It's not who's saying what, it's the ideas that count. Insisting on identification opens the door to intimidation, the repression of ideas and censorship.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

No one, including social media sites, is obligated to provide anyone a forum, anonymous or otherwise. Further, no one is immune from the consequences of their actions. If you express pro-slavery opinions, the local groceries are not obligated to continue stocking your barbeque sauce. http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1876&dat=20040317&id=okQfAAAAIBAJ&sjid=P9AEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6474,649936 The local villagers can't burn your castle, but they don't have to continue doing business with you.

pgit
pgit

I have no problem putting my name on a comment I leave on some forum, I often do. What I can't tolerate is being forced to sign up at facebook in order to comment on my local news. Facebook has a plethora of problems, and it's way too intrusive for my taste. I fail to see why the newspaper forces users into a convoluted relationship with any third party in order to interact with it. The only thing I can think of is laziness, or not wanting to pay staff to maintain decorum in the forums.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

If I'm operating my own forum, using my own resources, who is to say what I can or cannot say, short of language that causes actual, measurable harm?

vucliriel
vucliriel

... what we should, as a community, consider what 'trolling' means (there isn't even a term to describe that word in my culture) and how important it is to prevent it compared to the risk of removing controversial, but intelligent discourse. In other words, I'd rather see seemingly offensive, aggravating and baseless ad hominem attacks (I presume that is what you mean by 'trolling'), than see my opinion censored (or worse, my right to post an opinion revoked) because it displeased someone. Is it really so difficult to ignore the trolls that we must use censorship with the risk of silencing what could be breakthrough ideas in a forum?

biancaluna
biancaluna

I think we are missing a point here, I am not completely convinced that spouting ones vitriolic racist ugly bitter comments has anything to do with human intelligence. A lot of the comments I see on Australian Yahoo are devoid of any intelligence, they are nasty white supremacy type comments that expose the lack of any internal brake and probably demonstrate bad character in the posters. I have real trouble believing that the providing the ability to call someone a slanty eyed stinking Indian pig anonymously is a guarantee of democracy, I think that the ugliness comes out because it is allowed to come out - and often those commenters are very cowardly people. That is not courage to stand by ones convictions. By all means, exercise your democratic right to voice whatever ugliness lurks in your soul, but then also stand by what may come at you. Opinion and debate is something completely different than inciting hatred and sometimes, riots. Talk about an angry mob, I have seen instances where an online posse of nutcases incited some really ugly things. I think there are a few different discussions here. One is about democracy. The other is about addressing behaviors. Do you really think the folks who are given carte blanche by the ability to be anonymous, and some take many different persona to incite drama, would do so if they knew they could be made responsible? It is about moral compass, and it appears to get lost all the time. That is not democracy, that is childish behavior and school ground bullying. The flipside of that is that you take it on the chin. But many of the anonymous hate spouters don't like to be exposed for what they are. Ugly.

jasondlnd
jasondlnd

You're not alone in wanting to avoid Facebook...some days, it feels as though I'm the only person within shouting distance who refuses to sign up for that data mining and profiling site that has more security holes in it than Swiss cheese. Gannett, in requiring a Facebook account to make a comment on their site has clearly drawn a "digital divide" line with its users, ignoring people on our side of the line.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

it's against the law to make racial slurs. Not a good thing to do (and I avoid making them because it's just not right), but I don't think it's illegal (at least in the US). We don't really need a First Amendment to protect civil, polite speech because no one would care. The First Amendment protects uncomfortable, impolite, controversial speech as well or else the government could (and would) shut down speech it doesn't like. Of course, there is the responsibilities/duties you so rightly brought up. People seem to forget that side of the coin. That's where libel and slander come in.

pgit
pgit

I am "served" by one of the Gannet papers testing the use of facebook for comments. The editor is extremely pleased with the results, which apparently means the comments are now more in line with the newspaper's agenda. Sometimes "more civil" means "less honest," "less intelligent," "less thought-provoking," "less diversity..." you get the picture. It's a tough call here, there was no doubt a lot of very bad content being posted when the system was anonymous. I will say though that in the past I almost got up the gumption to sign up so I could comment on an article, but now that it requires facebook, no way. I will never have a facebook account. So that move made me drop any thoughts of civil participation in local matters through the auspices of the newspaper. I may well be alone in that, though. I rarely bump into people who have thoughtfully considered to NOT have a facebook account.

nick
nick

Yes there was no counter arguments, no discussion of both pros and cons. Annonymity can be useful and justified in a number of cases. 1. Where the person is speaking the truth and has a genuine fear of retribution and has a need of protection. Whistle blower legislation goes some way to giving that protection, but it doesn't prevent the midnight visit of people with baseball bats. 2 Where there is a huge discrepancy in power. I am thinking of situations where large business enters a community and runs rough shod over them. Search "Ok Tedi environmental disaster" as an example of a company exploiting powerless people. 3. Where wrongs are happening but smart or rich people can hide behind the law and avoid prosecution. As an example ask almost any police person they all know of criminals walking the streets who cannot be prosecuted due to insufficient evidence. And we have all seen injustices such as public prosecutions of people where they walk free because they have a clever lawyer who can twist the truth. However we need to be able to block the anonymous trolls on the web who indulge in abuse and malicious behaviour. We need to protect vulnerable children from predators and we need to be able to protect ourselves from clandestine attacks via the web. My name is Nick Smith, my pseudonym, my "brand", my online identity, is "The Bludger" but my real name is rarely hidden.

David A. Pimentel
David A. Pimentel

The article was sorely-lacking in a balanced discussion of the advertised topic. Thanks, Glenn, for your cogent reply.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"One judge stated that a conversation on the internet is no different to that held in a bar,..." Conversations in bars aren't published (often indefinitely) for all the world to see.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

with AP or UPI or other existing newspaper-related syndicate putting together a system for validating commenters. Something with no social aspects, just a simple "name, city, state" sort of thing.

andrew232006
andrew232006

My definition of a troll is someone who is not interested in the truth. Either someone who is willing to lie, insult and spam to convince people they are right or someone who doesn't really believe the views they are expressing. In my experience the only way to deal with these types is for a moderator to ban them, repeatedly if necessary.

king_salman_heart
king_salman_heart

Wikipedia defines trolling here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_(Internet). and i agree with it. 'Abuse' is some one, any one, me for example disagreeing with your views but instead of sharing my logic or my point i would pick your race, gender, religion,nationality , physical attribute or any point of your personality or profession/trade and just make degretory remarks about it. Remarks that would not have any relationship whatsoever with topic or discussion but i would say them cause i have nothing to contribute. Every body is entitled to their opinion. We should respect that. This does not stop controversial but intelligent discourse as stated above. Again some people will not agree with it. So they are entitled to.

Murfski-19971052791951115876031193613182
Murfski-19971052791951115876031193613182

Thanks to all of you who also don't have Facebook accounts; I thought I was some sort of weirdo. Seriously, though, and Facebook aside, I feel one should be required to provide some sort of identification to post on a public forum. If you're going to make comments, you should have the courage to stand behind them. If your comment is libelous, the person who is libeled should be able to face his/her accuser. Whistleblowing or reporting criminal conduct is something else; it's not normally a subject for public forums.

billfranke
billfranke

I don't object to using my real name when I comment, but I do object to having to log in through Facebook or some other type of Web account (Yahoo mail, Google, etc.) and agree to share my list of contacts and "friends" with the comment moderator's company. Even though I was required to open a FB account last year to read an IT article that looked interesting, I don't use it and won't log into it to post a comment anywhere.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

who doesn't have a Facebook account. Not anymore anyway. I deleted it a couple of years ago and I'm not going back. Nor am I going to any other "social media" site. They are huge time sinks and most of the comments are of the "Here's a pic of the cake I just baked" variety. For any media outlet to use Facebook alone for commenting is lazy and leaves out a significant portion of their audience. Also, anytime I've made comments on any site (very few), I've tried to be civil, although I have made the occasional snide remark. I also try to avoid profanity. It really adds nothing.

jschmidt
jschmidt

I have a facebook account for communicating with friends and family. It will never have anything to do with anything else. I hate any and all facebook connect features, and will never use them.

andrew232006
andrew232006

I have no problem with people inciting a discussion. Ever try to discuss politics on an unmoderated internet forum? I won't waste my time on that again.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

since what I'm now posting has nothing to do with freedom of speech. Around TR (and most web forums I've been to), trolling is usually reserved for posts intended to start a disagreement. It often includes minimal participation by the discussion starter or original poster, and it's assume he or she started the fight so he could then sit back and laugh at everyone sniping at each other. This doesn't require untrue statements; just tossing out a reasoned, informed opinion is often enough; see many 'Windows vs. Linux' discussion. I don't know that we need another word for 'liar'. As to moderators banning a troll, today's troll on one topic may be tomorrow's informed voice on another. Yeah, repeat offenders should be banned, but only after a pattern of offense. And remember, many panels aren't moderated at all.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"Now tell me does the freedom of speech allow Nazi content or racial comments." Unfortunately, yes. These are ideas, and being offensive or incorrect shouldn't prohibit their expression. Many ideas once considered correct are now realized as misguided or wrong, but it is only through discussion that we come to these realizations. If discussing racism or Nazi Socialism favorably isn't protected, how we we talk about them critically? At one time people were punished for stating the Earth wasn't at the center of the universe. "Should child pornography be allowed under freedom of speech or freedom of expression." Child pornography is a different case, involving the physical exploitation of someone who is incapable of making an informed, mature decision to participate. "Would freedom of speech allow me to question anybody's integrity without having proof of it." If we use the terms 'slander' and 'libel' instead of the imprecise 'integrity' and 'mud slinging', then no. These differ from racist or hate speech, questioning intelligence, etc. in that you are referring to a specific individual, not a group in general. Ditto 'bullying'; this too is an action aimed at an individual. "Freedom of speech is for presentation of ideas." I agree, but who decides what ideas? Racism, socialism, religion, government policy; all are ideas. "Yes you can criticize a drug pusher or human trafficker but isn't it different from belittling a mechanic or a city services worker or a dentist or an engineer and stereotyping them very negatively." How is it different? What about someone who provides a beneficial service by selling marijuana illegally but exclusively to chemotherapy patients and glaucoma suffers, as opposed to an engineer who repeatedly designs structures that fail? Does your definition of free speech allow me to compliment the first and condemn the second? For the sake of this discussion, I'll grant a 'right to anonymity'. Many who call for such forget that having such a right does not obligate others to provide an anonymous platform or otherwise facilitate it. A privately run web site, newspaper, broadcast station, or other privately operated forum may create it's own rules regarding anonymity, content, participants, etc. A 'right to anonymity' doesn't require private sites to permit anonymous behavior, only that you may exercise that right in your own publications without government interference.

king_salman_heart
king_salman_heart

Apologies for the link. Wonder why the "_(Internet)" was not considered the part of hyperlink. "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_(Internet)" is the link i wanted to share. Now tell me does the freedom of speech allow Nazi content or racial comments. Should child pornography be allowed under freedom of speech or freedom of expression. Would freedom of speech allow me to question anybody's integrity without having proof of it. Should i be allowed to sling mud at any one. Is hate content covered under freedom of speech. Is bullying content covered under freedom of speech. Is questioning people's intelligence or their compassion just because they belong to a particular geographic region covered under freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is for critique of policies. Freedom of speech is for presentation of ideas. Freedom of speech is the ability to say no to a tyrant and standing by it. Yes you can criticize a drug pusher or human trafficker but isn't it different from belittling a mechanic or a city services worker or a dentist or an engineer and stereotyping them very negatively. Yes you have the absolute right to point out what lobbyists are doing and how they are effecting policies worldwide. You have the right to criticize. You have the right to agree or disagree or keep your opinion to your self or say it loudly over roof tops. You have the right to be anonymous. And you have much more rights then that. Rights that i cannot imagine. We have much more rights then that. What we are exchanging right here is freedom of speech. We have a choice to agree or disagree. We can not like each other's view point. but we do not have to hate each other.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

What do Scandinavian mythological creatures have to do with free speech? I'm almost positive that isn't the link you want. As to abuse, you'd make name-calling illegal? Personality? If I say you have a negative personality, that's not protected under the First Amendment? Who determines if I'm right and you do have a negative personality, and you're just overly sensitive about it? (Am I allowed to even suggest you're overly sensitive?) Profession? I'm not allowed to criticize drug pushers or pimps? Lobbyists? Puppy mill operators or 'factory farm' cattle breeders? Polluting power generators?

dogknees
dogknees

For whistleblowing to have the greatest effect, it should be in public forums. It's us, the public, that can have an immediate effect on those businesses with practices we don't agree with. It's us as individuals that have the power to remove their profits by boycotting them.

vucliriel
vucliriel

I have several junk Facebook accounts precisely for that use. Unless they decide to trace each of them to my IP address, it will work just fine as a way to guarantee relative anonymity. And for those who loathe anonymity, I will say just this: political correctness and censorship are societal diseases, whereas anonymity is the epitome of fairness based on the value of ideas instead of that of power and personality.

RichardSanches
RichardSanches

I hate facebook. These people have too much control over the internet. For many years I refused to get a facebook account. Being a web developer/Internet marketer I had no choice but to get a facebook acount eventually. They wouldn't let me develop apps unless I varified my account with a credit card or a mobile phone number. What do they need my credit card number for? I'm not buying anything from them. What do they need my mobile phone number for? Why cant they use my home phone. I neither have nor want a mobile phone. These guys have too much control over what goes on in the internet. They are censuring me from doing my job because I do not want to give them the keys to my private life. You may say that they have a right to decide what I have to do to use their website, and you are correct. I'm just saying that's why I hate facebook. I think the world or internet has given them too much control. They should be put in check. It's a potentially dangerous situation to give so much control to a few individuals. Anonymity has it's value.