Today I came across a wonderful, albeit unsettling post written by the ladies who run the 2 Witches Blog. Apparently volcanoes are not the only things that can shake the frozen ground of Alaska with consequences for Americans everywhere. The question is one's right to remain anonymous when writing a blog or commenting on a post.
You might be wondering why on earth one would want to remain anonymous when writing a post or commenting on a blog, especially if they have nothing to hide. This is the classic argument used to imply that those wanting to remain anonymous must want to do so because they are doing something nefarious. Though this could be the case for some people, I believe that the majority of writers who want to remain anonymous do so for no devious reason at all. Possible innocuous reasons one might want to remain anonymous could be that they are reporting on the misdeeds or illegal actions of their employer and fear punitive action, they don't want to expose loved ones to retribution or harm, and many people use blogs as a cathartic tool to help them recover from domestic abuse, drug addiction, and any number of other personal issues that might prompt them to want to write a blog while remaining anonymous.
The issue of being able to remain anonymous is important because it is federally protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Furthermore, because U.S. Representative Mike Doogan (D) - Alaska, divulged the identity of the author of The Mudflats using government resources, he has committed a "state action" which could be grounds for a section 1983 Civil Rights claim. Below is the verbatim 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Civil Rights Act of 1871):
A person states a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 if he alleges that the defendant deprived him of a constitutional right while acting "under color" of state law. Specifically, § 1983 provides that:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer's judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia.
In order to state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege a violation of rights secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, and that such violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. (source:E.L. Infonet)
Coming to the defense of the author of The Mudflats are some pretty liberal blogs, including Palingates and SHANNYN MOORE: JUST A GIRL FROM HOMER. I think the support The Mudflats is getting for her demonstrates that this issue transcends conservative and liberal politics. HERE is a direct link from Palingates that allows you to fight back against Congressman Doogan's violation of the U.S. Constitution. And here is an eloguent post by the Electronic Frontier Foundation entitled Why Join The Fight? which explains the need to protect anonymous blogging.