December 29, 2011
EFF Director: "When A Blogger Makes A Mistake, He Becomes Fair Game."
Instead of using their true names to communicate these people choose to speak using pseudonyms (assumed names) or anonymously (no name at all). For these individuals and the organizations that support them secure anonymity is critical. It may literally save lives. [...]
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been involved in the fight to protect the rights of anonymous speakers online.
Jillian C York, EFF's Director for International Freedom of Expression, seemingly doesn't agree. She got mixed up in the Aussie Dave/Richard Silverstein fray when she questioned the accuracy of supposed personal information about Aussie Dave, which Richard Silverstein admitted was probably posted in "error" and was happily showing off on his blog. When Silverstein assured her it was genuine, her simple, unambiguous reply was, "Oh good." (You can view screen shots of the exchange HERE.)
After some outcry, how did the Director for International Freedom of Expression respond to justify her apparent support of Aussie Dave's name and address being exposed in direct conflict with EFF's principles? With this tweet:
Keep in mind, at the time she posted that tweet, Silverstein still assumed it was an innocent mistake on Aussie Dave's part that the information was exposed in the first place. York, in her capacity as a Director for an organization dedicated to protecting anonymous bloggers, in as much stated he deserved to be outed because she thinks he's an "asshole."
Maybe Dave is an asshole. I don't know him, so I couldn't say. I don't think he is. But I do know he - and every other legitimate anonymous blogger - doesn't deserve to have his personal info exposed over an error. The more decent and honorable thing to do - what Silverstein should have done - was to ignore Dave's mistake, or even make a quick comment to point out the error so it could be corrected. But Silverstein has shown himself to be neither decent nor honorable.
When it became clear Silverstein chose to maliciously exploit Dave's "error," York, as a director for EFF, should have made some effort to discourage him. She should have, as a defender of free speech for anonymous writers, appealed to his common decency. Instead, she wrote, in response to Silverstein's assurances that the name and address were real, "Oh good."
You'd think after some thought Jillian York would understand that. But no. Even after sitting idly by while Silverstein potentially endangered a fellow blogger, even after tweeting her personal feelings about Aussie Dave, Jillian visited Aussie Dave's blog post and wrote in comments:
"I very much support anonymity for everyone, but when a blogger idiotically outs himself, he becomes fair game."
To err is human. Mistakes happen. And according to one Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, mistakes are "idiotic" and that makes you fair game.