Skip to main content

What Can Be Done About Anonymity On The Internet?

Posted by attorney Scott Chapman

There are so many negatives to anonymity, yet so many positives. If it were not for the massive amount of false spew that I've witnessed damage so many lives, I'd be much more likely to be in favor of anonymity on the Internet. However, what was a good idea is 230(c) is no longer so and the anonymouns user on the Internet being protected by their ISP's lack of liability has turned many parts of the Internet into a junk yard of false information. What people would never say in person, they now say in public...not just public...but they announce it to the world. What's worse is that a schoolyard lie, is now common tactic on the Internet and at social media sits. Sure its been great to hook back up with old friends that I would have NEVER found. But, with this benefit has come too large of a negative, too much of a harm. If you have an antagonist on the Internet that stalks or harasses you, then you understand. If you don't, you likely won't understand. Today, the first place an employer goes to assess their candidates is the Internet (so does you date, your new friend, your family, any contact, period). So, if there is false information out there is can and will most likely be devastating and you won't even know it sometimes. All it takes is one report by an anonymous 'hater' and your integrity is in question. The reader has no idea what is true or not. They don't know if you are actually a sham, a scam, a hack, a thief or a person of character, compassion, drive, intelligence and efficiency. The fact that it is called into question will make the reader question and more than likely back away from associating with you. Put it this way, if you hear a rumor around the neighborhood that the single guy living on the corner is a child molester, you would NEVER let your kids even walk in front of the house. Now that would just be in the neighborhood. Take the same rumor and put it on the Internet and this man on the corner is now globally named and even if he is the head of the Salvation Army, his integrity will be calleld into question by whomever reads the rumor. Why? Because we don't want to take chances on it being true. The reader has reason to have caution, the subject has reason to be distraught. The only solution is to uncover the masked commentor, unless 230(c) is repealed. If you want to keep you anonymity, we need to have another level of screening. The private sector will do it. They will filter the false information on the Internet, if we hold them accountable for the content they provide. You can kick and scream about it all you want, but there is only two solutions to this problem, either expose the anonymous commentor or hold the website accountable the host (website, ISP, whatever) will make sure the the information is correct or take it down. What if 230(c) stated that the host (website, ISP, whatever) was liable for all content posted on their site, UNLESS they required non-anonymous posts. Of course it would cost more, it would take more resources to verify whether someone is who they say they are. However, it can be done, even if it might not be 100%, it could become the norm and the Internet could be a place of more than just spew competing with truth. Do you remember the days before the CAN-SPAM Act? It was getting so bad that it was not worth having an email account anymore. Just to check your email from a friend you had to sift through 40 emails a day from porn and medication sites. That is no longer the case, is it? Now you have to opt in to much of that & the source must tell you who they are and how to get off the other words, there is no anonymity allowed in spamming. The result has been a huge improvement. Spam is not dead, but it has become controllable. Of course, the majority of the problem comes from overseas, but its an improvement. If we ever want to cut down that CRAP that is posted on the Internet, this route is going to need to be confronted. The fact that Congress and the Senate is fighting over how to approach this issue right now is positive & negative. I'll bet they will not get it right, though I hope they do. Take for example the New York competing bills attempting to ban anonymous comments from websites. ( S.6779 and A.8688). While I think the legislation is proposed with good intentions, it does not seem to be well thought out. Both sides of the bill can site case law and example after example as to why they are right. The truth is keeping anonymity causes damage and getting rid of it causes damage. Which damage is worse. Well, that's when it gets personal. Unfortunately, this is one of those issues that will never be 100% agreed upon. Until then, the Internet is still the Wild Wild West and if you are gonna shoot someone, you just may get away with it, you may get lynched or you may feel the power of the law.

Author of this guide:

Was this guide helpful?

Avvo personal injury email series

Sign up to receive a 3-part series of useful information and advice about personal injury law.

Recommended articles about Personal injury

Can't find what you're looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer