Debate: Should Social Sites Allow Anonymous Users?
Every new website that allows users to participate faces the same question: do you require users to use their real names? Facebook has taken a firm position that it will require real names, even at the cost of disappearances of human rights activists around the world. Other sites have suffered as anonymous speakers poison the conversation and use the shield of anonymity to harass women. What's a social site to do? Join two of the Internet's top lawyers, EFF's Legal Director Cindy Cohn and Colette Vogele, as they debate the question.
Cindy Cohn is the Legal Director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation as well as its General Counsel. She is responsible for overseeing the EFF's overall legal strategy and supervising EFF's ten staff attorneys and its legal fellow. Ms. Cohn first became involved with the EFF in 1995, when the EFF asked her to serve as the lead attorney in Bernstein v. Dept. of Justice, the successful First Amendment challenge to the U.S. export restrictions on cryptography. Outside the Courts, Ms. Cohn has testified before Congress, been featured in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere for her work on online issues. The National Law Journal named Ms. Cohn one of 100 most influential lawyers in America in 2006 for "rushing to the barricades wherever freedom and civil liberties are at stake online." In 2007 the Journal named her one of the 50 most influential women lawyers in America. In 2010 Intellectual Property Section of the State Bar of California awarded her its Intellectual Property Vanguard Award.
My non-profit, Without My Consent, is my main reason for coming to SXSW this year. We're super excited to connect with others interested in issues around online privacy, freedom of speech, and accountability on the internet.
I also work for Microsoft in Redmond, Washington, as a copyright attorney. Please understand that while the company is highly supportive of nonprofit and pro bono work by its attorneys and staff, my views are my own and should not necessarily be attributed to Microsoft. Thanks for respecting that!