1993-03-01 - Piercing anonymitiy and censorship

Header Data

From: Theodore Ts’o <tytso@Athena.MIT.EDU>
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: 31b5581d3201ce4a58a6d37f4d3e1d87a9df5f5ccb77a91f50a82621e89a0fed
Message ID: <9303010319.AA25260@SOS>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1993-03-01 03:21:00 UTC
Raw Date: Sun, 28 Feb 93 19:21:00 PST

Raw message

From: Theodore Ts'o <tytso@Athena.MIT.EDU>
Date: Sun, 28 Feb 93 19:21:00 PST
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: Piercing anonymitiy and censorship
Message-ID: <9303010319.AA25260@SOS>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

I noticed that in several postings, people have made the jump that
revealing the real person (or the previous hop in a remailer chain) from
an anonymous remailer is tantamount to censorship.  I'd like to call
into question that assumption.

In many ways, I have a lot of sympathy with the Libertarian position ---
whether or not I think it would realistically work as a system of
governement is another question.  In any case, I don't like censorship
in any form.  But disclosing who sent a particular piece of anonymous
mail is not the same as censorship.  I believe in free speach, but
today, if someone violates the responsibility that goes along with free
speach --- by yelling at the top of his/her lungs at 4am in the morning,
when I am trying to sleep, or by libelling or slandering me ---- I have
legal recourse; I can call the police and have him/her arrested for
disturbing the peace, or I can sue him/her for libel or slander.

But by making anonymous remailers airtight, you are removing the
possibility for recourse, and thus removing the burden of personal
responsibility from the sender of these messages.

Perhaps there are people who believe Free Speech should be so much of an
absolute that you should be allowed to scream at the top of their lungs
at 5am in the morning in a residential area, and that libel and slander
laws shouldn't exist.  But it's not fair to call that a mainstream
position.  And it is unreasonable to assume that as an axiom.

						- Ted

P.S.  It is true that by revealing the identity of an user of a
remailer, you are breaching their privacy --- however, most people also
don't believe that the right to privacy is absolute.  It certainly
isn't explicitly listed in the U.S. Constitution.   While, I also
believe very strongly in a right to privacy, there are certainly times
--- for example when someone is operating under a false name to commit
fraudulent acts --- that a person's privacy should be breached.  

While it is much simpler to say "the right of privacy is always supreme
over all other considerations", or "the right of free speech is supreme
over all other considerations," that is a very simplistic view which I
don't believe is very realistic.   In any case, it is certainly not
widely held.