Anonymous speech plays a vital role in preserving all our constitutional freedoms. In so many areas of ordinary life, we accept, even celebrate, anonymity. From online discussion groups to undisclosed press sources, anonymity is important to protect speakers against retaliation and to keep readers focused on messages, not identities. But a current focus on disclosure destroys this freedom.
In 1995, the Supreme Court decided McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission and explained that:
The decision in favor of anonymity may be motivated by fear of economic or official retaliation, by concern about social ostracism, or merely by a desire to preserve as much of one’s privacy as possible. Whatever the motivation may be, at least in the field of literary endeavor, the interest in having anonymous works enter the marketplace of ideas unquestionably outweighs any public interest in requiring disclosure as a condition of entry.
Today the right to political privacy is under assault. Facing all-encompassing forms of disclosure for political speech, most speakers must forcibly surrender private details of their lives just to engage in protected First Amendment speech. Others just don’t bother speaking. Oddly enough, only speakers holding the most extreme views or who have been severely harassed may claim a right to anonymity under present legal precedent.
The Pillar of Law Institute believes anonymous political speech serves three vital interests: preventing prejudice, keeping the message central, and preventing retaliation by those in power. Unfettered disclosure distorts the ordinary and healthy ways people elect to interact with one another—sometimes self-disclosed, sometimes by writing through a pen name, and sometimes anonymously. Securing our lost right of anonymity ensures that more diverse voices, more points of view, and less fear of government reprisal will happen in our national political dialogue.