Anonymity will be on trial in the AutoAdmit defamation suit...because some mother f__king sexist law students got their jollies by cyber-trashing two women law students. I blog anonymously. If I named names maliciously exposing identities of others, and particularly if I attached false statements to the reputations of such others or made threatening or demeaning remarks, I would not deserve what little protection anonymity gives me.
The problem is one of how to judiciously pull back the covers, how to expose only those who have been abusive. I hope the judges are wise enough to value the rights of the pamphleteer, the writers on the wall and smart enough to see the difference between indefensible personal attack and public denunciations that would not take place if officials had easy recourse to retribution. That retribution can even silence the powerful.
Ann Althouse, a law professor with a blog, does her level best to be even handed about this AutoAdmit suit. Unfortunately her best is framing her remarks with this introduction: "Now, we have a fine opportunity to see how people think about free speech on the Internet when the politics are turned around. "...you'd get the impression that misuse of freedom of speech to attack people is hardly any thing to worry about compared to a threat to freedoms. She hints by example that small claims court is the right place to shush one's attackers. I too value those rights yet I do not dismiss the the harms done under their guise. There is even a strain of opinion out there that the plaintiffs have no substantial complaint. I do not think you can take that stand without tacitly condoning lying about others and threatening them. One ought to be careful going on record in support of trolls.
The web has made anonymity cheap. Both care and common sense will be needed to prevent it being lost because it has been cheapened. The medium is new, the problem of cowardly sexists is ancient.
What should be on trial? Not anonymity, not any honest freedom. There is no such thing, nor should there ever be such a thing as the "freedom to threaten and harm another" and particularly so if nothing but the gender, race or other distinction of the attacked person is smudged with the stigma of the attacked.