SXSW Interactive 2013

Who Are You? Anonymous Speech on Social Media

With the proliferation of social media users over the last few years, people are now able to communicate with the whole world with the greatest of ease. As such, an individual can now broadcast her critiques of a restaurant on site like Yelp!, or provide constructive feedback of a doctor on RateMDs. However, use of social media can go over the proverbial line and become vicious attacks. This is especially true with anonymous or pseudonymous speakers. Identifying anonymous or pseudonymous social media users who act with malice or ill will is not easy. Given this difficulty, the legal system is now being used in an effort to reveal unknown speakers on social media. Consequently, social media companies are being ordered to reveal its users’ identities and users are being identified. Some users are wrongfully being revealed, while others are rightfully being unmasked. This panel will discuss the legal issues involved and how this affects social media companies, users, and public at large.

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  1. What Does and Does Not Constitute Free Speech?
  2. How Does Anonymity Affect Free Speech?
  3. Why do anonymous speakers on social media get unmasked? Are there proper protections for all those involved? That is, are the interests of the speaker, the party seeking the speaker's identity, and social media companies are properly balanced?
  4. What Should Social Media Companies and Social Media Users Be Concerned about regarding anonymous speech?
  5. What Changes Should Be Made to the Legal System to Protect Anonymous Speakers and Those Who are Harmed by Anonymous Speech?



Mark Petrolis, Associate Attorney, Mudd Law Offices

Meta Information:

  • Tags: social media
  • Event: Interactive
  • Format: Dual
  • Track: Government and Civic Engagement
  • Track 2
  • Level: Beginning
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