In defense of your right to flame

In a disturbing turn of events, a change in federal telecommunications law makes it illegal to post nasty anonymous comments on someone’s blog. The new law (HR 3402) essentially extends your personal protection against harassment. Pre-3402, it was illegal to place anonymous calls to someone for the purpose of annoying them. Now it is illegal to annoy people via “any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet.” Which means that, if the law is actually enforced, you could get fined $50,000 or spent six months in jail if you repeatedly flame The Annalog with comments under the name Pat McGroin or Heywood Jablome.

ZDNet’s Mitch Radcliffe points out that this is bad because it stifles criticism. Quite true. It also confuses private speech (telephone conversations) with public speech (blogs). I don’t want anonymous harassers to call me on the phone; that’s why I don’t put my phone number on my blog. But if I put something up here for all of you to read, I’m entering into public debate. Once I do so, I implicitly open my views up for comment, nasty or not.

As far as anonymity goes, there’s something to be said for staking your name on your comments. Some would say the option of anonymity remains essential, giving us access to juicy insider blogs and hot tips to Gawker. In the wake of Judy Miller and Andrew Krucoff, however, I have to come down on the side of nymity here. None of us should depend on anonymous sources for our news, our livelihood, or our sexual titillation.

That said, none of us should go to jail for flying under the radar, either. Bring it on, McGroin!


2 Responses to “In defense of your right to flame”

  1. Zubin Says:


  2. WTFbrb » Blog Archive » Who said “buttslol!!!!”? Says:

    […] This is a response to a post on The Annalog. […]

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