Samizdata - 11:39 pm on May 31, 2011 (gmt 0)
Despite the media hype, this case was never about free speech.
It was about anonymity online.
I'm not sure whether being allowed to anonymously post your thoughts online is a good thing
There may well be a debate to be had on the subject, though an opponent might quickly point out that you have made 3,500+ anonymous (and harmless) posts on WebmasterWorld.
Many web veterans are accustomed to general anonymity being available, forums and chatrooms have always used nicknames, and not so long ago kids were told not to give out their personal details on the various messengers.
FaceBook has shifted the ground somewhat, while in South Korea, as I understand it, websites are legally forbidden from accepting user-generated content without a verified ID.
Governments everywhere loathe anonymity, for obvious reasons.
This news does one thing however, it reinforces the notion that you should NEVER use your real information online, EVER, because you just never know who's going to go after it.
I quote Sgt_Kickaxe to illustrate a school of thought that has a fair amount of support.
it's only the most savvy that may be able to satisfactorily obfuscate their identity
And I quote engine because he is undoubtedly correct.
Some people, perhaps misguidedly, use Twitter as an online substitute for grafitti - an ancient form of publication that is not exempt from legal action, but one where anonymity is very much the norm.
Those people should now consider that Twitter itself will not oppose an application to reveal their personal details. The applicant in this case was apparently a UK body, next time it could presumably be a Chinese or Iranian one.
Assuming the person named in this case could afford to travel 6,000 miles and hire lawyers to fight the subpoena, the question arises as to how he would have been able to preserve his anonymity while doing so.
The good news is that, whatever happens, he won't face a firing squad.