Stop whatever you are doing and read this column by The Observer’s Jim Schutze. He asks the very same question I had when I first read the Dallas Morning News story over a week ago about Mike Snyder’s fake Facebook accounts. The question is: if the Dallas Morning News analyzed Snyder’s IP addresses (those are numbers that link on-line comments to the source of the commenting, like a crumb trail) on his comments on the Dallas Morning News website, which are supposed to be anonymous, did they also check on others? In other words, did any “fake” comments or fake people make up comments on behalf of the Nasher? Did anyone check?
“I asked Rodrigue why the paper thought it was fair play to use information from its servers to out Snyder but made no equivalent effort to out another frequent pseudonymous commenter, “Wylie H.,” a fake-name warrior who fights on the side of the Nasher. By the way, my own very inexpert Internet sleuthing last week showed me that Wylie H. has accessed Facebook from within City Hall but also from within The Dallas Morning News building.
We do not know. The News traced only one side. They analyzed comments and saw similarities in some of the ones made by Mike himself and the fake persona. “
With apologies to Wylie H. Dallas, I generally do not like anonymous commenters. I think people can get carried away when they post anonymously and say things they might not say if they were looking you in the eye. Then the discussion gets mean and nasty, and begets more anonymous mud-slinging, especially is passion is involved. I also like to do one-on-one interviews, but that’s because I’m old-fashioned.
But here’s what people tell me: “I cannot use my name, it will get me in trouble. I’m a (insert occupation) professional.” Using anonymous comments with Realtors is like opening Pandora’s box because of the competitive nature of the biz. Can you imagine? Someone could post: “This home has bad juju” or “the owners are about to file for bankruptcy” or Lord knows what. I want some accountability, so we use Facebook-registered comments here, and I pray they are legit. This has not, however, stopped people from sending anonymous emails alerting me to things of which I need to know or, perhaps, check out.
Because that’s something else Jim Schutze points out: anonymous information can be very valuable and even lead to a revolution! Read this:
First of all, is there something intrinsically wrong, morally or ethically, with anonymous speech or its trickier cousin, pseudonymous speech, in which the speaker assumes a fake name to further camouflage his own identity?
Hope not. Anonymous and pseudonymous speech are stitched deep in the American concept of free speech, as they were woven into the very origins of our nation. The first public discussion of freedom and liberty in the colonies began when the letters of “Cato” (not his real name) began to appear in American newspapers in 1720.
Tom Paine‘s pamphlet, “Common Sense,” published in 1776, one of the most important sources of the popular concept of American liberty, did not include anywhere on its pages the name Thomas Paine. It was signed “An Englishman.”
From the beginning of our nation, American courts and especially the Supreme Court have protected anonymous and pseudonymous speech as essential to the preservation of liberty. The idea has always been that you should be able to challenge the legitimacy of the crown — or even say the king’s a fool — and not pay with your head, your livelihood or your freedom.
Ah, yes, American History 101, it’s eeking back: now this has me totally re-thinking my position. Suffice it to say that you can send me anonymous emails, and I will go to court to protect my sources if I have to! But when you get down to it, every move we make, every stroke we take, is traceable. I am on my cell phone 24/7. It’s not just a blueprint to my life, it’s a damn map! My husband tells me he is working on an app that will alert him whenever I walk into Neimans!
Please note, I am NOT taking sides here. In my opinion, both parties should be spanked: Museum Tower failed to think of the future ramifications of it’s height and the energy-efficient building design. The Nasher was certainly here first and is a treasure to our city, but does that give them control over the whole neighborhood? Maybe each side should give in a little and see what happens. This is very much like two neighbors sparring over a property line or tree disagreement or house shadow or whatever. What bugs me is that that the media-based blogosphere, which Schutze says amounts to about 80 people, seems to have taken one side quite firmly, screaming loudly.
In his weekly radio program with Eric Celeste, Schutze said “Dallas is a one-horse town.”
Well, it’s about time we got some more horses, because we are going NOWHERE with just one!