Lessons Learned Too Well
A. Michael Froomkin
University of Miami - School of Law
September 18, 2011
This paper, prepared for a presentation Sept. 22, 2011 at the Oxford Internet Institute’s Conference, A Decade in Internet Time: Symposium on the Dynamics of the Internet and Society, examines, contextualizes, and critiques an international trend towards the regulation of anonymity.
The paper describes private incentives and initiatives during the past decade that resulted in the deployment of a variety of technologies and services each of which is unfriendly to anonymous communication. It then looks at three types of government regulation, relevant to anonymity: the general phenomenon of chokepoint regulation, and the more specific phenomena of online identification requirements and data retention (which can be understood as a special form of identification).
The concluding section takes a pessimistic view of the likelihood that given the rapid pace of technical and regulatory changes the fate of online anonymity in the next decade will be determined by human rights law rather than by the deployment of new technologies or, most likely, pragmatic political choices. It therefore offers normative and pragmatic arguments why anonymity is worth preserving and concludes with questions that proponents of further limits on anonymous online speech should be expected to answer.
The consequences of an anonymity ban are likely to be negative. This paper attempts to explain how we came to this pass, and what should be done to avoid making the problem worse.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 43working papers series
Date posted: September 24, 2011 ; Last revised: November 30, 2011
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