Showing posts with label Chuck Muth. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chuck Muth. Show all posts

Monday, November 26

Accounting For Anonymity: The License To Kill

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is an international non-profit advocacy and legal organization that is dedicated to preserving free speech rights such as those guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

One of the cornerstone arguments is the right to say things online that will not be connected with our offline identities, as we may be concerned about political or economic retribution, harassment, or even threats to our lives. As someone who has long valued free speech, I agree with tempered reservation.

The reservation comes from something that is often missed in discussing anonymity: it is often abused as a license to kill. What is missed is that being anonymous demands even more authenticity, sensitivity, and responsibility than those who operate outside the realm of cloaked avatars and general deflection.

CEO John Mackey Poses As An Average Investor

A few weeks ago, Whole Foods Market Inc.'s board, overreacting to anonymous postings by its chief executive, amended the company's corporate governance to sharply restrict online activities by its officials.

The new code bars top executives and directors from posting messages about Whole Foods, its competitors, or vendors on Internet forums that aren't sponsored by the company. If there was ever a case for attempting to pander to the public and perhaps the Securities Exchange Commission during an investigation, this is it.

It was never about what was posted, but rather the deceptiveness of comments made under a fake persona. In this case, the messenger is the message.

State Investigates Political Blogger After Anonymous Tip

Chuck Muth is president and CEO of Citizen Outreach and a professional political consultant. He is well known for his conservative viewpoints, well-thought arguments, and biting commentary.

In early November, the state’s Children and Family Services (CFS), which acts as child protection services in Nevada, launched an unfounded investigation on Muth based solely on an anonymous tip, possibly to the amusement of his detractors. After reluctantly allowing the sheriff’s deputies to inspect his home and interview his children, Muth was cleared by their inspection.

Or, perhaps not. Despite passing the inspection, the CFS has informed Muth that his file would remain open unless he subjected himself and his family to further investigations. In other words, any previous inspection would not be enough.

This is no longer about the accusation, but rather the deceptiveness of the accusation and a potential agenda for revenge under supposedly sealed files. In this case, the messenger is the message.

Megan Meier Commits Suicide After MySpace 'Hoax'

Meier, a 13-year-old girl, who suffered from depression and thought she made an online friend with a boy named Josh, committed suicide over his accusations that she was cruel person, unkind to her friends, and that the world would be better off without her.

Except Josh was not Josh, but rather the mother of another girl who wanted to gain Meier’s confidence in order to know what she was saying online about her daughter. To date, the woman who created the fake “Josh” profile has not been charged with a crime. The entire story has sparked an online maelstrom of cyber vigilante justice.

This is no longer about protective parenting, but rather the deceptiveness of hateful intent under the fake persona “Josh.” In this case, the messenger is the message.

The Future Of Anonymity

In the Meier story, Wired goes on to point to the work of Daniel Solove, professor of law at George Washington University and author of The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor and Privacy on the Internet.

The work is important, because as we see with Muth’s story, the danger of unrestrained anonymity remains a license to kill and is not confined to the Internet. It has become the new weapon of choice among con men, vengeful accusers, and hateful posers in a world where everyone is a public figure with the burden of proof landing squarely on those accused, regardless of the masked messengers.

We see it too often, accompanied by unjust justifications. The argument made for Mackey is that if anyone was duped into making decisions based on the financial message boards he posted upon, they deserve no less. The argument against Muth is he ought to have nothing to hide from the authorities. And even as the Meier story, which continues to spiral out of control, is being twisted into the idea that the victim got what she deserved. We need an adjustment.

You see, sometimes in our diligence to preserve some rights, we neglect others. And the most neglected today seems to be found within the Sixth Amendment, which includes our right to be …informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against us …

While this may seem to be an argument for complete transparency, living in glass houses is not a remedy as we’ve given up enough civil liberties in the private and public sectors. If there is any solution, the real remedy begins with shedding our apparent ignorance that the credibility of the anonymous posters, posers, and tips extends beyond a well-reasoned and authentic argument.

Simply put, allowing for anonymity preserves one freedom; whereas placing additional burden on the validity of anonymous accusations will preserve another. It’s something to think about.

Freedom was not born out of emotional polarity, but rather well balanced reason. And until those who use anonymity for selfish rather than selfless pursuits are brought to justice for bearing false witness against their neighbors, we are all at risk to become their victims. Or equally disheartening, we will lose our own right to privacy when it matters most.

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