[Foundation-l] Identity of Anonymous Wikipedia Editors Not Protected by First Amendment

Mike Godwin mnemonic at gmail.com
Sun May 29 15:49:06 UTC 2011

SlimVirgin writes:

On Fri, May 27, 2011 at 19:50, Fred Bauder <fredbaud at fairpoint.net> wrote:
> >
> > Identity of Anonymous Wikipedia Editors Not Protected by First Amendment
> >
> >
> http://ecommercelaw.typepad.com/ecommerce_law/2011/05/identity-of-anonymous-wikipedia-editors-not-protected-by-first-amendment.html
> >
> > Nothing unexpected.
> Related story about Twitter handing over personal details of someone
> accused of posting libel:
> http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/twitter/8544350/Twitter-reveals-secrets-Details-of-British-users-handed-over-in-landmark-case-that-could-help-Ryan-Giggs.html

The way I typically explain the status of anonymity under U.S.
constitutional law is to point first to Lovell v. City of Griffin (1938),
the U.S. Supreme Court case that, among other things, underscores the First
Amendment's relationship to anonymous speech.  It's still the leading case
in this area. The Lovell case basically says you have the right to attempt
to engage in anonymous public speech, and you don't have an obligation
yourself to disclose who you are simply in order to speak. At the same time,
Lovell does *not* say you have a constitutional guarantee to *succeed* in
being anonymous.  In effect, that means that telcos and ISPs can be
compelled to provide whatever information they have on you, the anonymous
speaker, and the government may be able to use other investigatory
techniques to figure out who the anonymous speaker is anyway.

Typically, a service that values user privacy highly minimizes the amount of
private information it keeps about users, so that even if compelled to
comply with a lawful government order to disclose identifying information,
the service may not have much to disclose.

As you may imagine, commercial services tend to keep more identifying
information about users than noncommercial ones, typically because of
billing considerations.


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