Online Anonymity – Halifax Newspaper Forced to Reveal Posters – What do you think Canada? Cornwall Ontario – April 19, 2010

Cornwall ON – Online Anonymity isn’t just hard to spell.  It’s a hard issue to figure out at times as the balance between personal freedom of speech on the net is balanced between those that would use that freedom to manifest a point that can be destructive to others.

While some argue that there are already laws in place to protect it’s increasingly difficult to enact them.   What do to when you or your business is attacked blindly on the net?   There are even “Black Ops” and “Wolf Packs” that decimate and create spin on the net, pro and con for their clients or simply for kicks at times.  It was also seen used by people connected to former Conservative Minister Helena Guergis.

Recently a Halifax Newspaper was forced to release information on posters on their newspaper.


Last April, the Coast published an article about allegations of racism within the Halifax regional fire service. Dozens of comments have been posted on the newspaper’s website over the past year.

Fire Chief Bill Mosher and deputy chief of operations Stephen Thurber wanted to unmask seven anonymous commenters, who they say made allegations of racism, cronyism and incompetence.

So in this case people’s jobs have been put at stake and of course their reputations.    When these sort of attacks come anonymously there’s no chance for the victims to defend themselves from their accusers.    Even when given the log data the process of determining who actually made the statements isn’t an easy path.

What do you think Canada?  Do we need better laws to protect people from anonymous attacks?   Do people need to sign their posts?  Is there responsibility for the website that allows comments?   Feel free to post your comments below, anonymously if you wish.

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  1. This is one of the few places in life where we can have our cake, and eat it too. You know, have it both ways. The thing I love about a cyberspace news papers is the comments to the articles, that people leave. Many times these comments, are more informed then the author of the article, and sometimes not. A signature on the end, tends to add credibility, where an anonymous signature can rob that respect. In any case, what ever works to keep free speech alive in today’s world of super controlled media, works for me. With that said, I also believe, you must be willing to back your public thoughts up with a true identity on file at the institution involved. Opnion is one thing, slander is another. A court order should be able to retrieve anyone’s true identity, were need be, and a person should have the right to express their views anonymously, to that point. As for the institutions responsibility, how are they to collect true identities? In the end, freedom of speech has to have the last word.

  2. Hi Dave,

    It’s a tricky question, but something I’m hearing from journalists and posters is that they don’t want the government deciding the rules on conduct regarding internet anonymity. In our case we have to approve each and every comment and that adds a lot of work to our jobs, but it also I feel improves the quality of the comments.

    We remove the spam; we try and remove any nastiness, and we try to not have to use our very expensive $450 per hour lawyers. We have some basic criteria for posting here on The Cornwall Free News. One, nothing that would get us in trouble legally. Two, we try to limit abuse unless it’s really really creative to the point where it overcomes the negative stigma of abuse; you can’t be boring because we’re here to entertain and inform.

    The FREE in The Cornwall Free News is the fact that we truly wish to embrace Freedom of Speech and not just the speech that we may personally agree with. As a matter of fact I’m working on getting an arch Conservative voice on our site shortly just to surprise some of our Conservative readers who email in calling this a “Liberal Rag” which makes me wonder if some of them actually do read our paper 🙂 or can read 🙂 or just have their assistants read for them…..

    I digress. New media raises some new question and I’m really glad we don’t live in China or other places where what we’re doing would be considered illegal.


  3. China, Cuba, Canada, all those begin with C’s. We’re very much on that path.. We even have dictator harper deciding what he wants to do at a whim…

  4. Looking forward to your “arch Conservative voice.” As for Conservative readers who email in calling CFN a “Liberal Rag,” the loss is theirs. Such people are likely one-dimensional, afraid of the truth, have closed minds, don’t care for freedom of speech, and in their fearful state of ignorance abusive…one or all of the above.

  5. Yeah PJR, we seem to be more of a NDP rag of late although we’re not that either. We’re a Canadian Rag that believes in Free Speech 🙂

  6. as does CCRAP, the Harper-MacKay party’s original name, grimalot!

  7. I don’t find the CFN to be a “Liberal Rag” so I suffer no loss. One-dimensional, afraid of the truth, closed minds, not caring about freedom of speech, abusive……sorry because that does not describe a Conservative. Our saving grace is to be able to see through all the hype being created.

  8. Regarding annon opinions. Does this mean if I’m expressing my opinion with some guy at the mall I have to show him my drivers permit?

  9. I sort of remember this time when journalists prided themselves on going to jail rather than reveal a source. Today many journalists pride themselves on obeying writs. Funny how things can change.

  10. The Cornwall Free News seems to be provide opportunities for comments for all types of views, even those twisted religious ones. .

  11. yes, and offer an urine sample…..:)

  12. To Unlicensed Speech guy: No, you don’t need to show ID to have a converstion at the mall, but maybe your opinion would hold more credibility if that person knew who you were, or if you had inside info, or how you got that info. Secondly, are you comparing anonymous posters with journalists, and their anonymous sources? I believe that to be a weak comparison. A journalist is held to higher level, so we are able to assume that there sources are legitimate, and in some way knowledgable about the issue at hand, perhaps even with something to lose if their identity becomes known. An anonymous poster can be just a scmuck who knows nothing except what they heard from some dude at the mall, who wouldn’t even tell them their name.

    To admin: when you refer to Conservatives as “arch Conservatives”, it becomes a little clearer how you could be considered a leftist rag (which you are not). If you treat them as enemies, they will do the same. This country is divided neatly in the left and the right, and staunch supporters of either side are quick to throw mud at anyone who they even just slightly suspect to be on the other side.

  13. Not referring to you, Stan, not at all…only to those who stay away from public debate in CFN by smearing it as a “Liberal rag”. That’s a cop-out. It’s also their loss, since they miss out on a free invitation to participate in debate…in other words, in democracy. And if they are unwilling to participate in democratic exchange, what do they believe in?

    Such people, I agree Stan, are not Conservative in the progressive sense of the party of Joe Clark or Robert Stanfield or yourself. Instead, they are scarily something else. Regressive? That’s the kindest term I can think of. What do you think?

  14. I think it’s presumptious to call me a Conservative.

  15. How about “Arch Conservative” ? 🙂

  16. No presumption, Stan, according to your own context: “sorry. . . that doesn’t describe a Conservative. Our saving grace….” So, if not Conservative, whose saving grace do you mean ?

  17. I think you are more of a Real Conservative, then this sorry lot of “Con’s” we have in parliament today. But thats just my opinion. These aren’t even real conservatives.. They just ride on the name…

  18. Us visionaries….

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