The internet is abuzz with the story of Rosemary Port, the blogger behind the “Skanks of NYC” blog. Google was sued by one of the targets of her vitriol (a model named Liskula Cohen) and was forced by courts reveal her real life identity.
Port, a 29-year-old student at FIT, is unapologetic. In fact, you could argue that she’s even more outraged than Cohen, who initially brought the defamation suit against her, considering that Port is now suing Google for $15 million dollars. Nevermind the fact that Google was only abiding by a court’s ruling…
What bothers me most about this story is what bothers me a lot about blogs and internet commentary. People like to hide behind the First Amendment and believe they should be allowed to spout hateful, libelous comments without the consequence of actually having to own up to their comments.
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.
But there’s nothing in the First Amendment that guarantees anonymity in your free speech. See, that’s the difference and where the internet can be a dangerous place. People can hide behind aliases and while many would argue that anonymity allows for a more free exchange of ideas (as has been upheld by a 1995 Supreme Court ruling), the truth is that it has very little to do with the First Amendment.
There are organizations that will try to tell you that you are entitled to your anonymity. There has even been precedent set by previous rulings, but frankly, the court’s ruling that Google must release Port’s identity is going to set a whole new standard.
I’ve long thought that the anonymity afforded bloggers and commenters on the Web allowed people to expose their hatred and racism (just a quick reading of the comments — comments that I would reject — on Tony’s Kansas City will show you that). But those things are actually truths that people just normally don’t share in real life. More dangerous is the flat out fallacies and untruths that people write, hiding behind their veiled “online persona.” I know there are people that do it for the protection of their job or their family or whatever, but I guess that’s just not the kind of blogger I want to be.
I’ve always tried to be myself online. I would hope that my readers will always hold me to that, especially the ones that know me in real life.
What do you think? Is anonymity a part of what the Web is about or does it afford authors and commenters too much leeway?