The United States of Anonymous: How the First Amendment Shaped Online Speech

Cornell Univ. Mar. 2022. 328p. ISBN 9781501762383. $28.95. LAW
Increased private and public sector surveillance along with facial recognition, geolocation, and other technology advances allow unprecedented access to people’s identity, notes Kosseff (cyber science, U.S. Naval Academy; The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet). Such developments threaten to undermine an essential component of U.S. democracy he dubs “the culture of anonymity.” He explains that that culture is grounded that culture in a tradition dating to colonial pamphleteers and the Federalist Papers and fixed in First Amendment protections allowing people to communicate controversial, embarrassing, harmful, intimate, or even revolutionary ideas without facing repercussions. To preserve, indeed, to continue to empower anonymity in its many guises and allow people to control what, if any details about themselves are revealed, particularly in internet activity, requires increased legal protections, Kosseff insists. Lauding the benefits of anonymous speech in everyday life, he advocates robust online protections and urges lawmakers to supplement First Amendment rights with stricter privacy laws to restrict the ability of public and private parties to collect, use, and share people’s identifying information.
VERDICT Amid surging social media and online speech wars, readers concerned about the future of free speech, privacy, and the law will appreciate Kosseff’s ability to deftly place the many-sided anonymity debate in the context of constitutional values and social norms.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing