Abstract - The Information Society 15(2)

Assessing Anonymous Communication on the Internet: Policy Deliberations

Rob Kling, Ya-Ching Lee, Al Teich and Mark S. Frankel

Anonymous communication on the Internet offers new opportunities but has ill-understood risks. This article helps to ground the policy debates by examining some fundamental aspects of anonymous social behavior and current controversies over anonymous communications. It is a companion to the article, "Anonymous Communication Policies For The Internet." It examines the social character of anonymous communication and the ways that anonymous communication has played important roles for professionals such as journalists and police. It also explains some of the new technological supports for anonymous communication on the Internet. The openness, decentralization, and transnational character of the Internet challenge the efficacy of traditional control mechanisms and have raised issues related to accountability, law enforcement, security and privacy, governmental empowerment, and e-commerce. Yet, to ban or restrict all anonymous communication online because of the harms it could bring would deny its benefits to those people who may legitimately gain from it. This article helps to understand how to balance these positions.

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