As a provider (and author) of anonymity systems on the Internet, I’m pretty depressed to read about the recent spate of bomb threats being posted on Social Media sites, such as this one that was posted to the Twitter account of Mary Beard this week.
By their very nature, an anonymity system is unable to determine the purpose for which it’s used and is equally unable to selectively identify the source of some users while maintaining the privacy of others. Inevitably this leads to abuse, simply because some people cannot resist the lure of acting illegally, from, what they consider, the safe haven of anonymity. They don’t stop to consider the damage they do to the reputation of these systems nor the anguish they may cause the recipient.
I’ve always supported the famous quotation of Evelyn Beatrice Hall:
I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
Evelyn never intended that her quote should provide justification for the mindless abuse of innocent people. That’s repression not freedom of expression. These idiots on Twitter aren’t interested in their freedom of speech and probably don’t even understand what it means. They are simply antagonists with no particular cause or motivation other than causing distress to others. I hope they get caught and hung out to dry. I also hope they get caught out by their own stupidity and not because of a flaw in an anonymity system that grants people living under repressive regimes the courage to tell the world what’s going on in their countries. Governments don’t like their people having such freedom, it undermines their thirst for control. If it turns out these people are using an anonymity system, the spin doctors will have no trouble using it as a lever to justify further curbs on Internet freedom. Next we’ll have opt-in anonymity.