This has been an enlightening week.

First of all, I now accept a phrase that always made me feel like someone had just jumped the shark in a conversation. I am a person of privilege. Not by choice, but by parentage, birthplace, and luck.

I accept this because I have seen far too many with my background who think that everyone else just naturally is able to obtain what they have obtained. They think if you really want it, you can get it. They don't see that those opportunities are open to very few, and that what came easily to them, came damned hard, or never, to others who tried just as hard or harder. And they also don't see that the liberty and freedom from persecution and abuse which they take for granted, simply don't exist for large groups of people in our society.

Secondly, as a privileged person, I absolutely have a moral obligation to stand up for those who aren't so lucky, who don't have my privileges, and who are ignored or persecuted in silence, because their voices are dismissed by too many like myself. I have a better chance of being listened to, and I can speak without losing what others would lose by being public.

This whole persona/pseudonym argument may seem like a tempest in a teapot, but the fact is, the forum for public discourse is no longer the town hall, or the newspaper, or fliers on the street. It is here on the internet, and it is happening in communities like this, hosted by private companies. Freedom of speech is not guaranteed in such places. As Lawrence Lessig once said, "the code is the law." The code that Google applies, the rules they set up now in the software, are going to influence our right to speak out in the future. It is imperative that we impress upon Google the importance of providing users with the same rights (and responsibilities) as exist in the society that nurtured Google and brought about its success.

I quote from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization which very early on realized the importance of freedoms in the online world.

Anonymous communications have an important place in our political and social discourse. The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that the right to anonymous free speech is protected by the First Amendment. A much-cited 1995 Supreme Court ruling in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission reads:

Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical, minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.
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