Jan 052011
 January 5, 2011  Featured News, Online

Robin Wilton responds to a commentary in the New York Times mentioned previously on this blog:

There’s an interesting piece on the New York Times site by Professor Stanley Fish, titled “Anonymity and the Dark Side of the Internet”.

A quick disclaimer to start with, though: bear in mind that what you’re reading here is my comment on an article in which Prof. Fish reviews a collection of essays by academics citing various principles and legal precedents. This discourse has more layers than Inception… and that’s before you get to the comments readers have left on Prof. Fish’s article itself.

The collection of essays is called “The Offensive Internet” – and based on Prof. Fish’s portrayal, the contributors are writing from the standpoint that anonymity online is a Bad Thing, about which Something Must Be Done. Second disclaimer: I haven’t actually read “The Offensive Internet”… but as much of the discussion apparently revolves around the dangers of unsubstantiated online gossip, it would be contrary to let a mere lack of factual knowledge stop me blogging about it, wouldn’t it?

The position of the anti-anonymists is (at least, as far as Prof. Fish represents it) riddled with arguments from the particular to the general – principally along the lines of “here is an instance where online anonymity has undesirable consequences – therefore all online anonymity is undesirable”. In part, the picture painted is of an ecosystem polluted by irresponsible comment, libel and misinformation, riding on the back of instant, mass publication with total immunity from being held to account.

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