Online Anonymity and Identity

The ACLU works in courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and the laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.

Free Speech issue image

What's at Stake

The right to remain anonymous is a fundamental component of our right to free speech, and it applies every bit as much in the digital world as it does in the physical one. In the words of the U.S. Supreme Court in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, “Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority.”

Unfortunately, the right to remain anonymous has been under steady attack in the online world. Governments and corporations have attempted to unmask unpopular speakers through subpoenas directed at the websites they visit.

The ACLU has long been at the forefront of fighting overbroad or unjustified efforts to unmask political dissidents or online critics. We have fought for the right of anonymous critics to remain anonymous when the suits against them are frivolous. We have also represented an online forum for scientific discussion in its effort to safeguard the anonymous commentary that has allowed its users to generate critically important scientific feedback.

The ACLU has also closely monitored the occasional efforts to establish verified online identities. If implemented poorly, those efforts could be disastrous for the right to anonymous speech online.

The right to remain anonymous is a fundamental component of our right to free speech, and it applies every bit as much in the digital world as it does in the physical one. In the words of the U.S. Supreme Court in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, “Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority.”

Unfortunately, the right to remain anonymous has been under steady attack in the online world. Governments and corporations have attempted to unmask unpopular speakers through subpoenas directed at the websites they visit.

The ACLU has long been at the forefront of fighting overbroad or unjustified efforts to unmask political dissidents or online critics. We have fought for the right of anonymous critics to remain anonymous when the suits against them are frivolous. We have also represented an online forum for scientific discussion in its effort to safeguard the anonymous commentary that has allowed its users to generate critically important scientific feedback.

The ACLU has also closely monitored the occasional efforts to establish verified online identities. If implemented poorly, those efforts could be disastrous for the right to anonymous speech online.

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Credit: Michelle Frankfurter, Jacquelyn Martin / AP Photos
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