Tuesday, March 11, 2008

On Banning the Anonymi

You've probably read where a Kentucky legislator has proposed a state bill that would make it illegal, at least in Kentucky, to comment anonymously on the Internet. As I understand it, states can't make laws to regulate Internet activity, but besides that, it's an interesting thought, isn't it?

It is considered good practice to keep a couple of email accounts with fake names, for when you request something online and think there's a chance you'll get on somebody's list or something, or for when you just want to get some information without revealing your identity. Yahoo, Hotmail, places like that might have more email accounts than the population of the entire earth. I can think of four Gmail accounts that I have set up. I don't use them very often, but they're there if I need them.

Almost everybody uses a pseudonym when they sign up for chat rooms, instant messaging, online forums, and even blog comments. I use "JimK" on the blog, and everybody who cares to know can figure out who that is, but we have plenty of people who comment here without giving us any idea who they are.

And then there are the ones who just use the default "Anonymous" name. We have had our Anonymi almost since the day this site started. I don't know what force of nature drives this, but there is a certain kind of person -- and there have been a number of them over the years -- who come here to insult people and argue. Technically they are known as "rightwing trolls." I have only ever had to ban one person from this site, and it was somebody we called "Illiterate Anon." The other rightwing trolls serve a function for us, they say things that kind of prove why there needs to be a TeachTheFacts.org. Sometimes people accuse us of making these characters up, they say such crazy, inflammatory, and bigoted stuff, and in fact it is most humorous when one Anon accuses us of making up another Anon. In case you're wondering, no, we don't have to make them up. They appear on their own.

Some lefties use the Anonymous login, but not very many, at least on this site. Most people use a pseudonym of some sort, but they retain it over time so that other people know who they are. It's nice when you can quote somebody's previous statement back to them, or tie their point of view together. And there is nothing as disconcerting as having some troll say, "That wasn't me, that was a different Anon who said that." You kind of don't respect them when they can't even take the extra two seconds to give themselves a name. Just as bad, when they sign with a different name all the time, a person without an identity, great.
A bill filed in the House would keep Kentuckians from posting anonymous comments to Web sites.

House Bill 775, filed Tuesday by Rep. Tim Couch, R-Hyden, would require anyone who contributes to a Web site to register a real name, address and e-mail address with that Web site. The person's full name then would be used whenever he or she posted a comment.

Web site operators who violate the disclosure law would be fined $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.

Couch readily acknowledged on Wednesday that his bill raises First Amendment issues regarding free speech, so he won't be pushing it. But he wanted to call attention to the phenomenon of unkind and often untrue comments about people being posted online by Kentuckians hiding behind the cloak of anonymity.

"Some nasty things have been said about high school kids in my district, usually by other kids," Couch said. "The adults get in on it, too." Anonymous Web postings targeted

It's true the MySpace world gets pretty nasty at times, though in general the experience seems to be positive. Now and then you hear about threats and bullying incidents, well you're talking about teenagers, they can get out of hand. Mainly it's a self-regulating system.

Years ago I commented on a conservative site, a pro-war site, using a pseudonym. Those guys would get so mad at me, they called me every name in the book, I was an incestuous child-molester for opposing the war. And they did everything they could to put the pieces together to figure out who I was. One guy finally did, but he was cool about it, he emailed me and told me but never told the others. I was actually really glad that they couldn't figure out who I was. I was expressing a point of view that a lot of people shared, but I really do think there could have been some danger to my home and my family if my identity were revealed.

You don't hear much about it, but one of the things that really makes the Internet useful is the anonymity it seems to provide -- I say "seems to" because it turns out you are rarely truly anonymous, somebody can always figure out who you are. It's funny, the Internet doesn't just give you access to information, it gives you anonymous access, you can look things up without anyone knowing. Recently Facebook committed a major faux pas when they started putting information on people's sites about their online purchases. Some people were surprised to find out what their friends were into, you might say. You order something online, you know you're just talking to a computer, your information goes into a database, an order sends a forklift into a warehouse, a box is wrapped up, nobody anywhere in the chain knows who you are or what you bought. And then Facebook goes and puts it on your web page, the exact model of vibrator you got, or your subscription to Gay Times, if there is such a thing. The privacy of online shopping is a big part of it.
"When you're anonymous, you can say anything you want to about someone, and nobody knows who you are," he said.

Couch said he, too, has been the subject of anonymous online roasting, and while he doesn't enjoy it, he doesn't think there's much the legislature can do about it.

"I think right now (online posting) is pretty much just on its own. It's a machine that's going to go its own way," Couch said. "The state can try to pass some rules, but I don't really think it would do anything."

I don't really understand why this guy files a bill he knows will never pass, doing something he knows will never happen. To me it seems he is just saying that he fundamentally doesn't understand human nature or how the Internet works. I suppose he is free to make that statement, but why?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will TTF be supporting the invasion of Iran?

"THE HAGUE, Netherlands (March 11) - The Netherlands' highest court on Tuesday rejected a gay Iranian's last-ditch appeal to avoid deportation to Britain, where he fears authorities will send him back to Tehran and possible execution.

Mehdi Kazemi, 19, traveled to Britain to study in 2005 and applied there for asylum after learning that his male lover in Iran had been executed for sodomy. After British authorities rejected Kazemi's application, he fled and applied for asylum in the Netherlands.

Upholding a ruling by the Dutch government, the Council of State said Britain is responsible for Kazemi's case because he applied for asylum there first. European Union rules say the member state where an asylum seeker first enters the bloc is responsible for processing that person's claim.

Kazemi's case has generated attention for the plight of homosexuals in Iran, but also for differences in the way EU countries deal with asylum seekers.

Gay rights campaigner Rene van Soeren said Kazemi's lawyer was considering an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. The lawyer, Borg Palm, did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Boris van der Ham, a lawmaker who has taken up Kazemi's cause, has appealed to the government to lobby British authorities on Kazemi's behalf.

"There should be some political leadership," he said in a telephone interview. "I hope in Britain they will do it, and otherwise we should take the boy."

Because of Iran's persecution of homosexuals, the Netherlands typically relaxes its tough asylum rules when considering applications by gay Iranians -- virtually guaranteeing asylum to any who apply here.

However, because Kazemi had already applied for asylum in Britain and been rejected, the Dutch government refused to consider his case, insisting he return to Britain.

Britain's Home Office has declined comment, saying it does not discuss individual asylum applications.

However, Britain's Border and Immigration Agency has issued a statement that could give Kazemi hope: "We examine with great care each individual case before removal and we will not remove anyone who we believe is at risk on their return."

Matteo Pegoraro, president of the Italian-based gay rights group EveryOne, which is lobbying on behalf of Kazemi, has said he knows of 10 gay people executed in Iran since 2005, based on reports from nongovernment groups and activists."

March 12, 2008 11:40 AM  
Anonymous Derrick said...

So, what you are saying, AnonFreak, that it is OKAY for this teen to be killed for being gay?

That is EXACTLY what CRG/C and PFOX want. SICKOS!!!!! You should be ashamed of yourselves!

March 12, 2008 1:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrea- not anon
Okay, I admit it. My name is not "Andrea- not anon". It is just Andrea.

March 12, 2008 2:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"So, what you are saying, AnonFreak, that it is OKAY for this teen to be killed for being gay?"

Of course not, Derrick. These guys usually are isolationist-leaning though. I was curious if they felt the conditions in Iran justify intervention.

March 12, 2008 2:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



March 12, 2008 3:44 PM  
Anonymous Derrick said...

And this is why, AnonFreak, we have to keep fighting for basic civil and human rights (per this sad deportation story)-- I, as a gay man, and NOT a second-class citizen.

I know that, my family knows that, my friends know that and GOD knows that.


March 12, 2008 4:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

about Iran, Derrick?

March 12, 2008 4:03 PM  
Anonymous Derrick said...

Yes, AnonFreak-- the teen being deported to Iran facing execution because he is gay. Did you already forget about it? I am sure you have since you're nothing more than a anti-anything-different bigot.

This is why, WORLD-WIDE we need to fight for equal rights. Isn't it interesting that there are gay on this planet but we still have to fight for equal rights because of people like you, AnonFreak, who want to have us murdered and locked up?

It's sad. Shame on you. My God, Jesus Christ, would not be very happy with you, AnonFreak.

As per usual, AnonFreak, you don't carry yourself as a true Christian.

Maybe you should join some type of cult? That seems to fit you a lot better. SICKO!

March 12, 2008 4:40 PM  
Anonymous Derrick said...

OOPS! The post should have said,

Isn't it interesting that there are gays in every country on this planet...."


March 12, 2008 4:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do CRC and CRG support the invasion of Iraq?

"Salon.com, War Room
Wednesday, March 12, 2008 19:50 EDT
Report? What report?

Even after five years, the Bush Administration still doesn’t seem ready to face up to the facts. With the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war quickly approaching, the Pentagon sponsored a new study on the relationship between Saddam Hussein and terror groups including al-Qaida.

Instead of a smoking gun or imminent mushroom clouds over American cities, the report found no "direct connection" between Saddam's Iraq and al-Qaida. The report did say that Saddam was one of the leading supporters of terrorism in the Middle East during his rule, but it found that, instead of foreign nations, "[t]he predominant targets of Iraqi state terror operations were Iraqi citizens, both inside and outside of Iraq."

Word of the findings was reported by McClatchy on Tuesday. Then, on Wednesday, according to ABC News, the Pentagon terminated its "plans to send out a press release announcing the report's release and will no longer make the report available online."

The Joint Forces Command website was supposed to host the report but now the document will only be available to those who request it. Reporters will not receive e-mailed copies, only ones sent by regular mail.

A spokesman for Joint Forces Command said: "We're making the report available to anyone who wishes to have it, and we'll send it out via CD in the mail."

The report analyzed close to 600,000 official documents from the Iraqi government obtained by the U.S. military following the invasion and also based its findings on numerous interrogations of former Hussein-regime top officials.

ABC has the report’s executive summary available online here.

The ABC article also reminds readers of this: "On June 18, 2004 the Washington Post quoted President George W. Bush as saying: 'The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda: because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda,' Bush said.""

March 13, 2008 6:53 AM  
Anonymous Emproph said...

Derrick said...
"Maybe you should join some type of cult? That seems to fit you a lot better."

Why join a cult when you can stupefy a citizenry into believing their own country was founded on that cult?

“This is a Christian nation”
“Our founding fathers never meant for there to be a separation between church and state.”
Etcetera, etcetera.

March 14, 2008 7:59 AM  

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