Anonymity is a tricky thing when it comes to the Internet. On the one hand, you have a way to practice free speech without repercussion. On the other hand, you have a free pass to never taking responsibility for your words.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) protects the rights of anonymous people online. The article linked also goes on to point out that anonymous speech has been brought to the Supreme Court, who has protected it offline and online as well. I’d like to reproduce the quote the EFF put in their article here, from the 1995 Supreme Court case of McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission:
Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.
Anonymous speech is protected. While we have the freedom to say nearly whatever we’d like, we have the freedom from certain speech as well. This is including but not limited to speech that falls under defamation, inducing panic, fighting words, incitement of criminal acts, sedition and obscenity. That’s right—obscenity. Take a look at how they judge what “obscene” things and shudder at the thought.
The comments section of the Mustang Daily site are a place of discussion. Some commentators produced great food for thought. Others…well, others have made the nutritional equivalent of glue. Generally these are the ones that just call the Mustang Daily mean names.
In EFF’s quote, however, they cut it off right before these lines:
The right to remain anonymous may be abused when it shields fraudulent conduct. But political speech by its nature will sometimes have unpalatable consequences, and, in general, our society accords greater weight to the value of free speech than to the dangers of its misuse.
This basically sums up my support of anonymous commentators. A lot of times, commentators can’t reveal their identities for their own safety and reputation. Whistle-blowers come to mind.
So we get a lot of muck to sift through at the end of the day, but in all that muck there are pearls of wisdom that we at the Mustang Daily cherish. We want to enable meaningful discussion, but we also want our readers to be respectful.
Just because you have the right to call someone a doody-head doesn’t mean you should exercise that right. I know anonymity means you can disregard politeness and write what you really feel about a subject, but stop and think for ten seconds before posting. You can call people doody-heads all you like, but make sure you have a good reason to…or else you’ll end up being the doody-head.
I just want all of you readers to remember that this shield is to protect you from society’s rebuttal, so that you can have the courage to say what you truly feel. This shield is not for you to camp behind while you’re sniping everyone in sight—that’s just being cowardly.
Oh, and one last thing.
Don’t. Feed. The. Trolls.