Putin Requires Russian Bloggers to Register with the Government

This is not good news.

Widely known as the "bloggers law," the new Russian measure specifies that any site with more than 3,000 visitors daily will be considered a media outlet akin to a newspaper and be responsible for the accuracy of the information published.

Besides registering, bloggers can no longer remain anonymous online, and organizations that provide platforms for their work such as search engines, social networks and other forums must maintain computer records on Russian soil of everything posted over the previous six months.

Posted on May 9, 2014 at 6:14 AM • 69 Comments

Comments

AlexMay 8, 2014 5:57 PM

This law consider bloggers as newspapers (or newspapers's editors) only in one aspect: responsibility.

It does not give bloggers rights that officially registered massmedia have (for example, government entities obliged to reply on newspaper's editor information request in seven days vs. 30 days for ordinary people).

DavidMay 8, 2014 7:10 PM

Isn't there a more reliable source to the content of this law than the NYT?

So far, I don't really see why this is so bad news? In Germany we have an even stricter law: Every website has to disclose who runs it and post contact information, even the street & city where you live. Really every website, not just those with 3k+ visitors a day.

As far as "accuracy of information"? Just publish things as "my opinion on", i.e. an op-ed, and you're fine.

A0nymMay 8, 2014 9:03 PM

It's is a response to the information war agains RU. As far as I (reader) concerned, it is a good news. I stopped reading newspapers a couple of years ago and use Zite and similar news aggregators to read blogs instead. This way I get more reliable news. Take the most recen example of Odessa massacre. No "free press" published anything close to what happened or who was responsible for this horrific incident. Blogers did a good job, even included videos with eyewitnesses ansd survivors. This bloggers were not anonymous, which makes them more trustworthy in my view.

K-VeikkoMay 9, 2014 2:16 AM

I guess quite a lot writers in russian social media are working for the american government under false identities.

Clive RobinsonMay 9, 2014 6:08 AM

@ Alan Bostik,

If you need another excuse to "Unfriend Putin" he gave just about everyone in the Western democracies one today in his Russian Victory day Speach. If the translators have got it right he is claiming it was Russia single handedly who defeted Nazi Germany and gave the West it's freedom...

Now the question is "If it's correctly translated, does Putin actualy beleive it?" If there was not his other odd ball machismo behaviour I would assume it was mis-translated and therefor he did not beleive it, but with the behaviour, who can guess what's going on in his head...

NonymusMay 9, 2014 9:23 AM

All governments have the same tendency to strive for: more money, more power, more information on citizens and foreign nations. Eventually, this tendency compromises or overwhelms basic principles of government, such as representation of the people and concern for the common good.

RamboMay 9, 2014 10:03 AM


In other news, Putin has also signed a law that bans cussing.

Swearing off bad language: Russia bans cussing in films, books, music
http://time.com/89209/russia-ban-curse-words-swearing/
Thinking about making a film? Better leave out the foul language if you want it to be seen in Russia. The same goes for plays. Even rock stars will need to leave their potty mouths at home.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed off on a new law Monday that bans swearing at arts, cultural and entertainment events in the country.

Any new film containing obscene language won't be granted a distribution certificate, so there's no chance of seeing it at the movie theater.

And copies of books, CDs or films containing swearing can only be distributed in a sealed package labeled "Contains obscene language," a Kremlin statement said.

DBMay 9, 2014 10:42 AM

Well that does it. We've been granted the privilege to curse and they have not. Clearly we are free and they are not.

GopiballavaMay 9, 2014 11:05 AM

David:
"In Germany we have an even stricter law: Every website has to disclose who runs it and post contact information, even the street & city where you live. Really every website, not just those with 3k+ visitors a day."

A quick googling didn't find a clear answer on the German laws. I presume they apply to people running servers, rather than posting?

The NYT article isn't clear about who precisely this would apply to. If I have 3000 followers on, say, Facebook, does that trigger the requirements? I'm gonna guess that Russia will want you to register whereas Germany doesn't. I don't think the German rules impact freedom of speech to nearly the extent that the Russian ones will.

Petréa MitchellMay 9, 2014 11:09 AM

Alan Bostick:

LJ is probably what this law is all about. It's where some of the high-profile dissdents blog, and it's still got enough English-language users that pulling the same maneuver as on Vkontakte would attract too much attention.

AnuraMay 9, 2014 11:25 AM

@Gopiballava

The NYT article isn't clear about who precisely this would apply to.

I would guess it's open to the discression of the authority, just like the ban on swear words above. If it's critical of Russia, it will probbaly be a lot more heavily scrutinized than if it's favorable to Russia.

BrettMay 9, 2014 11:46 AM

@Clive

from:http://eng.kremlin.ru/transcripts/7155

"The fierce battles for Moscow and Stalingrad, Kursk and the Dnieper determined the outcome of the whole of World War II. The Soviet people’s iron will, fearlessness and steadfast courage saved Europe from enslavement.

It was our country that pursued the Nazis right back into their dens, dealt them the full and final blow, and achieved victory at a cost of millions of lives lost and terrible trials endured"

I think the translators got it right and yes, it seems that only Russia was involved. Hmm.......

I won't slight them, they suffered tremendously, but I seem to remeber a few other countries envolved.

AnuraMay 9, 2014 11:58 AM

@Brett, Clive

Of course, Americans like to say they single-handedly defeated the Germans as well. Personally, I don't think Germany would have been defeated on either front if it was a one-front war. The US and Britain gained air supremecy over Germany in the West, and Russia did the same in the East, and it's not certain that wouldn't have happened if it was a one front war. If Germany had an effective air force, if they didn't have their supply lines crushed by allied bombings, if they hadn't had their troops fighting on two fronts, etc. then there's a good chance that Germany could have repelled an invasion, or even have been successful in an invasion of either Russia or Britain.

Peter A.May 9, 2014 12:15 PM

@Clive: I've googled up the Putin's speech just for you. I owe you much more than that.

In the relevant paragraph Putin has said (my translation):

"Russia has consistently pursued a policy of strengthening the world's security. And it is our major moral right to fundamentally and persistently defend our positions, because this is our country that took the brunt of [the onslaught of] Nazism, met it with heroic resistance, went through the hardest trials, determined the outcome of that war, crushed the enemy and brought liberation to all world's nations."

For fairness sake, it should be noted that two paragraphs before he's said:

"And we pay due respect to states which have made great contribution to defeating the common and cruel enemy."

This falls short of "we have single-handedly defeated Nazi Germany", but not by a large margin. All the other Allies were just "contributors" according to Putin's speech.

Peter A.May 9, 2014 12:23 PM

Aaah, and the last sentence of this paragraph:

"This victory is a powerful support for younger generations, who shall know and remember that they are the heirs of the winners, the true soldiers of freedom."

Nice propaganda. Some nations feel the weight of the "soldiers of freedom" boots to this day,

yesmeMay 9, 2014 12:31 PM

I always used to think that it was a fanatic Austrian corporal who defeated Nazi Germany.

TheHistorianMay 9, 2014 1:17 PM

To tell the truth, Putin was not far off re: Red Army's role in WW2. This is well known fact, unless you have learned history by watching Hollywood. The turning point was: Stalingrad, Kursk (Eastern Front) and El Alamein (Allied forces). The fiercest battles took place in the Eastern Front, and that is where the most German forces and bulk of German war materials were going to. Because of that, at El Alamein, Rommel was forced to rely on capturing of Allied supplies. The math is simple, more than 20 million of Russians were killed during this war and this gives Putin the right to say what he said.

Would Russia be able to destroy Hitler single handed? I don't think so.

I am not big fun of Mr. Putin, but I must admit that lots of shit (oh shit, I am in trouble now for swearing ;) coming his way because of Western propaganda. We don't have time to verify all facts given to us by the media, and they usually feeding us crap (here we go again). It is not dissimilar situation to the recent and well publicised Open Source vulnerability. It is open source, but who is to other to check every line of code every update. Another one with RSA encryption, everyone was using it thinking we can definitely trust RSA. Oops.

TheHistorianMay 9, 2014 1:37 PM

Here are some figures to illustrate the scale of Stalingrad and El Alamein battles.

Stalingrad

Total casualties for both sides are estimated to be over two million!

El Alamein

Total casualties for both sides:
1st battle 30,250 were casualties,
and about 44,102 in the 2nd.

homo sovieticusMay 9, 2014 3:08 PM

@Clive,

That Russia defeated the Third Reich single-handedly has been a feature of soviet/russian propaganda since 1945. As I was growing up in the Soviet Union we were inundated with this, as russians still are. I find it strange that you are surprised to hear this from the lips of KGB lieutenant colonel.

DBMay 9, 2014 3:15 PM

To say Russia "took the brunt" of Hitler's forces is at least not much of an exaggeration, and somewhat likely not an exaggeration at all. But using the words "single handedly" is an exaggeration I don't think even most Americans would go so far to say. Most of us Americans at least know that other countries EXIST even if we know nothing about them and think they should all ideally be changed to be morally and politically exactly like us... (doh)

Truly, multiple countries could rightly claim to have "determined the outcome" of the war, precisely BECAUSE no single country can claim to have "single handedly" defeated Hitler. It was, after all, determined by multiple countries working together, to accomplish a task none could do alone. That's what allies are supposed to do, right?

I'd even go so far as to say that if any single one of the major-force Allied power countries were NOT in that war, that it could easily have had a different outcome. So that means that quite literally they each INDIVIDUALLY "determined the outcome" not only collectively...

This is not quite the same technically as taking all the credit, though I can see how it could be interpreted that way, especially in a patriotic/propaganda context, rather than a logical one like I've presented here. Putin is a master at dancing right up to the edge pushing the boundaries so to speak.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasonsMay 9, 2014 3:18 PM

@ DB

Well that does it. We've been granted the privilege to curse and they have not. Clearly we are free and they are not.

That's hilarious, are you sure your not a congressional member? This is just the type of thinking required to rise to the top of the democratic food chain.

Nick PMay 9, 2014 4:27 PM

@ name.withheld and DB

Ah, but it is good logic. Despite surveillance state or corruptions here, most of us can say or do whatever we want with few consequences. There are lines that can't be crossed which will get governments, big companies or the public coming after you. Yet, they're typically easy to see coming and avoid. If not, there's anonymity tools, lawyers, a few basic rights, and guns to protect you from various threats. And most problems at worst result in a fine or a run through our legal system. Even with 2nd largest prison population, it's still uncommon for an American to be imprisoned, tortured or executed for about any reason. Even a cussing, homosexual, opponent of the state with a liberal, Muslim faith will likely remain free and alive despite many politicians wishing otherwise.

So, we're way more free & safe from government than Russia. It's one good point in a comparison. Although, far as press freedom, Iceland is leading the way right now with the recent legislation they passed. Any self-described democracy or republic should emulate them in that regard.

SkepticalMay 9, 2014 5:29 PM


Russia's attack on free speech can only be described as in-depth.

The Bloggers' Law aims at removing anonymous speech (something protected by the First Amendment in the United States), which would certainly have devastating consequences on freedom of expression.

But Russia has also adopted more direct approaches, as recently reported: Russia Blocks Access to Major Independent News Sites.

As to Putin's speech on WW2:

The sacrifices of Soviet troops, composed of various nationalities, cannot be overstated. They were enormous.

As to whether Hitler would have fallen without the Soviet Union:

Yes. It would have required more time, but less than you might think.

And two words should end the debate on whether any single nation could have defeated Germany: Manhattan Project.

Peter A.May 9, 2014 5:45 PM

It is true that the Russians have fought the fiercest and deadliest battles in WW2, and suffered most casualties, even if partly because of Stalin's stupidity and paranoia - The Great Purge removing top notch army officers, disbelieving his own intelligence services etc. That size of their involvement and grave losses are simply a fact. Taking all (or most) credit for defeating Hitler's forces is an exaggeration, maybe even not a very large one - but posing as world's liberators and the true and leading anti-Nazi force is way over the top.

The Soviets have turned anti-Nazi only after Hitler betrayed them. Before, they went hand-in-hand with Hitler in his conquest. Soviets has started the war together with Nazis, as previously agreed secretly in the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, while other powers just stood idle - for a time. Also, the "liberation" they brought while pushing back the Nazi forces was hardly liberation at all.

name.withheld .for.obvious.reasonsMay 9, 2014 6:15 PM

@ Nick P
My apologize but I am going to have to call you out on this.

1.) A narrow statement is used as conformation of of complex system.
2.) The use of the above statement to finalize an argument. (Sounds like the science is solved, as I have stated before, there is no complete knowledge--period)
3 ) I believe (subjective) that my observation is correct, this type of thinking IS required to operate inside the land of hypocrisy--and the embellishment is mine.

Enough said, oops--that's my take.

Clive RobinsonMay 9, 2014 7:00 PM

With regards WWII from what I learnt from my parents, school and later research the person responsible for the German defeat was an unknown german signals clerk...

He sent a message on the German High Command signals telegraph system twice under the same key, the first time unabriviated the second time with abbreviations (like "number" became "nr"). The Lorenz teleprinter encryption system used was a stream cipher using an exclusive or system of applying the key stream to the plaintext.

Known as Tunny to those working in the testery at Bletchly Park, the two messages of near equal length was worked on by Tiltman who recovered the keystream. Bill Tutte worked on the keystream and saw the patterns that enabled him to work out a new fundemental crypto analytic method that gave the size and arangment of the twelve cipher wheels. This gave rise to the "Heath Robinson" machine which Tommy Flowers rebuilt in a near all electronic system which was called Colossus, which is now credited as being the worlds first programable electronic computer.

Colossus gave a unique insight into Hitlers thinking process as well as compleate "Orders of Battle" of the Germans, this inteligence turned the tide in both North Africa and the Eastern Front.

In many respects Stalin was as incompetent or even more so than Hitler as a military leader. This dual incompetance by the direct involvment of both political leaders and their mutual hatred and paranoia is why the number of deaths on the Eastern Front were so high. The British provided the Russians with the order of battle for Kursk which gave the Russians their first victory over the Germans, subsiquent intel gave further victories.

The difference in the number of deaths in the Eastern Front and North Africa had more to do with the terain and mentality of the field commanders. North Africa was near empty desert and the battle was with mechanised vehicals. The Eastern Front started in open country which the Germans used to their advantage however it soon came upto major cities and Hitler interfered and insisted on certain vanity objectives which resulted in warfare of similar performance as trench warfare in WWI where thousands were to die for just a few yards of territory. Further the way prisoners of war were treated was remarkably different due to the non signing of international treaties on war.

However Germany was unable to deliver the forces available to them to the Eastern Front, this was due to the activites in Southern Europe and the Caucuses and to the need to defend the Atlantic defences against allied attack.

As has been observed Hitler was responsible on many occasions for the German defeat, he was continuously choping and changing war production and chosing to defend militarily usless teritory. As history later showed the British had a number of plans to assasinate him but realised that they were better leaving him alive.

But those figures need to be viewed against the number of deaths during WWII it averaged 10,000,000/year... which is unimaginable to most humans which probably prompted Stalins infamous comment on the killing of people in vast numbers. It's been estimated that the intel that came out of Bletchly shortened the war by upto five years so may well have saved 50,000,000 lives.

One of the reasons why the work of Tiltman, Tutte and Flowers was kept secret was that the Russians had captured a number of Lorenz machines that they reconditioned and used for a number of years (until a mole in western inteligance supplied the information to the Russians).

DavidMay 9, 2014 7:52 PM

"A quick googling didn't find a clear answer on the German laws. I presume they apply to people running servers, rather than posting?"

Everyone who runs a site (e.g. bloggers) has to publish name, location and contact information (called "Impressum"). That applies to everyone who runs a website in Germany or who runs a site anywhere in the world, that is directed at a German audience. The laws are called "Telemediengesetz" and "Rundfunkstaatsvertrag" (streams might be considered "broadcasting"). If you use social network sites, like facebook, for non-private stuff (like artists showing off their pictures, bloggers advertising their blog, …) you will also have to disclose name, location and contact information (or link to it) in the same way.

Still, does nobody have an actually reliable source on Russia's new law? The NYT is hardly trustworthy on this topic.


@Skeptical:
"The Bloggers' Law aims at removing anonymous speech (something protected by the First Amendment in the United States), which would certainly have devastating consequences on freedom of expression."

That is bs. The first amendmend protects free speech, not anonymous free speech. And as shown above, even stricter laws than the new Russian law applies in Germany. Have you seen the NYT fuzz about the end of free speech in Germany?

FluffyMay 9, 2014 8:33 PM

@David
The SCOTUS has ruled repeatedly that the first amendment protects anonymous speech. See the discussion at www.eff.org.

Putin is no friend to free speech. Any new "law" he and his people put forward is guaranteed to be a step back on some level. One only wishes the situation were different here. Our political leadership is less brazen, but they are every bit as enamored of top down control. They are constrained by history, the constitution and contemporary social mores, not by any warm&fuzzy inherent goodness.

From the now-normalized restrictive new interpretations of copyright law to the ongoing efforts to undo net neutrality, our bureaucratic elite side with powerful moneyed interests, and screw the average man. Their actions are designed to thwart the free and open exchange of ideas and are inherently damaging to freedom of speech. That they do it all on behalf of the Almighty Dollar rather than raw, non-monetize power does really change that fact.

Putin looks like a coarse, small, 3rd class punk by comparison.

DBMay 9, 2014 8:58 PM

@ Skeptical:

"And two words should end the debate on whether any single nation could have defeated Germany: Manhattan Project."

Typical American thinking... the solution to every problem is to blow it all up. And this is precisely why the rest of the world should fear and resist continuing growing of American world dominance just as surely as we all resisted world dominance by Hitler! To be clear, I say this as a full blooded American who is appalled at my own country! Wake up! Fix this, people! The rest of the world are not our slaves!

@ name.withheld & Nick P:

Obviously what I said was meant as a snide remark that might actually get some people thinking... are we free? what is freedom really?

To be clear, the difference between a "right" and a "privilege" is that a right is something you inherently have, and a privilege is something you don't, but someone else can grant to you (and can take it back too). More and more of our rights are being redefined as privileges, which does not bode well for our future.

@ David:

Correct, the 1st amendment isn't about privacy, the 4th amendment is, when it guarantees freedom from searches without probable cause. The fact that our American government is searching though almost everything we all do or say electronically, trawling looking for "key words" or locations other patterns that might indicate we're terrorists, is directly against our Constitution. The fact that they give the GCHQ access to collect it for us and then give the info back to us should not let them out of the duties of the Constitution (and various other ways they try to explain away its legality, like the ridiculous "metadata" thing).

DBMay 9, 2014 9:16 PM

@ David

Well obviously Fluffy had a better explanation than me, since you did say "anonymous free speech" not general "privacy"... but you can't deny that they are at least related in many ways. Sometimes principles have some overlap.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasonsMay 9, 2014 10:04 PM

@ DB
Well said--and I agree. Congressional representatives have been publically re-stating their duty to "protect our rights" and that is why I am suspicious when congress legislates new authoririties to protect those rights. What they should be doing is guaranteeing that they do not imping upon our inherent rights and step away from the paternalism that is rampant in government.

Yes, I knew you were kidding--kind of. Just couldn't help but laugh and you are probably aware that I am a big fan of identifying the less obvious. As an United States citizen I am embarrassed and upset that we (the citizenry) have such doluts in government. This last week was certainly a case in point. Congress could find no reason to think (let alone find themselves inside or outside of a box)--there in a bubble.

And ordinarily I find Nick to quite thoughtful--and I can see how you made the conclusions about my statement. I'm starting to wonder if he isn't "Watson"? Seems like an obvious kind or response from a system based on machine learning. Did I tell you I know something about artifical intelligence--it's why I can so easily spot a politician.

TheHistorianMay 9, 2014 10:17 PM

"British provided the Russians with the order of battle for Kursk which gave the Russians their first victory over the Germans" - this is what I was referring to when mention Hollywood :-). There have been a few significant Russian victories before that and no British or American intelligence won the war. As to Manhattan project, it is naive to think Germans were not working on nukes. Hypothetically, if Hitler hasn't turned against Jews, he would most likely be the 1st to have the bomb and the rocket to deliver it to NY, London and Moscow.

DBMay 9, 2014 11:10 PM

@ name.withheld

Exactly. When big government claims to need to step in to "protect our rights"... I can only ask: protect from whom? You see... big government ITSELF is the only real main potential intruder, from a big picture perspective... it's going to protect us from itself? I guess that's what the Bill of Rights is supposed to do, but how is that going when they keep end-running around them? Can anyone say conflict of interest?

There were founding fathers who were against writing a Bill of Rights in the first place, because, they argued, even having such a thing would imply that such rights were NOT inherent to all mankind, and that governments "granted" them like privileges upon their property citizenry.... And certainly our government's current refusal to recognize foreigners as having any human rights applying to them by saying the Bill of Rights doesn't apply to non-Americans is right up this vein. They're going back toward the old government-master citizen-slave model by promoting that. That's why it's such a slippery slope to allow ANY rights to erode for ANY man worldwide... and it will always come around to bite you in the ass eventually. Oh crap I'm banned in Russia... oh crap again... sigh. :)

Nick PMay 9, 2014 11:55 PM

@ name.withheld

"1.) A narrow statement is used as conformation of of complex system.
2.) The use of the above statement to finalize an argument. (Sounds like the science is solved, as I have stated before, there is no complete knowledge--period)"

I ain't disagreeing with you on that. I wasn't really disagreeing with you at all, actually. I was just teasing you people while throwing in a few points on U.S. vs Russia level of freedom. ;)

"this type of thinking IS required to operate inside the land of hypocrisy"

It's one kind of thinking that can get there. However, I'd like to add that much of the kind of evil and apparent foolishness we see can be explained by selfishness and apathy. I know that at least some of the people on the top know exactly what they're doing & the hypocrisy of their statements/actions. Yet, their true motivation is selfish gain & they don't care about the rest. It leaves everything else to be a seriest of misdirections and manipulations to achieve their goals.

How many times it's a case of what you're talking about or what I'm talking about I don't know. It's hard to be sure of the real motives or reasoning of selfish, deceitful people. Except in a few cases, I'd only be guessing.

@ DB

I figured about your remark and intention. Like I told name.withheld, I was just messing around & dropping a few points at same time.

"To be clear, the difference between a "right" and a "privilege" is that a right is something you inherently have, and a privilege is something you don't, but someone else can grant to you (and can take it back too). More and more of our rights are being redefined as privileges, which does not bode well for our future."

I disagree. We have no rights. Ever. They're the stuff of fairy tales. We only have privileges. The real world has plenty selfishness, moral flexibility, and competition for scarce resources. To get what many call "rights," a war was fought, many more battles followed, another war was implied (2nd Amendment), and many viscious cycles of non-violent battles (Congress/Courts) happened continuously. The line isn't between rights & privileges as all are privileges if the State is selfish. The line is between what protection you've won at the moment & what you haven't. Vigilance & commitment to action upon betrayal keeps that going. A lack of it causes a loss of these precious privileges.

Americans have neither been vigilant often nor taken strong action against much revealed corruption. End result is their privileges continue to be revoked by their powerful, relentless opponent. They will have to show more committment to maintaining the right power balance if they want to keep what they have or get more protections. The first step will be, as I'm writing, to quit pretending it's something that's owed, deserved or handed out. It's a non-natural thing that we have to work and/or fight for because it's very worth it. I hope the majority starts doing that at some point.

A0nymMay 9, 2014 11:59 PM

Freedom of speech .. yeah, try searching WSJ, CNN and other mainstream news for "Odessa May 2, 2014" Even if you have a degree in quantum physics, you want be able to understand what exactly happened there and who was responsible there. All is washed out and diluted to remain in line with anti-Russian and pro-Western politics.

Facts

After eating Nuland's cookies :-), Ukrainian nationalists in Odessa on May 2, 2014 ambushed pro-Russian protesters inside the building. The nationalists surrounded and set this building on fire and sent execution teams inside the burning building. 10 people jumped from the burning building and died. Were they chased be the gang inside? 6 people were shot dead. The most of remaining inside (45 people) have died from being bitten to death or strangled, then burnt. The current official number is 61 dead and hundreds of injured.

Have a look at the photos in this link, but I am warning you, this is not for the faint-hearted

http://www.sott.net/article/278522-The-truth-about-what-happened-in-Odessa-Ukraine-How-Bandera-psychopaths-murdered-raped-and-burned-people-alive-with-the-blessing-of-the-Western-powers

ThothMay 10, 2014 12:58 AM

It isn't a surprise but more of a confirmation on yet another state-based tyranny. The importance of getting cryptography right and putting profit margins on the back seat is increasingly important. The techniques are there but the deployments are usually flawed. Everyone armed with proper encryption would effectively make censorship and government dragnets useless.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasonsMay 10, 2014 2:04 AM

@ Nick P
There you go again--tisk, tisk, tisk. "you people" is sooo condecending--lumps us in with the rest of the rif-raf why don't you. ;)

Coyne TibbetsMay 10, 2014 2:16 AM

@Skeptical "The Bloggers' Law aims at removing anonymous speech (something protected by the First Amendment in the United States), which would certainly have devastating consequences on freedom of expression."

Anonymous speech is hardly protected here in the U. S., as numerous government officials (federal and state) have pointed out. Laws are proposed here that would ban anonymity; the latest (just this week) is the "Internet Driver's License" proposal.

Autocrats and plutocrats hate anonymity, because it tends to equalize power between critics of policies and the policymakers. Identified, a critic can be punished by a variety of abuses: economic, legal and social. An anonymous critic is difficult to strike at.

So Skeptical is correct in the assessment that loss of anonymity devastates free speech.

NSA and other intelligence agencies have maintained there is no harm in recording metadata for all phone calls, emails, and web accesses; that these can have no harmful effect on our society. Yet here we see that can't be true, for the people know they are recorded and are therefore not anonymous; and that very knowledge must be destructive of free speech.

Of course, many from that domain would counter that the issue is Snowden and other "leakers" (traitors). That isn't true. Imagine a murderer who argues he was arrested "because his partner couldn't keep quiet": The problem isn't the partner (messenger) the problem is the murder (illegal act).

It is the very act of that surveillance, that is harmful to our society. As it is so often said, "Murder will out." Illegal acts are always discovered eventually, and no such act can be hidden in darkness forever. If not Snowden: then another.

From this point of view, it appears that the theoretical harms of the various surveillance programs are not limited to Fourth Amendment concerns, but also necessarily implicate First Amendment concerns.

DBMay 10, 2014 2:16 AM

@Nick P

I don't mean to disagree with you about people being inherently selfish, for I agree with that... but what balances this out in your world view? How does mankind keep from just imploding into a downward spiral of death and extinction within a few years? That is.. how has it so far? not how will it in the future, the future hasn't been written yet, we are busy writing it in the present. Sure there have been cycles of this in history, but I see so much evil around me in the world that there must be some sort of capacity for good somewhere somehow too, or mankind would simply go extinct every 10 years after it evolved or something :P The real cycles we see are much longer, and also have great moments of compassion and good in them too... where do they come from? In my view, there has to be some bigger picture of what constitutes man and the value of mankind than just The State and its lowly monkey slave subjects and everyone selfishly fighting each other for more food and stuff all the time.

mozMay 10, 2014 2:39 AM

There is a more fundamental translational mistake above. The Russians would never claim to be involved in WWII, the war that started on 1 September 1939; instead they count their Great Patriotic War from 22 June 1941. Why? During the period between those two dates the USSR was actively cooperating with it's ally Germany in the invasion of Europe.

The Russian conduct of the war was rather different from the other allies. For almost the entirety of the war, Russia maintained peaceful relations with Japan leaving the fight in East Asia entirely to the other Allied powers.

Finally, where most of Europe considers the European part of WWII to have finished on 8 May when the Germans gave up, the Russians continued fighting until 11 may with the specific aim of ensuring that the USSR controlled Czechoslovakia later enabling the Soviet takeover of Carpathian Ruthenia and the imposition of Communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe.

The Russians may have had the largest number of casualties in WWII, however they ware directly involved in starting it and they pursued it in a way designed to maximise their control of territory at the end rather than aim for speed and cooperation with the countries they were "liberating". Much of this was imposed on his soldiers at their own cost by Stalin, however it is a strong stain on Russia's claim to have fought for freedom.

TheHistorianMay 10, 2014 4:36 AM

to moz:
Peaceful Russian relationship with Japan? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battles_of_Khalkhin_Gol
Where did you learn the history to speak so confidently (read ignorantly) There was no peace between RU an Jp.
Russia didn't go into the official war with Japan to avoid fighting on two fronts. Hard to blame for that.

Blaming Russia for starting this war is blatantly idiotic. TREATY OF VERSAILLES, grid of French and British gov and the uncomfortable now true about Munich Agreement in 1938 were the primary causes for WW2 (apart from brainwashed and psychologically screwed up Hitler during his hospital treatment from hysteria induced blindness).

I must agree with you on Russia's push to control more territories. A few hundred more of Red Army solders died because of this.

On slightly different topic here:
We tend to use Russia and USSR interchangeably here, however modern Russia is not USSR. Stalin was Georgian, like Mikheil Saakashvili. Nikita Khrushchev, the guy who caused the Caribbean Crisis (and gave Russian Crimea in 1954 to Ukraine) was Ukranian. :-)

majestyxMay 10, 2014 5:40 AM

in capitalism: that works over the money machine

other "tools" but the same s*** ;)

Good Night & Good Luck!

yesmeMay 10, 2014 5:51 AM

@DB

Nick P beat me to it. This quote if from a highly underrated movie from 1980, called "The Formula".

"Rights? Rights? There are no rights. There is only luck."

gargamelMay 10, 2014 9:10 AM

I have been thoroughly enjoying the bitch-slap fest between Russian and American cronies in this forum over the last week or so. I was about to suggest they drop to petty banter and get back to work, but then I realised that basically means collecting even more snaphots of naked teenagers on Yahoo chat...

Bob S.May 10, 2014 10:55 AM

I wonder if American bloggers are not secretly registered and monitored by the US government and have been for years based on some secret law, court order or in house law interpretation.

We know for a fact DoJ was secretly monitoring American journalists. From wikipedia:

"On May 13, 2013, the Associated Press announced telephone records for 20 of their reporters during a two-month period in 2012 had been subpoenaed by the Justice Department..... The DOJ did not direct subpoenas to the Associated Press; instead, the subpoenas were issued to their telephone providers, including Verizon Wireless.[2]"

There is ALWAYS an excuse for this kind of skullduggery. Always.

My point is, it might be better to be open about police state oppression rather than doing it secret police state style.

DBMay 10, 2014 6:33 PM

@ Bob S

Yes, there are always excuses for everything, that doesn't mean we should accept them. For example, I could think of an excuse to nuke the whole world: it would bring about world peace and solve world hunger... that doesn't mean we should accept that excuse. In fact, we shouldn't. It's a solution worse than the problem. Civil war in America is another example of a solution that's worse than the problem. Much worse. Not only would it be nasty during such a war, but afterward it would not bring about a better government in the end, even if it could win (which it can't). People are the problem. People in power even more so. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

In spite of all that, there is something good somehow somewhere in the world too, or we'd have been totally wiped out many times over already. Let's seek that good, and try to foster it and grow it.

SkepticalMay 10, 2014 10:09 PM

@David: That is bs. The first amendmend protects free speech, not anonymous free speech.

@Coyne: Anonymous speech is hardly protected here in the U. S., as numerous government officials (federal and state) have pointed out.

Check your own shoes for that bs, David. As Justice Stevens wrote for the Court in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission:

Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.

At issue in that case was a state law prohibiting the distribution of anonymous campaign literature (the petitioner, an elderly woman named Margaret McIntyre, had distributed anonymous leaflets opposing the passage of an additional tax to fund local schools).

Obviously, the analogy to speech online is easy to make, and the importance of anonymity to freedom of speech has been upheld by the courts in a wide variety of contexts.

You can start with the EFF's introduction to the issue and then go from there.

@DB: I addressed the discussion as to whether a single nation could have defeated Hitler by pointing out that Nazi Germany could not withstand the atom bomb, regardless of other factors: "And two words should end the debate on whether any single nation could have defeated Germany: Manhattan Project."

You responded with:

Typical American thinking... the solution to every problem is to blow it all up.

I think nuclear weapons are relevant to assessing the likelihood of various outcomes to World War II. That's typical of the thinking of anyone aware of reality.

@TheHistorian: As to Manhattan project, it is naive to think Germans were not working on nukes. Hypothetically, if Hitler hasn't turned against Jews, he would most likely be the 1st to have the bomb and the rocket to deliver it to NY, London and Moscow.

The Germans were indeed working on nuclear weapons. They were well behind the Americans. The counterfactual we're considering is whether the Allies would have won without the Soviet Union, and, separately, whether the US would have won even without the other Allies. The additional counterfactual you introduce (a more tolerant Hitler) isn't relevant.

@Bob S.: There is ALWAYS an excuse for this kind of skullduggery. Always.

You're referencing a government investigation into the criminal leak of an intelligence operation in Yemen. The leak, reportedly, exposed the identity of Saudi double-agent to AQAP.

That is light years away from what is happening in Russia. Imagine President Obama ordering that Fox News and The Weekly Standard be shut down because he disapproved of their criticism, and then you'll be in the same solar system.

The false equivalences being drawn in this thread are truly remarkable.

Nick PMay 10, 2014 11:13 PM

@ name.withheld

"There you go again--tisk, tisk, tisk. "you people" is sooo condecending--lumps us in with the rest of the rif-raf why don't you. ;)"

And me being from the South just makes my eyes do a few extra rotations reading that one haha.

@ DB

" How does mankind keep from just imploding into a downward spiral of death and extinction within a few years? "

We're not 100% selfish. We have values such as fairness, altruism, and so on. As Bruce's book points out, we also evolve ways of incentivizing certain kinds of behavior that's perceived as good for the group.

The point of my comment was more that there are no rights by default & the nature of humans means any protections take work to maintain. They take work to create, maintain, evolve and defend. That it takes so much work to make that happen further reinforces that the notion of rights is fantasy. There are none. There are simply established agreements that are *usually* adhered to so long as work is put into maintaining them. Looking at it that way is necessary to come up with effective, rather than ideal, strategies for tackling democratic issues in political battles. Especially in regards to how you'll get people to go along with a certain thing.

@ yesme

It was just something that I came up with thinking long about things. I've never heard of the movie. I'm going to have to watch it now. :)

@ gargamel

"I have been thoroughly enjoying the bitch-slap fest between Russian and American cronies in this forum over the last week or so."

I'm glad you enjoy it. Bitch-slapping is more a reflex for me than an intentional thing.

" but then I realised that basically means collecting even more snaphots of naked teenagers on Yahoo chat..."

I gotta do something in between mentally draining attempts at security engineering. They were all 18+, though. I made them show me their driver's license just to be sure. ;)

@ Bob S

"I wonder if American bloggers are not secretly registered and monitored by the US government and have been for years based on some secret law, court order or in house law interpretation."

They're probably not registered (outside Wordpress et al). They might be surveilled, though. If leaks taught us anything, it's that NSA vacuums up about everything but only focuses on things that catch their interest. So, if anyone is on their list or uses content that trips their sensors, they're likely under an automated surveillance. Yet, in our country, this largely isn't a problem unless someone is a real threat to them or an incidental victim (eg innocents hit after Boston bombing). There's a large number of people posting stuff in U.S. that can result in imprisonment or execution in a number of countries.

Worst that typically happens here is you ID yourself in a post about a "hot" topic, people hate you for it, and you loose social status or job. That problem is solved by not IDing yourself. This takes care, but can be done. This won't stop a government most of the time but the prevalence of such sites here should make people less concerned that our govt's surveillance efforts are a serious threat to bloggers.

I mean, Bruce's blog would be one of the first to go down or be subverted for tracking threats. Between a few people and I, we've posted enough here to give the NSA analysts many sleepless nights should anyone implement our suggestions. Blog's still here, Bruce is still here, I'm still here, a few others are still where they are, the ideas keep flowing, and so maybe things aren't as bad as they could be. Not for now.

Nick PMay 11, 2014 12:35 AM

@ Skeptical

re anonymous speech

A quick search on the issue leads me to headlines that support the other two's position on anonymous speech. Protected speech is supported to quite a degree by many predents. Anonymous speech has no reliable legal footing as it's been beaten many times in courts by those seeking to unmask people. That's before we even get to things like national security letters and BULLRUN-style subversions. I put them second as they're from a limited number of actors or potential threats to anonymity. The legal system ruling against it so many times is a larger threat as it can be used by plenty of people in the future.

Anonymous speech isn't legally protected in America. I dare say it's not in most countries as anonymity is quite a threat to those in power.

Coyne TibbetsMay 11, 2014 1:00 AM

@Skeptical

Well, McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission was in 1995. In more recent years, court after court has ordered the exposure of anonymous individuals on pretexts that, in many cases, can hardly be said even to rise to probable cause.

The Supreme Court remains silent on these issues.

An example is the recent "Mayor versus @Peoriamayor" twitter thing (here and here). Now, of course, the charge of "false personation of a public official" has been dropped (here) because it unsurprisingly turns out to be inapplicable to electronic media.

My analysis is this: The charge was only made to accomplish exposure and punishment of the anonymous tweeter. Exposure involved obtaining an order on "probable cause" ordering production of the tweeter's real name; punishment involved obtaining warrants on "probable cause" permitting a search of the tweeter's home and his arrest.

I placed quotes around "probable cause" above because, in retrospect, it is plain that the probable cause did not actually exist, since the supposed crime cannot have occurred. Of course, while searching the tweeter's residence, some marijuana was found and they are still pursuing that charge--punishment accomplished.

But the concern here is anonymity, so let's stick to that: The tweeter's anonymity was exposed on a pretext. Moreover, this case is hardly unique in that respect:

  • Idaho judge: Newspaper must provide details on anonymous commenter; pretext: defamation, for comments that are obviously opinion related to a public official
  • A tale of two cities: when officials overreach; actually two cases. Pretext for the first: Discrimination (by commenting) against blacks! Pretext for the second: Revelation of checks to the mayor's wife.
  • Federal court orders unmasking of Wikipedia poster; pretext: "false criticism" damaging a company's reputation
  • Ind. court overturns order that anonymous online poster be ID’d (sorry, the link won't work because it contains invalid characters, but it's on the same site) discusses the overturn on appeals of an order to reveal a poster's identity; the appeals court says the complainant must prove he has a libel case first. But that would be automatic, since there would be no defense team and libel is oh-so-subjective.

In summary, today anonymity is seen as a problem to be "gotten around" by coming up with some applicable "pretext charge" that will convince a court to issue an order exposing the author of anonymous speech.

Not only exposure is a problem: We also have N.Y. bills would squelch anonymity online, which reports how NY state intends to suppress speech by anonymous individuals, by requiring hosts to take down comments from those individuals on demand. No doubt recourse will begin with revealing your name...

It is quite clear that our government and institutional edifices regard online anonymity as a problem that needs to be solved. As I noted above, the Mcyntire ruling is nearly 20 years old, and we have a Supreme Court which is very different from the one that made the ruling in 1995; a Court much more willing to side with the interests of our edifices.

I also note that my original comments on the NSA intrusion into anonymity were ignored; and as I pointed out, those also have their effect.

There is a ruling that supports anonymity from 1995; but it is becoming irrelevant. Today, anonymity is every bit as endangered here in the U.S. as it is in Russia.

BenniMay 11, 2014 1:07 AM

Regarding this new russian law:

Well, it is true that in germany, everyone who runns a website can be sued if he does not put in an impressum with his adress. But there is more: Everyone who runs a web forum can be held responsible for the users comments, in that he can be sued by others if some commenter just writes something that could insult someone.

For this reason, if you post to spiegel.de, or to zeit.de which have comment forums, and if this comment contains an internet link, the post on spiegel will not appear, and on zeit.de it will be redacted, with the link removed by a statement "As we can not check every link whether it does not contain language that would be a reason to sue die newspaper, we have a policy to remove all links in user comments".

this blog
http://blog.fefe.de/

is famous in germany, but it has no comments, for exactly the reason that the blogger would have to fear to get sued if he opened up a comment forum.

So the registration of bloggers in russia is certainly not untypical for the usual european buereocracy.

However, the russians also have passed a law that says bloggers are now forbidden to unveil private details of persons. Well we in germany have a law that says if the persons from which information is revealed are part of the recent history, e.g. somehow publicly known, then a blogger can of course reveal private information, since this is in public interest.

So, it is more this law that restricts the rights of what bloggers are allowed to publish, qhich is problematic, since it could be used to silence opposition.


And since we are at russia:

I find the recent comments of Michael Hayden at cnn regarding russia very problematic.

http://edition.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/world/2014/05/07/lead-intv-hayden-ukraine-russia.cnn.html


People with opinions simple minded like that should not run an intelligence agency

For example, an international fact finding mission from europe investigated the russia georgia conflict, and found that the claim of georgia of a russian agression was wrong, despite Haydens recent claims on cnn:

http://www.ceiig.ch/pdf/IIFFMCG_Volume_I.pdf

Russia sees the nato as a threat, because of its missile defense system. The russians are very good in ballistic missile computations, and they asserted that nato's missile defense system nullifies their nuclear deterrent.He expresses this in a speech

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/12/AR2007021200555.html and on videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ux3oiWELIQ

and this may in fact be true. Iran would have to develop a spaceflight program, before it would be able to go for long range missiles. But the fear of the americals may be this: Russia has plenty of terrorists in its country, and the missile defense system is perhaps put in place for the emergency case if a chechnyan terrorist commando seizes a russian base and takes a shot. So russia indeed has to live with rockets pointet on their bases. But one at least should say this honestly to them.

When obama gave up his missile defense plans in Czech, he installed the system on a ship in the black sea. And it is perhaps because the russians did not want to let this ship get onto the crimean port, that they invaded the crimea and seized their military base. Nato does not allow countries with territorial conflicts to enter, and so the russians also block ukrainian membership.

But the rest of ukraine, it is quite unlikely that russia has invasion plans.

What happened here is this: The ukrainian population is strongly divided. Here is a report from germany's ard, showing that the people in western ukraine worship indeed people who collaborated with nazis during the second world war, and the people in eastern ukraine instead worship lenin. They are learning this propaganda at school

http://daserste.ndr.de/panorama/archiv/2014/ukraine451.html

Yakonowitsch was elected by the people in the east. He shot the maidan protesters down violently with help of an armed police force called "Berkut". Then he got removed by neonnazis. And then eastern ukrainians took the example of the crim, to organize a referendum. The OSZE fond during its mission that some of the green man had signs of the Berkut police unit on them, the same unit which was used by Yakunowitch to shoot down the maidan protests
http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/118413

Here the new york times writes something on the armed green men in ukraine, where they come from and what is driving them:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/04/world/europe/behind-the-masks-in-ukraine-many-faces-of-rebellion.html?hpw&rref=world&_r=2

The warlords in ukraine also captured some osze military observers. It now was revealed that they indeed were instructed by the german BND:

http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/spionageverdacht-osze-gesandte-mit-naehe-zum-bnd-1.1949899

Gerard Schröder used his personal friendship to let the russian president send someone to talk to the warlords for letting the military observers free:

http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/embrace-of-putin-by-schroeder-bad-for-german-foreign-policy-a-967900.html

It took one week, and still, the real reason to free the observers was that heavily armed forces had appeared before the city. So much on russian influence

On 25.4, the russian embassy in germany announced that russia wants a deep constitutional reform to happen in ukraine, even endorsing proposals for a constitution made by ukrainians:

http://russische-botschaft.de/aktuelles/einzelansicht-news/eintrag/921.html

The ukrainian government some time ago put forward the idea to also make a referendum on territorial integrity of ukraine. Interesting was the reaction of the russian government on this:

http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/ukraine-konflikt-merkel-bittet-putin-um-einsatz-fuer-osze-geiseln-a-967124.html

"Such a referendum will only strengthen the division of the ukrainian people".

Interesting is that the russian government can not find similar words when the separatists have these ideas.

This creates the strong suspicion that these public talks with apparent support to the separatists are merely serving to impress russian voters. Apparently, putin can get more voters, if he takes a stance against nazis. But rejecting proposals of ethnic russians who want to join russia is perhaps not very good for getting conserative voters in russia.

One should note that the osze military observers only come on explicite invite to a country. On crimea, russia simply has forbidden them to enter.

Not so within their own borders. The OSZE military inspectors, whose german members are known to be BND instructed, come from neighbouring countries. In case of russia, canada was involved:

http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/osze-in-der-ukraine-fragen-an-ministerin-von-der-leyen-a-967579.html

So the russians have invited agents from foreign secret services on their own territory.

The question is now, why in face of these facts, former cia boss hayden gives such simplified statements on cnn regarding russla and ukraine:

http://edition.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/world/2014/05/07/lead-intv-hayden-ukraine-russia.cnn.html

Does he simply collect votes for conserative positions, like Putin? Or is the nsa really that stupid? Because if it is stupid like that, it is dangerous.

It unfortunately can be that the nsa is really taking things like these now refuted proofs of russian influence in ukraine as serious. Claims which could be refuted by simple investigative journalists asking around:

http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/ukraine-krise-wie-usa-und-russland-mit-propaganda-arbeiten-a-966009.html

SkepticalMay 11, 2014 2:21 AM

@Coyne: Well, McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission was in 1995. In more recent years, court after court has ordered the exposure of anonymous individuals on pretexts that, in many cases, can hardly be said even to rise to probable cause.

Coyne I can find good case law dating back a couple centuries before 1995. McIntyre is the leading case on the issue and it remains good law. Caselaw doesn't have an expiration date.

Here's the 9th Circuit more recently (2011) on the subject in In re Anonymous Online Speakers, 661 F.3d 1168, at 1173:

First Amendment protection for anonymous speech was first articulated a half-century ago in the context of political speech, Talley v. California, 362 U.S. 60, 64-65, 80 S.Ct. 536, 4 L.Ed.2d 559 (1960), but as the Supreme Court later observed, the Talley decision harkened back to "a respected tradition of anonymity in the advocacy of political causes." McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm'n, 514 U.S. 334, 343, 115 S.Ct. 1511, 131 L.Ed.2d 426 (1995). Undoubtedly the most famous pieces of anonymous American political advocacy are The Federalist Papers, penned by 1173*1173 James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, but published under the pseudonym "Publius." Id. at 344 n. 6, 115 S.Ct. 1511. Their opponents, the Anti-Federalists, also published anonymously, cloaking their real identities with pseudonyms such as "Brutus," "Centinel," and "The Federal Farmer." Id. It is now settled that "an author's decision to remain anonymous, like other decisions concerning omissions or additions to the content of a publication, is an aspect of the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment." Id. at 342, 115 S.Ct. 1511.

Although the Internet is the latest platform for anonymous speech, online speech stands on the same footing as other speech—there is "no basis for qualifying the level of First Amendment scrutiny that should be applied" to online speech. Reno v. Am. Civil Liberties Union, 521 U.S. 844, 870, 117 S.Ct. 2329, 138 L.Ed.2d 874 (1997). As with other forms of expression, the ability to speak anonymously on the Internet promotes the robust exchange of ideas and allows individuals to express themselves freely without "fear of economic or official retaliation . . . [or] concern about social ostracism." McIntyre, 514 U.S. at 341-42, 115 S.Ct. 1511.

This isn't really a matter of much judicial controversy. The core question was settled with a resounding 7-2 vote in the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court remains silent on these issues.

McIntyre was the Court addressing it. Stevens delivered an emphatic opinion for the 7-2 majority.

Now, look, this being the United States, with a lot of local jurisdiction, with a significant minority of idiotic prosecutors and DAs among a group that otherwise strives for high integrity, you will find attempts to circumvent that law. You'll find grand juries issuing subpoenas to unmask local anonymous commenters who are criticizing local government officials. It happens.

When it does, two things tend to follow. First, the ISP on which such orders are commonly served don't roll over. They fight it. And as part of that, they let local and national organizations, such as the ACLU and EFF, know about the issue (ACLU and EFF can lend volunteer attorneys and staff).

And then the motion tends to be quashed, or it's simply withdrawn (since at this point there's also negative publicity for the politico trying to abuse legal powers to punish a critic).

I wish that they didn't attempt to pull that crap, and frankly it makes me absolutely furious to see any kind of abuse of power in that regard. It truly makes me outraged, and were I a federal prosecutor I'd look high and low for a reason to nail their hides to the wall. Fortunately, that's the kind of attention these guys can expect after pulling this crap.

An example is the recent "Mayor versus @Peoriamayor" twitter thing (here and here). Now, of course, the charge of "false personation of a public official" has been dropped (here) because it unsurprisingly turns out to be inapplicable to electronic media.

Yeah, all I know of it is one of the articles you cited. Sounds like a BS case, and it sounds like litigation is brewing against the Mayor. Note that this is not working out well for the Mayor. The State Attorney backed off the case almost immediately, and the Mayor is now viewed to have abused his powers (which he certainly did). He looks like an incompetent jackass. And no one sounds very intimidated.

Hopefully there's a legal hook available for the parties directly harmed by this to pound the Mayor, though that can be tricky when official acts are involved.

But the concern here is anonymity, so let's stick to that: The tweeter's anonymity was exposed on a pretext.

Yup, it can happen. That you have a right does not mean it will be 100% protected all of the time, unfortunately. Cases like this, though they do happen (and I'm glad that they're news when they happen, since the public shaming discourages others from even trying), are not the norm.

Idaho judge: Newspaper must provide details on anonymous commenter; pretext: defamation, for comments that are obviously opinion related to a public official

Glanced at this one. It appears the anonymous commenter accused the official of embezzlement, repeatedly. And quite frankly, the court likely wouldn't have backed an order to have the commenter's identity turned over, except that the commenter issued an apology, in which she admitted that she had absolutely no basis for the accusation... which unfortunately makes for a viable defamation suit. And so the identity was disclosed.

US defamation laws with respect to public figures are very, very lax, but outright accusations of criminal behavior, if not backed by some evidence or just couched carefully, are iffy enough to survive an initial motion to dismiss and see a trial.

In any event, we're getting a bit lost in the weeds here.

The upshot is this:

The First Amendment does protect anonymity in connection with free expression in the United States.

This protection is robust. There are many organizations eager to help defend this right should you find it under attack.

However, as with all rights, there will be parties who test those rights for self-interested reasons. Usually, those parties will lose; they'll lose legally and they'll be embarrassed politically. Sometimes, if the speech in question falls into an exception like defamation, which it's no longer protected speech, the anonymity becomes vulnerable to a civil suit.

In summary, today anonymity is seen as a problem to be "gotten around" by coming up with some applicable "pretext charge" that will convince a court to issue an order exposing the author of anonymous speech.

It's usually not "gotten around." Unless there's a reasonable case that it falls into one of the limited exceptions of speech that receives less protection, there is no getting around it.

Indeed, those headlines you see are headlines precisely because this doesn't often happen.

We also have N.Y. bills would squelch anonymity online, which reports how NY state intends to suppress speech by anonymous individuals, by requiring hosts to take down comments from those individuals on demand. No doubt recourse will begin with revealing your name...

No idea what this is, but idiotic proposals in state legislatures are fairly common. One of the unavoidable side-effects of local democracies.

It is quite clear that our government and institutional edifices regard online anonymity as a problem that needs to be solved. As I noted above, the Mcyntire ruling is nearly 20 years old, and we have a Supreme Court which is very different from the one that made the ruling in 1995; a Court much more willing to side with the interests of our edifices.

I'm going to go ahead and call bullshit on this one. McIntyre is good law and would be confirmed the Court today.

Fortunately the silly and embarrassing actions of a handful of city and county officials here and there are not indicative of how our government and institutional edifices regard anonymous speech. It's considered, at the highest levels, as a matter of constitutional and federal law, to be protected by the First Amendment. And if someone tries to infringe upon that right, they will find an army of attorneys eager to take up the fight.

I also note that my original comments on the NSA intrusion into anonymity were ignored; and as I pointed out, those also have their effect.

Your description of the NSA's metadata program was inaccurate, and there is not any evidence that it's been used to expose an anonymous speaker or to suppress speech.

As to your last comment, that anonymity in the US is under the same attack as in Russia, with all due respect I must scoff at the idea.

SkepticalMay 11, 2014 2:38 AM

@Nick P: A quick search on the issue leads me to headlines that support the other two's position on anonymous speech. Protected speech is supported to quite a degree by many predents. Anonymous speech has no reliable legal footing as it's been beaten many times in courts by those seeking to unmask people.

I addressed some of this in my response to Coyne.

If you want a better picture of the state of the law, instead of looking up headlines go to Google Scholar, select "caselaw" in the first screen, then federal law, and type "anonymous speech" into the search box. You'll find plenty of cases upholding First Amendment protection. Limit it to 2010+ or whatever if you want more recent cases (though the most important cases may be older).

As to why we can find idiotic DAs egomaniacal politicians to do this kind of thing... probably for the same reason we can find local public schools that attempt to hand out bibles during the school day. People tend to push against a right when it's in their way. Fortunately, there are many civil liberties organizations (and, in fairness, many judges, public officials, and prosecutors of high integrity) willing to take up the fight.

No right is a static thing. There will always be pressures of various sorts against it, and there will always be violations here and there that happen. The best we can do is ensure that the law is strong on this point, that there are ample people willing to defend the right, and that those who attack it pay a heavy price legally and politically.

Since we're in the Russian thread, I have to note the following. In the US, the ACLU commonly wins cases where a local government attempts to discover the identity of an anonymous commentator because of his critical speech. In Russia, the ACLU would find itself literally bruised from the fight (if they're lucky) and there simply wouldn't be much of a hearing.

Final point: this is an instance where federal law protects individuals against local government. Trust me, when you are the only atheist family in the middle of a Mississippi district of hardcore fundamentalists, or when you are the anonymous blogger who finds her local town's bigotry disgusting and says so repeatedly, you very much want the protection that federal law can provide against the whims and prejudices of the local populace.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasonsMay 11, 2014 8:41 AM

@ Nick P, Skeptical
There are multiple forms of speech--and some complexity (though not from my perspective) with this issue. The framers were deliberate in the freedom of the press (and Ben Franklin penned under several pseudonyms--and as a woman). Madison's eloquent treatment of citizen journalists (though stated differently) and Jefferson's adamant insistence that there be an informed citizenry stands as principle in our need for both a free and anonymous press...that political speech is of the first order and even lead to political cartoons (almost infinite form of disparaging political remarks). Defamation in the political arena, no matter the source, is protected unless it meets the Supreme Court's "fire in a theatre" test. So, if I post anonymously to a site espousing my political views I am exercising my right to speak--period. And, determining the nature of speech that narrowly states a topic without being political is one rare beast. You can frame it as bias, internal perspectives, or as a grievance (this is where Madison differentiates the issue and I would argue so does Thomas Paine); whatever makes you comfortable. It is our modern court that is askew--over time the court has parametrically constrained the constitution to such a degree as to render it ineffectual. And congress, seems to be more than happy to back-fill this breach with its own version of subjugation. Yeah!!!

@Nick P

I'd argue that we do have "natural rights", that irrespective of the model (sociology and empirical behavioral theories) or scientifically (adaptation of the species, transmogrification of methods in response to natural acts of human beings) the basis of these rights makes the difference between settling disputes or disagreements by clubbing someone on the head (though I believe we are returning to our homo-habelus roots) and "rationally" resolving issues. Interesting coverage is given both by Bruce in his prior book, (Liars, and Out-liars) and Noam Chomsky (Manufacturing Consent). Noam's observations are quite insightful and damning of the media culture in the United States. He even draws the conclusion that the U.S. form or "censorship" is more insidious as it is more difficult to discern than overt forms of repression.

And what about not-disclosing your identity...does anyone on this blog believe that they have provided for "complete" or "perfect" security. This issue with big data (or collecting everything)--the out-liars become easy to identify--where hiding in the crowd used to be helpful it actually becomes a liability from a discovery or "triggering" circumstance. As I've mentioned Nick, I'm the canary in our digital coal mine, it is time to make assertions more directly...you'd be surprised what this has required of me.

I mentioned my mathematician friend (we spent many college years shooting the fecal matter) that I traveled (without calling, e-mailing, or messaging an arrival) to see alumni relations last year to see on my friends status. And, thanks to both you and Clive for your concern, that did not go unnoticed. I decided to step away from the situation--it was the first time my friend expressed true fear. Our discussions included projects in language processing and various models of directed graphs, AI, contextual search, and cryptography. We had some secure comm's but I did, in April of '13 mention the use of AI in cryptography--my friend asked how that would work I described a system (in allegory) and I could here the light bulb go off in my friend's head. We has also discussed that there was inherent risk associated with "our" research. I still cannot get over the fact that research is an activity that rises to the level of terrorist.

The fact that I am now estranged from family (their protection), and struggle to stay relevant in a world that doesn't understand the risk and perniciousness of the use of technology to make the new government uniforms in the form of brown shirts. Once the shirts are on, they're really hard to take off. Effectively I have a Scarlett letter round my neck--and the longer this persists the greater the risk to my circumstances. Aaron Swartz, Barnaby Jack, Michael Hastings, Julian Assange, Anonymous, and on and on and on--they've all met some form of demise. I'd say there is an extreme risk to out-liars today. It has hit home--and I've written here prior to the "stuff hitting the fan" for many reasons. My primary concern is the development of a future where "we" become nothing more than cogs in some sick dystopia that took us by surprise. This is not to dissimilar to the reason Snowden states the action that he took was based on a future where choice, isn't.

The time has arrived, it's been here for a while. And, as I've stated before...there is one more operational component left to go before the switch can be thrown.

Mr. PragmaMay 11, 2014 3:35 PM

Oh well, Putin is an evil man. That must be so and that must be true because we're hearing and reading this every day so many times. Even more importantly it's the americans saying that so it must certainly be true. americans and their media never spread lies or propaganda. Nevar (except, maybe, every single day around the clock).

"Germany":

From what I hear from my partners family

- everyone must always and everywhere have valid id on himself - and produce it upon request (with de facto no reason other than purely formal).
- everyone must be registered with full address and details. This is also true for secondary addresses (weekend houses, etc.)
- denic, the .de registrar is ridiculously anal and bureaucratic. One can not, for instance, have a valid postbox, no, it must be the full street address and they verify it if in doubt.
- the government is working hard to suppress and abolish any and every means of anonymous payments such as paysafecard or prepaid debit cards.
- to obtain a SIM & number for a mobile phone, the full address must be provided and valid photo id must be shown.
- not too rarely there are scandals because citizens are persecuted by politicians for merely stating their opinion in online comment sections.
aso, aso, ...

But, no doubt, Putin is an evil man, a dictator, and a control freak whereas Germany is a wonderful free democratic country, no doubt!

On a more serious note:

Russia gets attacked by dirty us maneuvers like "democracy movement" groups, colour revolutions, and the like. Unless Russia wants to fall prey - again - to usa, the pleasure to experience Russia had in the 90ies, Russia must protect herself from cia and other us scum attacks.

Putin is respected and valued by a vast majority of Russians - and for a reason. There is *no* western leader, *none*, nada, zilch, to even come close to Putin in demographics - and for a reason.

united stasi of america actually (usually remote) *kills* people all over the planet based on information gained by spying on quite everyone all over the world.
Compared to the massive amount of massive crimes committed on a daily basis by us leaders or even just to the anally orwellian control mania of "free and democratic" Germany (that just happens to be involved in utterly criminal actions in ukraine ...), I'm actually quite at ease concerning "evil, anti-democratic dictator" Putins actions.

Nick PMay 11, 2014 4:26 PM

@ name.withheld

"I'd argue that we do have "natural rights"

I couldn't guess at the argument. On this planet, you *might* be born & you will certainly die after a period of time. This is the only thing that's been consistent among all species. I fail to see the rights in it. Even the reproductive process that nature values so much is denied for a number of creatures. So, there's no evidence of rights by default: just certain people and things fortunate enough to get certain experiences.

"He even draws the conclusion that the U.S. form or "censorship" is more insidious as it is more difficult to discern than overt forms of repression."

I've seen Manufacturing Consent and the techniques he mentions. I've also experienced them in debates. I agree with the assessment that the new form of censorship is more insidious mainly because it works while being effectively invisible & fooling population into thinking they're making informed choices. It's about the most clever, sinister way of defeating a democracy ever conceived. I have to give that to them: they're brilliant at manipulation. This capability is so powerful, esp if extended to Internet & surveillance states with predictive analytics, that it made me question whether major change was even possible past mere concessions by the elites.

"And what about not-disclosing your identity...does anyone on this blog believe that they have provided for "complete" or "perfect" security. "

A desire and a right are two different things. We certainly desire anonymity. Yet, I've always known that I could unmask many here by hacking the blog and then their PC's. There was no real anonymity past the efforts put in by each submitter. The law, the networks, the application... none could protect the anonymity in current form even if it was a "right." And especially not if it's a mere desire that these don't try to protect.

"As I've mentioned Nick, I'm the canary in our digital coal mine, it is time to make assertions more directly...you'd be surprised what this has required of me."

I wouldn't be surprised. I'm sure you've put yourself in quite a situation in combination with your actions. Also, your jaw would drop knowing what my position has required of me. Few would consider my path or self-protection approach a wise one to risk lives on, although a few did think it was clever. Doesn't make me feel much better about it. Yet, it is what it is.

"And, thanks to both you and Clive for your concern, that did not go unnoticed. "

Good to hear.

"We has also discussed that there was inherent risk associated with "our" research. I still cannot get over the fact that research is an activity that rises to the level of terrorist."

I wan't you to remember something very important that I tried to tell to some people in similar situations (to no avail). There definitely *is* risk that your tech, once developed, might cause untold damage in wrong hands. However, it will likely be developed anyway by somebody & the risk will exist. If *you* develop it, you can use our legal system's methods & your first mover position to control its use more effectively.

I'm not saying you should go ahead with it. I'm just saying the stuff you mentioned has massive investment from bright, scheming groups (eg Facebook, In-Q-Tel) and will be developed in time. We might be safer if the tech is in the hands of someone who cares about the potential risks more than the money. Otherwise, it will inevitably end up in the wrong hands.

"The fact that I am now estranged from family (their protection), and struggle to stay relevant in a world that doesn't understand the risk and perniciousness of the use of technology to make the new government uniforms in the form of brown shirts. "

I understand that feeling.

"they've all met some form of demise. I'd say there is an extreme risk to out-liars today. It has hit home--and I've written here prior to the "stuff hitting the fan" for many reasons."

More a concern for you than me due to your prior actions. You definitely fit in their category. Like I told you though, it probably helps that what you published is the kind of thing that they see as having little to no impact. They still like making examples out of people, though, so I'd not post anything that can clearly pinpoint your identity beyond a reasonable doubt in court.

"My primary concern is the development of a future where "we" become nothing more than cogs in some sick dystopia that took us by surprise."

My recent Squid post on transnational elite shows what the system does economically. Almost everything has evolved to protect a return on investment and class division. We already contribute so much to receive so little across the board. Resistance that can change the system often results in penalities via media, financial ruin, prisons, or bullets. The latter are mostly for foreign resistance. Each entity in the system also has a number to identify them for general information gathering, assessment of what they financially contribute to the system, and easier punishment of those not conforming to rules of those in power.

In short, we are already cogs in a dystopia. Much like in The Matrix, it's a form of slavery designed to look like freedom. It's here. They're just steadily evolving their methods to make their control more thorough and inescapable.

"The time has arrived, it's been here for a while. And, as I've stated before...there is one more operational component left to go before the switch can be thrown."

There might be more than one. In any case, I'm not going to happily wait for it: I put effort into designs to use and directions to go for people to get changes going. Yet, they don't act on much of anything from me or anyone else. The opponents can also use my suggestions as such capabilities are a double-edged sword. They might prepare counterattacks, implement high assurance data confidentiality, etc. It can go either way or even both at once.

I guess I've been feeling lately that if Americans continue to march into slavery they deserve to be slaves. Those that don't want this will have to divert that whole mass of Americans, be insurgents in a future War on Dissenters, or move out of the country into a country whose people still matter past their votes and ROI. Those are most likely scenarios.

Coyne TibbetsMay 12, 2014 12:23 AM

@Skeptical

I get the feeling that the overall point is being missed.

Anonymity only exists until destroyed. It's like a Ming vase: Once you drop the vase on the concrete floor, you can't restore the value.

Referring back to the @Peoriamayor thing, they arrested Michelle Pratt, Jacob L. Elliott and three other people from a home. Subsequently. Jon Daniel has confessed to being the tweeter in question, but then he might as well since his name is in public documents.

So tell me: How would you go about making Jon Daniel anonymous again? Yes, Mr. Daniel will probably get a settlement, but the taxpayers will pay that (they usually do when civil rights are violated these days). In the meantime Mayor Jim Ardis, who will likely suffer no personal consequence, has accomplished his goal of deterring any person who would again dare to anonymously criticize his administration.

The 1995 Mcyntire ruling expresses a lofty sentiment indeed, if narrow. It is easy for some people to say, "Well, that's the law of the land, so there." But if that is so, how to reconcile that with the demonstrated reality that anonymity can be utterly destroyed at the whim of any official, plutocrat, or company that "feels offended" by anonymous free speech?

That's the crux: Nothing prevents my name from exposure. All of these so-called protections are post-exposure.

Bob S.May 12, 2014 8:30 AM

@Skeptical, "You're referencing a government investigation into the criminal leak of an intelligence operation in Yemen.....That is light years away from what is happening in Russia."

Wrong.

An excuse, is an excuse, is an excuse anytime, any place, anywhere.

For example, I find your sophistry annoying. If I was in a position of power in the police state I could use that as my excuse to monitor you as a suspect of subversion and threat to the good order. Etc.

SkepticalMay 12, 2014 5:33 PM

@name.withheld: It is our modern court that is askew--over time the court has parametrically constrained the constitution to such a degree as to render it ineffectual.

First Amendment protections have grown over time. I'm not sure why you think they've been constrained by the courts. Reasons?

@Coyne: That's the crux: Nothing prevents my name from exposure. All of these so-called protections are post-exposure.

No. The protections are not all post-exposure. A company can, for example, fight a subpoena ordering it to produce records that would show the identity of a blogger, and the company might receive ample help from various civil liberties organizations in doing so. And companies have done so, successfully.

I emphasized in my comment that there will always be efforts by some in power to decloak anonymous critics of those in power. Sometimes they succeed, even when they shouldn't. But often they don't, and the reason they often don't is because the law protects anonymous speech.

That is why, were a law like "the Bloggers' Law" to be passed in the US, it would with certainty be struck down by US courts.

@Bob S: An excuse, is an excuse, is an excuse anytime, any place, anywhere.

Yes, 1 = 1, A = A, etc. The issue is not whether 1 = 1.

There is ample evidence that the DOJ requested telephone records from a two-month period for specific persons at the Associated Press because there is a reasonable chance that those records contain information relevant to an investigation of a leak of classified, extremely sensitive information about intelligence operations in Yemen that foiled a terrorist plot.

There is ZERO evidence that this is an excuse.

For example, I find your sophistry annoying. If I was in a position of power in the police state I could use that as my excuse to monitor you as a suspect of subversion and threat to the good order. Etc.

Bob, the press annoys people in power at least once an hour. The US government isn't shutting down papers and intimidating journalists. When The Guardian wanted to protect its Snowden material, it sent it to The New York Times. In New York. Bart Gellman happily sits next to, disagrees with, corrects, and criticizes Michael Hayden and the NSA without any fear. Let's get real here.

There's a lot of places for the US to improve. Without question. But it has extremely strong free expression and free press protections; I would call them articles of America's civic faith, and it's something they can be rightly proud of.

Meanwhile in Russia... well here's a story from the NPR on Russian Government efforts to shut down the last independent Russian tv station.

A few months ago they shut down websites critical of the government.

Now they'd like any blogger with an audience to register with the government.

Cheers, comrade.

FigureitoutMay 12, 2014 9:21 PM

British police "ask" blogger to remove critical tweet:

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/may/12/police-ask-blogger-remove-legitimate-tweet-ukip

While they were "polite and respectful", this is a chilling effect; meaning the police are tracking your internet (physically) and have no qualms visiting your home (setting up for potential home invasions). And this is a so-called "Western Democracy" that values free speech. These are the nice stories that get in the news, the horror stories remain hidden (I've been able to get mine out).

Coyne TibbetsMay 13, 2014 10:22 AM

@Skeptical: "No. The protections are not all post-exposure. A company can, for example, fight a subpoena ordering it to produce records that would show the identity of a blogger, and the company might receive ample help from various civil liberties organizations in doing so. And companies have done so, successfully."

Thank you for conceding the point: The 1995 Mcyntire ruling, by itself, is not enough. For my name to be protected, I must depend upon the largess of third parties. Sans their effort, which may well go uncompensated, my name will simply be exposed on whim by anyone who feels offended by my statements.

Otherwise my recourse, post exposure of my name, is to try to obtain a settlement from the other party.

MeisterMay 14, 2014 8:21 AM

Have you read that the Hungarian goverment tries the same with a conservative news site?
Hungary tries to censorship www.kuruc.info because this newssite sometimes discuss about holocaust, and in Hungary if you do not believe in holocaust-history approved centrally, and you ask question against it, you will be consored. Or go to jail.

Coyne TibbetsMay 14, 2014 8:36 AM

I used the Peoria mayor affair in discussion above, because it seemed obvious that the charges were inflated in order to expose the anonymity of the blogger.

How little did anyone know at the time...

It turns out that whent he police obtained the warrant for siezure of the data, Detective Steve Hughs also wrote in his affadavit that there was, "probable cause to believe" that the seized data would contain “evidence, fruits, contraband, and instrumentalities of the dissemination and possession of child pornography."

It seems almost certain that this was outright fantasy: Since the tweeter was anonymous the only way there could have been "probable cause" for "child pornography" is if the tweeter posted child pornography with one of the tweets.

When the government wants to expose someone who is anonymous, any excuse will serve; and this demonstrates beyond any equivocation how little consideration courts give of the right of anonymous speech.

Emails Show Peoria Police Knew There Was No Legal Basis To Pursue Twitter User Who Parodied Mayor Jim Ardis (Techdirt)

mozMay 14, 2014 2:46 PM

@TheHistorian


>Where did you learn the history to speak so confidently (read ignorantly)

>There was no peace between RU an Jp.

I will (selectively - you can go and read the whole thing) quote from the link I provided above. I think that it's a good source where you can begin to learn the basics of the history of this period. Try following the links around Wikipedia and you may begin to get a grounding but remember to follow up on the sources linked from there.

The Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact [...], also known as the Japanese–Soviet Non-aggression Pact [...] was a pact between the Soviet Union and the Empire of Japan signed on April 13, 1941,

On April 5, 1945 the Soviet Union denounced the pact [....] When pressed by the Japanese Ambassador Naotake Sato, Molotov [....] (my emphasis)

Russia was not only at fully at peace with Japan, with an official non-agression pact, but they actually had sufficiently good relations to exchange ambassadors!

The American shills on here at least have the decency to read the material we provide them and lie to us about why they aren't important. Please don't let your side down by being less professional.

On slightly different topic here: We tend to use Russia and USSR interchangeably here, however modern Russia is not USSR.

In this case, this is the entire point here. Equating Soviet suffering with Russian suffering is the same as equating the USSR's victory with Russia's victory. Ukraine was also a Soviet state and can also, in theory, claim it's part of the victory. However the truth is that Russia was the lead state of the USSR (thus "Russian Revolution") and should have a main claim over both the victory and the suffering and crimes triggered by Stalin. The two are inseperable.

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