In our modern society, the issue of free speech and anonymity has been a hotly contested topic in recent years. It is now more important than ever as so many people are discovering the digital world for themselves--a place where one may find that they need to remain anonymous simply to be safe from those who would do them harm or want to take their voices away from all too easily.

Some people may think that anonymity is just a way to hide their true selves, but in reality it can be an important tool for personal and political expression. One side feels that if you are not brave enough or strong-minded enough to say what you believe online without hiding behind the veil of anonymity then your opinion doesn't matter anyway. Another believes this idea undermines freedom of speech because many topics would never even come up as discussion points due to fear on behalf of those expressing them with regard towards how they will be received by society at large who might have different views concerning these subjects.

The first anonymous posting service was started in 1988 and became the most popular form of communication on alt sex bondage newsgroups by 1990, after being introduced to them around that time for use with volatile, sensitive topics such as these which typically required a high level of anonymity from posters due to their personal nature or potential legal ramifications when discussing certain subjects online.

In the early 1990s, a group of people called Cypherpunks came up with an idea to use remailers in order to promote anonymity. Soon after these anonymous services were created, other groups quickly sprung up and offered them as well. These global servers allowed users all over the world who wanted privacy from corporations or governments could do so by posting anonymously on forums without revealing their identity through pseudonymous emails where they could reply privately if needed too.

In the predominantly conservative society we live in, it can be difficult to voice your opinion or have a certain lifestyle without being ostracized. The internet offers an opportunity for people to share their thoughts on taboo topics anonymously and is often not monitored by such limitations of expression as social media sites are. Additionally, anonymity is useful for people who want to ask in-depth questions that they don't want their peers or family members knowing about. For example, the state of Florida maintains an anonymous hotline where government workers can report abuses and wastes without fear of retribution. Without anonymity though there would be no way that someone could ever speak out against what may seem like injustice in this world without fear of retaliation from others who might come after them personally if it was divulged publicly where they live or work. Protection from harm resulting from this type of social intolerance is definitely one example among many important legitimate uses for online anonymity today- proving once again how very necessary it is. 

Anonymity on the internet is a double edged sword. On one hand, it allows people to connect who otherwise might not have been able to find each other and share their thoughts openly. However, with this anonymity comes an increase in illegal activity such as abuse or sending out frivolous emails without thinking about how they will affect someone's day-to-day life. While most of these abusers are just discovering anonymous servers for the first time and after that initial curiosity wears off there is less frequency of abusive behavior online. Some examples of these actions include kidnapping, terrorism, harassment and hate speech. The act of exposing personal information or secrets is one way that people can be harassed online. Some other ways are through threats to harm a person physically or financially in the form of scams. One user could not defend himself against an anonymous user who posted his address, phone number and the name of his employer on the internet in retaliation for something that he had said.

Although such uses of anonymity go against the philosophy of netiquette, which citizens of the internet use to partially govern it, there can be cases where a user would have been protected from retaliation if they had posted their original comment anonymously.

Some people use anonymity as a shield to avoid retribution for their beliefs. A minority of users profess hate speech through anonymous posts and emails. Some people believe that the only way to solve societal issues like anonymity is by outlawing it. Furthermore, many of the people who abuse anonymity on the internet are also those that cause intolerance in some areas. They contribute to this problem by making it necessary for others to express their opinions anonymously because they can't share them without being attacked and harassed. Rude, inappropriate and offensive emails and posts were present on the internet long before anonymity servers. It is difficult to fight rudeness with more of it as that will only escalate things further but there are some other ways we can deal with this situation such as ignoring them or reporting their behavior rather than eliminating a service which has many benefits for users like you.

It's like trying to close down the highway system because a few people speed.

Anonymity rules on the internet are not universal and are dependent on the opinion of the service providers who run the servers. The international scope of the internet means that what is illegal in one country may not be so everywhere.

In a document written by L. Detweiler, he details rules that must be followed to deter legislators from intervening with anonymity on the internet.

  • For Operators: "Document thoroughly acceptable and unacceptable uses in an introductory file that is sent to new users. Have a coherent and consistent policy and stick to it. State clearly what logging and monitoring is occuring. Formulate a plan for problematic ethical situations and anticipate potentially intense moral quandaries and dilemmas. Take precautions to ensure the security of the server from physical and network-based attacks and infiltrations. Require a vote either to allow or disallow anonymous posts on individual newsgroups."
  • For Users: "Use anonymity only if you have to. Frivolous uses weaken the seriousness and usefulness of the capability for others. Do not use anonymity to provoke, harass, or threaten others. Be aware of the policies of the anonymous site and respect them. Be prepared to forfeit your anonymity if you abuse the privilege."

The internet is a place where people can express themselves without fear of censorship, but it's not always easy to tell the difference between what should be expressed and what shouldn't. The freedom comes with its own set of problems that are just as unique as any other part in today's society. The U.S Constitution makes the statement, "Congress shall make no law...abridging freedom of speech," in order to allow for free expression, even if it is unpopular or controversial. In today's society many people are against this and believe that censorship should be used instead because they feel unsafe around opposing views. The advantages of free speech outweigh the disadvantages.

The internet is a global network, and it's impossible to regulate the web without international cooperation. It may be naive of us to hope for an unregulated future, but we can at least work together on national legislation that protects anonymity online with guidelines that apply across all countries.


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