Is Anonymity a Right?

Last week, I noticed the somewhat comical, but very scary story of Kentucky lawmaker, Tim Couch, who filed a bill this week to make anonymous postings to the Internet illegal. The bill would target website providers who allowed anonymous postings, not those that submit anonymous postings.

If the bill becomes law, the website operator would have to pay if someone was allowed to post anonymously on their site. The fine would be five-hundred dollars for a first offense and one-thousand dollars for each offense after that.

Today, I noticed a post from Fresh Creation highlighting a panel discussion on “Sexual Privacy Online”. The key question, “do you have a right to be anonymous”, is one I have posed to my students in the past. It is a tricky question, and even with a discussion of real problems posed by anonymity, I have yet to be convinced that the right to be anonymous is something we should easily give up. Watch the video and see what you think.

So after watching this, what are your thoughts about anonymity as a right? Are there places that you feel that this should not apply? And if so, how do you decide? Who decides? Watch out for the slippery slope.