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Anonymous Blogger Outed By Politician

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the by-what-right dept.

Privacy 300

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 FIRST POST TROLL!!! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27397621)

pleaase don't oust me :(

please?

Re:ANONYMOUS FIRST POST TROLL!!! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27397975)

I did NOT have a sexual relationship with THAT AC.

Thank you for your support.

Re:ANONYMOUS FIRST POST TROLL!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27398057)

Steve Willis of Shelby, Montana (USA), is that you?

Re:ANONYMOUS FIRST POST TROLL!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27398159)

Who are you, and what have you do with me?

Uhhh (5, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397625)

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 (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Of course they have 'the right'... (4, Insightful)

Animaether (411575) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397751)

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:Of course they have 'the right'... (1, Interesting)

pem (1013437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398023)

So it's OK for my waiter to post my credit card details on the internet?

Re:Of course they have 'the right'... (2, Interesting)

johnsonav (1098915) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398081)

No. But if he wanted to put your name online, he could. Because that's all we're talking about, not credit card numbers. You're name isn't some form of privileged information.

Re:Of course they have 'the right'... (2, Insightful)

pem (1013437) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398133)

You didn't read the parent to my post very carefully, then. He was referring to a lot more than just my name.

Re:Of course they have 'the right'... (3, Informative)

johnsonav (1098915) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398227)

You didn't read the parent to my post very carefully, then. He was referring to a lot more than just my name.

Seems like you didn't read it very carefully.

Of course they have 'the right' to protect their secrets - as in this case, their identity.

and...

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.).

I'm pretty sure there's a contractual agreement between the credit card company and the restaurant, which is set up to protect customers' credit card numbers. So, in that case, the waiter couldn't post your credit card number online. But, if he happened to know your name was Bob Jones (and he didn't get that information from your card), he could post your name and the fact that you eat there.

Re:Of course they have 'the right'... (4, Informative)

owski (222689) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398269)

Merchant account contracts include provisions on keeping card numbers secret. So, no.

Re:Uhhh (5, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397771)

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 (4, Insightful)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398059)

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 (4, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398123)

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:Uhhh (1)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397795)

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 (5, Insightful)

RodgerDodger (575834) | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (5, Interesting)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Uhhh (0, Troll)

davolfman (1245316) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398315)

Actually I think that kind of behavior would get you thrown in jail many places. You'd be hard pressed to defend yourself from any number of charges it resembles, stalking, or conducting a private investigation without a license.

Re:Uhhh (3, Funny)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398337)

Conducting a private investigation without a licence? Do we need a licence to do everything nowdays? That is seriously one of the dumbest things I have heard of in a long time. Oh noes! You cant look out the window anymore to find out who keeps ringing your doorbell and running away at 3am. Thats a private investigation!

I seriously hope there is no such law.

Re:Uhhh (1)

dmomo (256005) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398069)

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 (5, Insightful)

julioody (867484) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397807)

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 (4, Insightful)

badasscat (563442) | more than 5 years ago | (#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:Uhhh (2, Interesting)

isa-kuruption (317695) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398249)

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 source that was unknown was untrusted, so without being able to say, "I know this is fact because blah blah blah" meant you were probably making it up.

People today take the truth from anonymous sources as being as legit as truth from named sources, or even more so. That is backwards.

If you're man (or woman) enough, you should be willing to put your name out there so people can criticize you. If you hide behind anonymity (which is your right, btw), then I have just as much right to call you a liar, a coward and ignore anything you say.

Re:Uhhh (5, Insightful)

dexmachina (1341273) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Uhhh (0, Redundant)

tsotha (720379) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397899)

I agree with this. Your anonymity is yours to maintain, and as long as the government official doesn't abuse his office to discover who the blogger is there's no problem. Just as you are free to expose secrets of government officials (like John Edwards' love child), government officials are free to expose yours as a private citizen.

Re:Uhhh (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27398019)

This would be a Non-Story if the parties where reversed, Mike Doogan being a Dem. and Mudflats being a Republican bashing Obama. And I think most people know it.

Re:Uhhh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27398301)

?

It's possible that I'm misunderstanding you, but Doogan is a "Dem".

Uhm... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27397633)

I don't recall ever seeing anything about a RIGHT to anonymity? This isn't healthcare.

You want to blog and take potshots at someone, don't be surprised if they try to find out who you are.

Anonomity should not be required (5, Insightful)

pwizard2 (920421) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Anonomity should not be required (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27397663)

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

Re:Anonomity should not be required (4, Insightful)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Anonomity should not be required (4, Informative)

LoverOfJoy (820058) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398041)

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:Anonomity should not be required (2, Insightful)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398191)

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, fighting for the Nazi's when you don't believe in their concepts, to what end?

Pretty much the same for business-to-business, you either leave politics out of it (unless it directly deals in it) or don't deal with businesses that contradict your businesses politics. I know that's somewhat black & white, and not "economically viable" and all that, but that's only because they continue to keep it in the gray and have stuff like one company behind 2 parties in a war etc, which is political in one aspect, but monetary in the other, but that's only a different kind of politics.

Re:Anonomity should not be required (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27397665)

It's only Common Sense.

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

Re:Anonomity should not be required (1)

Kr1ll1n (579971) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397697)

Damn Straight. Thank You!! I am glad someone else had the fucking balls to say what I have been screaming for years.

Re:Anonomity should not be required (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397703)

While I agree with you in principal, the article gives a laundry list of reasons a person might not want to have their identity associated with their political speech.

I found it fairly persuasive.

-Peter

Re:Anonomity should not be required (2, Informative)

dbIII (701233) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397747)

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 situation. When people go about stalking bloggers mothers it's worth being anonymous.

Re:Anonomity should not be required (1)

pwizard2 (920421) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397835)

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.

Re:Anonomity should not be required (4, Insightful)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398217)

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.

Re:Anonomity should not be required (1)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397927)

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.

Re:Anonomity should not be required (4, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398063)

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.

Yes, and yes (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397643)

Everybody has a right to post anonymously, not just Americans. But if somebody finds out...ooops, too bad. They too have a right to post that info. They don't a right to force anybody to reveal it though.

Were they using govt resources to find the ident? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27397645)

If not, I don't see what the problem was. If they have the FBI looking into it, that's not good.

And here I was... (1)

davidphogan74 (623610) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397653)

I thought this would be about an anonymous blogger outing a politician.

If you're gonna say it..... (0, Flamebait)

i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397675)

stand behind it.....pussies. /. included.

This is kind of stupid. (4, Insightful)

rindeee (530084) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:This is kind of stupid. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397909)

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:This is kind of stupid. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27398031)

Does it matter? She knew the risks of posting anything for any length of time online, it leaves a trail.

But she wanted to be 'anonymous' and spew her leftist bullshit without it coming back to haunt her later on in life.

Silly frickin' Democrat, deal with the consequences of your actions and stop blaming other people.

Re:This is kind of stupid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27398109)

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.

I would propose that one must not disclose who someone behind a publication is based on some arbitrary set of circumstances.
Those arbitrary circumstances being that a reasonable person would know that the disclosure would cause harm.
I'd even go further and say that the anonymous person should be able to obtain an injunction against the disclosure if they can prove to a Judge that the disclosure would cause harm.

Anonymity (3, Insightful)

actionbastard (1206160) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Anonymity (2)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397875)

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

Re:Anonymity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27398007)

Because the first 10 "amendments" are practically part of the original document besides a few technicalities (http://www.usconstitution.net/constamnotes.html). Enjoy the read.

What right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27397685)

I was unaware people had a right to anonymously make public statements.

Re:What right? (1)

Meski (774546) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397945)

What is anonymity?

Re:What right? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398049)

That depends on who you are. Send me your name and address, and I will send you a full explanation.

But with the wrong last name... (1)

B1oodAnge1 (1485419) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397687)

How is it even breaching her privacy if the last name was wrong?

Seems more like he attempted to out her to me.

Security through obscurity (1)

Norsefire (1494323) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397691)

Isn't that what blogging anonymously is?

ahem (3, Insightful)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27397797)

It won't be for long if Obama, Pelosi, and Reid have their way.

Re:ahem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27397849)

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.

Depends how they found out. Using government resources to find out the identity is not cool -- if not immoral and illegal than surely a pathetic way to spend taxpayer money. If somebody on the street stopped them and said "Hey, Bob's the blogger" and they repeat that, I don't see a problem with that.

Re:ahem (3, Insightful)

ContractualObligatio (850987) | more than 5 years ago | (#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?

Re:ahem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27398005)

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

Is this humor? There's nothing in amendment one guaranteeing anonymity.

Re:ahem (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398111)

The SCOTUS disagrees with you, fortunately.

Re:ahem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27398355)

Where?

Re:ahem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27398221)

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.

Where?

Re:ahem (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398283)

Agent of The Man abusing his power. Still isn't right.

A what? (4, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397721)

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.

Re:A what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27398067)

Yes, I think anonymous speech should be protected... until it become defamation or slander.

"Outing" an anonymous commentator is neither defamation nor slander. It's just pointing at someone and saying their name. Therefore, by your own statement, such speech should be protected.

Re:A what? (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398077)

I'm going to assume that you do understand the irony of posting what you did as AC.

Re:A what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27398135)

I think anonymous speech should be protected... until it become defamation or slander.

Why should speech no longer be free when it is defamation or slander? Defamation is not a problem - it's when people unquestioningly believe some anonymous source that it becomes a problem. Make belief of defamation a crime.

Rights, like free speech, should be absolute, lest they slip away by inches.

Re:A what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27398209)

What if a political leader fucked Pamela Anderson..

Would she still expect privacy?

And what if Pam was the one that did the fucking and not the other way around? :)

Anonymous political free speech on internet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27397791)

Really, can you have Anonymous Political Free Speech on the Internet? WORLD WIDE WEB? How does one know that a person blogging about a particular US political figure is in fact a US citizen? It could be an attempt to disseminate rumor and false information by another country trying to destabilize the United States. Until you can remove that doubt, you have to assume the speach cannot be free. From this point on, she can have free speech with no fear of reprisal and those reading the Blog know that it is a true blog, and not just some infiltration. Hmm.. That was easy.

A similar case from my friend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27397809)

She played a multi-player soccer game online, called power soccer (www.powerchallenge.com) and have high ranking. She is a critic of Israel (based of her ethnicity) and some admin decided to find out who she is. The game installs spyware and it happens to crack into her facebook account, and got a message to "offer a deal" to her real email address. I told her not to reply, instead forward it to FBI's IFCC for complaint, and also file for a ID theft affdavit, claiming someone is using her name to play the game.

In this case, whoever behind this blog should file a ID theft report and talk to her lawyer to see if she can get an restraining order against the representative.

free speech is not an issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27397837)

Unless the politician used the apparatus of government for his research, which would be a (rather mild) form of abuse of power. Cf Joe the Plumber suing the State of Ohio over the alleged leak, during his 15 minutes of fame, that he was not a licensed plumber.

America has a long tradition of anonymous commentary. Thomas Paine and Mark Twain wrote anonymous political leaflets tweaking the powers that be. More recently, there was the film send-up of the Clinton administration "Primary Colors" written by "Anonymous" (who turned out to be the journalist Joe Klein). Today we have the semi-retired Mini-Microsoft blogger, who supposedly still works at Microsoft, although there is suspicion that he no longer does. In all of these cases, it was well understood by the perpetrators that the targets of their satire or criticism would be very interested in unmasking them so they could be put in their place. There was a bit of a cat and mouse game.

We Do Not Know The Whole Story (3, Interesting)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397873)

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.

YES and MAYBE (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397881)

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.

whistle blower (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27397885)

Chances are , this is a inside job.

Someone who know her identity leak this thing out (intentionally with the wrong last name) to make popularity. Just my 10 cents.

How did he find out? It matters. (0, Redundant)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397887)

Did he find out using tools available to the ordinary citizen and not because some third party violated a trust?

Did he find out because some third party released information they shouldn't have?

Using tools only available to those with special permission, like a licensed private investigator?

Using tools only available by virtue of him being a government official or employee?

If the last three, then no, privacy should be preserved unless there is a court order requiring release or a clear public interest in releasing the information. If necessary, civil court action should be allowed to recover damages, or, if there's a threat of outing, injunctions.

If it was the first one, then the person wasn't as careful with his information as he thought and I'm a bit less sympathetic. In this case, the decent thing to do is respect the privacy of the individual, but the individual's only recourse should be to shame the leaker for his demonstrated lack of human decency.

Please correct the summary... (1)

Swift Kick (240510) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397915)

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*

Techies aren't making things anonymous enough (1)

presidenteloco (659168) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397935)

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.

Re:Techies aren't making things anonymous enough (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398013)

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.

Re:Techies aren't making things anonymous enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27398121)

Hmm. That's actually pretty interesting (aside from a slight misunderstanding; she appears to be running her own site, and I don't think that's how her identity was revealed. Btw, the domain was registered with domainsbyproxy, which I didn't know existed. Neat.). Since people apparently can't resist blogging, this could be a good way to introduce people to our evil hacker tools; a clicky web interface to a blog engine. WordpressMU-CommonSense.

Maybe they would eventually find the functionality indispensable, and we would have the ubiquitous encryption that we dream about. Soccer moms carrying around their ssh keys on their keychains.

Re:Techies aren't making things anonymous enough (1)

Standard User 79 (1209050) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398329)

My guess is that it has nothing to do with online privacy and everything with vanity. Se began to enjoy the attention too much and started speaking to the press 'off the record'. Doogan is a former journalist and only needed to speak to the right colleague to track her down.

don't expect free speech to protect you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27397957)

Free speech is not the same thing as freedom from fear of speech. Opening your mouth invites a certain risk of creating enemies, and you really can't do anything if someone decides to hate you. Not all forms of discrimination (used in the broad sense) are illegal. And for the forms that are illegal you life is still going to be much worse off than it would have.

It depends.... (1)

meburke (736645) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397965)

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 content of that speech, and anonymity deprives the targets (assuming that the speecha targets political figures such as Sarah Palin and Mike Doogan) of their right to confront their accusers in a meaningful way. "Outing" the blogger disclosed some of the biases in her accusations.

OK, the "consider the source" argument is also a fallacious argument, but knowing a person has a bone to pick is important to evaluating their trustworthiness or objectivity.

Anonymity has its place. Whenever the speech could lead to extralegal reprisals, such as speech in China, anonymity must be protected. Also, if a person wants their arguments to be evaluated on merit, anonymity might be a good idea in order to dilute the "authority" value (plus or minus) of the author. "Adam Smith" wrote his books under a pseudonym for both reasons, I believe.

Re:It depends.... (4, Insightful)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398087)

"Outing" the blogger disclosed some of the biases in her accusations.

Dude, we knew more about her biases from what she wrote in her blog than from knowing her real name.

"Mudflats" biases were on worn on her virtual sleeve, not hidden behind her pseudonym.

Story immaterial to "right" to anonymity (2, Insightful)

Protoslo (752870) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397973)

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 power to do so); he just became obsessed with the identity of blogger "Mudflats," and felt the need to "out" said blogger and complain about how unfair everyone was being in the print and internet media.

In conclusion, this story tells us that Rep. Mike Doogan is a paranoid whiner who thinks that the internet is Serious Business. There is a right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure, and a right to freedom of the press, but if anyone thinks that there a right to publish anonymously, even in the face of a breech of said anonymity using public information, that person is the one who lacks an understanding of the first amendment. Indeed, the (obsessive, childish, etc.) State Representative (i.e. The Man) is fully exercising his first amendment right to freedom of speech in this case. It would be a dark day indeed if Rep. Mike Doogan needed a state interest, compelling or otherwise, to whine in emails about bloggers being mean to him on the interwebs.

Re:Story immaterial to "right" to anonymity (1)

SwashbucklingCowboy (727629) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398229)

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 decisions concerning omissions or additions to the content of a publication, is an aspect of the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment."

Subject (0, Offtopic)

z-j-y (1056250) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397979)

Great. now slashdot is huffingtonposted. looks more like digg everyday.

Freedom (1)

zomniac (1398289) | more than 5 years ago | (#27397995)

Freedom of the press needs be expanded to include freedom of the internet.
Get with the program sheaple.

Doogan needs to be "outed" (1)

bigsteve@dstc (140392) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398061)

... as in voted out at the next election.

modern democracy is a 2 way street (1)

heroine (1220) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398095)

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.

grep -i anonymity constitution.txt (1)

isa-kuruption (317695) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398151)

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?

That Probably Isn't Peanut Butter in Doogan's Nose (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27398171)

One can expect politicians to out bloggers when directed to do so by the special interests they REALLY serve.

Toadying, fawning, lick spittle errand boys to the oil industry, for example, will unhestitatingly throw anyone under the bus to keep their noses firmly planted in the nether regions of their special interest masters.

I don't know for certain if this is Rep. Mike Doogan's chief malfunction, he simply could be crazy, a drunken alcoholic in a rage against truth about the sleaze ball cronyism and corruption that characterizes Alaska politics, or simply a clueless asshat. You choose.

But, he is assuredly a disgrace to his office and to journalism, a field he once toiled in before becoming a failed novelist and political hack.

Yes and ? (1)

SwashbucklingCowboy (727629) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398195)

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 used, but a newsletter paid for by his political campaign fund? That might be legal, though not very moral.

whoopdedoo (1)

dargon (105684) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398207)

this really isn't much different than something that happened up here in Canada recently. Recently the Ontario court ordered a website to disclose what personal information it has on 8 anonymous posters, information including email and ip addresses. Now while I don't necessarily agree with the decision, it is legal for a court to do so, just as it's legal for the police to look up the records of everyone who phoned you / who you phoned, etc. It's up to the poster(s) to take steps to protect their anonymity, for example throw away email addresses that would be too time consuming to track down who it belongs to, especially across international jurisdictions, use TOR to mask your IP address, etc. Things on the internet are only as private and anonymous as you make them, don't trust others to ensure your privacy.

it's all fun and games until...... (3, Interesting)

sldghmr (1519841) | more than 5 years ago | (#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!

What right was infringed? (1)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398373)

It seems to me that many Americans have become so self-centered with the constitutional rights we do have that we have started to claim rights we do not. There is no constitutional right to privacy. There is no constitutional right to having healthcare. There is no constitutional right to having a job. There is no constitutional right to an education. You want those things? You earn them. The "pursuit" has been dropped from "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

In direct reflection to this story, I completely fail to see why this is even a question. Nobody ever told her while starting a blog that she would be assured of staying annonymous. Sure, she can hope for that and try to keep it but that we have to help her.

Re:What right was infringed? (1)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 5 years ago | (#27398381)

that last line should be "that doesnt mean we have to help her."

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