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An Analysis of the Online Identity Battleground 7: Dissecting the Legislation

Completing his Shmoocon presentation, aestetix singles out specific country-based legislation regarding name policies, and takes questions from the audience.

Myth #5

Myth #5

Our last myth from Adam here: we are currently fixing this through legislation. South Korea did this back in 2003 (see image below). So, South Korea, the Real Name Verification Law, this was passed in 2003 in response to some issues they were having around the election and people leaving snarky comments on web forums and such – Resident Registration Numbers, similar to a Social Security Number in a sense.

Some of the South Korean legislation

Some of the South Korean legislation

And they repealed this last year after the KCC, the Korea Communications Commission, discovered there was a 0.9% change in quality. They determined quality by basically curse words that were used. There were about 50 or 60 curse words, and also psychologists will appreciate this, they had this thing called anti-normative behavior. So, I guess going against the grain or something like that; it’s kind of unclear what it was.

If you want to learn more about that, Carnegie Mellon University did a follow-up study, and it’s very enlightening. But they repealed it because that’s 0.9%, and statistical significance is 5% or greater, and they didn’t even have that. So it turns out that pushing a certain type of name on people – maybe they’re douchebags to begin with, right, like the Violentacrez guy?

Chinese approach

Chinese approach

So, here is something that just happened on December 28, 2012 (see right-hand image). China passed this law “Strengthening Network Internet Protection.” You may have seen this in the news, where China basically passed this law requiring people to register their legal names in order to use the Internet.

And you can see here I bolded it: “Network service providers that handle website access services for users, handle fixed telephone, mobile telephone, and (I like this) other surfing formalities…” It’s really strange phrasing, maybe it’s lost in translation, because it was originally a Chinese law, but I’m not sure what a surfing formality is. And at the end there: “Require users to provide real identity information.”

Californian legal issues

Californian legal issues

So, what else is going on? Oh yeah, California, man; we’re just sucking right now. We had Prop 8, now we have Prop 35 (see left-hand image). Prop 8 was to ban gay marriage, by the way, and Prop 35: “Californians Against Sexual Exploitation”, and this was passed as of the last election.

Section 290.014(b): “If any person who is required to register pursuant to the Act (that is anybody who is a sex offender, basically) adds or changes his or her account with an Internet service provider or adds or changes an Internet identifier, is required to send that notification of this to law enforcement within 24 hours of said registration.”

Interesting, isn’t it? How easy is that to enforce? Anyone think that’s easy to enforce? The day after, on November 7, the EFF filed a lawsuit against that. An injunction was granted as of January 11, 2013.

It’s worth noting, by the way, that in the injunction grant one of the cases that was cited was the case McIntyre vs. Ohio Elections Commission from 1995. There’re basically 3 or 4 cases, or case law period in the US regarding anonymity. If you look in Wikipedia for Anonymous, they have this section on case law, and that’s, I think, the most recent – the others are from the 1940s and 1950s, or 50s and 60s or something.

The thing that I really like, I think it was Justice John Paul Stevens who said this, but one of the remarks in the 1995 case law: “Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority.” Look at Publius – that’s what our country is based on and founded on.

German Telemedia Act

German Telemedia Act

Germany has it right: they have this thing called the Telemedia Act. It was passed in 2007; section 13 (6): “The service provider must enable the use of telemedia and payment for them to occur anonymously or via a pseudonym.” So, Germany has actually codified into law that you must be able to use pseudonyms on the Internet. This has run into some issues of Facebook; they’re currently in a lawsuit with this right now, because the German government sued Facebook because of their real names policy. It’s going to be really interesting to see how this happens.

One of the issues we’re running into here is: corporations can set policies, right? But we also have law, and laws are agreed upon by the people, in theory, of represented democracy. What happens when what corporations want to do interferes with the written law of the land? At what point does that intersection meet? I think this is going to become a bigger and bigger issue as more things come online.

This is why all of you guys should get involved in NSTIC. Oh, it turns out Germany lost that case, interesting! So they said it is not a German law because Facebook is not sitting in Germany, so that was the day before yesterday? Ok, I was getting drunk at Shmoocon, I missed this. Wow, that’s fascinating, because there’s this juxtapose: we have a legal institution which people vote, you know. You can’t vote for Facebook, can you? Oh yeah, you can elect not to use it, which is why I don’t. They call it “liking.”

Moving forward

Moving forward

Basically, some final notes – I’m just about done and probably getting kicked off here soon. Nymrights.org is the URL, you can join the mailing list, we have a mailing list. Also anyone can join IDESG – Identity Ecosystem Steering Group, it’s kind of the group that’s formed around trying to enact the initiatives behind NSTIC. I’m registered as aestetix, so fuck that. They require a last name, and a period works as a last name, or a space sometimes. If you think about how that all goes – yeah.

So, if you’re worried about not wanting your legal name to be involved in something like this… I think I’m the first pseudonym actually to be an official member of NSTIC. In fact, I took this screenshot last night to just demonstrate it. It turned out there was somebody else – Snortly, I don’t know who that is. But yay – apparently they saw my Twitter pleas for it and they went ahead and registered with a mononym. So, we’re making a difference.

That’s it, any questions? 5 minutes, I’ll take questions.

So, somebody who is staying totally within the line, not doing anything wrong according to social standards and norms, is it necessary for them to have a pseudonym, is that what you’re asking? I think it depends on the context they’re in, in my opinion, people have the right to choose their own names.

That’s a fantastic question, I’m so glad you asked that. So let me repeat the question just to make sure I have it right: somebody like the Violentacrez guy, if their legal name is not known, how do we build an accountability? If somebody’s doing something illegal or amoral, depending on the social standards of morality, how do we find them?

In my opinion, people have the right to choose their own names.

Two answers to that; fantastic question. The first is that if you’re using the Internet, there’s a bunch of ways to find who you are: you could use it by IP address and access times. I can get more technical, but how many people here know how to find somebody if you don’t know their name? So it is possible, you’ve got a bunch of geeks around here who are happy to help enforce good.

On the other hand, and I’m going to cite William Binney, who is the NSA whistleblower, and in his talk – he gave a keynote at the Hackers on Planet Earth conference last year – he said that names are a really bad way to identify who somebody is. How many Dave Browns are there in the world? If you have like ten Dave Browns, how many of them are going to start using nicknames or pseudonyms and a unique identifier? There’s other ways, like habitual patterns, the schedule somebody keeps, where they work, things like that. There’s all kinds of ways you can identify somebody; an IP address is one of them.

4chan has actually run into issues with this. One of the things that Chris Poole has spoken out about is making sure that if somebody posts child pornography or something illegal on 4chan’s /b/ that they make sure that due process comes to them. Does that answer your question?

What am I really up to? Yes, Pinky, I’m trying to take over the world.

Read previous: An Analysis of the Online Identity Battleground 6: Names Policies of Google and Facebook

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