Radio Berkman 130: Adventures in Anonymity, Part One
Have you ever said something you wish you didn’t? Put your foot in your mouth? Insulted someone, cursed, or threatened somebody? In the real world, you can whisper your most seditious thoughts, and hope they don’t come back to bite you.
Well, online, your comments are archived indefinitely. And if you don’t want those comments traced to you, you can just choose a funny forum name, or remain anonymous.
But you are NOT anonymous. Believe it or not most of your anonymous blogs, comments, forum posts, and even emails have tiny digital fingerprints that can lead right back to you. Not a big deal if you’re commenting about how awesome “Blame it on the Rain” was on a Milli Vanilli fan board. But a growing number of online anonymous wordsmiths are being unmasked as they become the subject of civil suits.
Sam Bayard, a Berkman Fellow and Assistant Director of the Citizen Media Law Project has his eye on such cases. And today, we’ll try to figure out whether legal action could put online anonymity out of commission forever.