Tuesday, June 30, 2009
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits Congress from enacting laws abridging the freedom of speech. However, the text of our Constitution and the First Amendment do not expressly address the issue of anonymous speech. Records from the state ratifying conventions and from the First Congress, the drafters of our Bill of Rights, lack any mention of anonymous expression. Still, anonymous speakers and their works played an immensely important role in the founding era and throughout our Nation’s history.
This article explores the interplay of the right to engage in anonymous speech and the freedom of online speech. Part I of this article offers a brief history of anonymous speech from the invention of the printing press until today. Part II discusses two of the most important decisions concerning anonymous speech from the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as state high courts and lower federal courts. Part III argues that the First Amendment protects the right to speak anonymously online. I conclude with a brief discussion of the future of anonymous online speech rights.
Download the paper from SSRN here.