“@DeepThroat stop it dude, shut ur trap” -@TrickyDickNixon – by “William S”

In the May 2005 issue of Vanity Fair, Mark Felt, former Associate Director of the FBI, revealed that over thirty years earlier, he provided Bob Woodward with information implicating President Richard Nixon in the notorious Watergate break-ins, finally revealing himself to be the infamously secretive whistleblower, “Deep Throat.” Woodward was completely tight-lipped about his informant’s identity, and Felt repeatedly denied any speculation directed his way. But what would have happened if “Deep Throat” revealed such explosive information not through a reliable journalist in 1972, but, say, on an anonymous Twitter feed in 2010?

One can’t say for sure – an FBI investigation was going on that would ultimately confirm Woodward’s claims, but initially, Nixon’s White House denied the allegations. Today, perhaps the White House would serve up a CyberSLAPP and sue Twitter, as Marty Thomas did on a much more minor scale for an anonymous STD allegation. Of course, for a real suit, the White House would have to prove “Deep Throat’s” allegations were slanderous or libelous in nature: but perhaps in the frantic cover-up that followed the break-ins, the White House would have been to able to put sufficient, convincing pressure on Twitter, and cause them to cave. Perhaps Mark Felt would have been uncovered, and made a scapegoat. Perhaps he would have been tried for perjury. Ironically, the anonymity of confiding face to face in another human being was safer for Felt than anonymously posting online might have been.

The rise of WikiLeaks has allowed for modern analogues of “Deep Throat” to do what they do with relatively little disturbance, but the question of online anonymity is still very much present for the rest of society. If someone had asked me a year ago if I thought anonymity on the web was positive, I would have said no: it allows for a faceless, filterless, cowardly mass of people to unflinchingly harm others. After seeing m00t of 4chan.org speak a few weeks ago, however, my thoughts have shifted: anonymity on the web is not necessarily good, but it is ultimately necessary. For better or for worse (and admittedly often for worse), people need that outlet. 4chan is built on anonymity, but as m00t said, in a handful of serious legal cases, they have had to step in and provide information on their posters. This, in many ways, reflects the way society so frequently works: networks of people often remain tightlipped about one another, unless legal circumstances strongly demand otherwise. Face-to-face human communication, as Felt experienced, is not dependent on a third party provider that may or may not protect you. While it may not keep everyone happy all the time, having anonymous outlets like 4chan on the web keeps the internet grounded in a real, human world.

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