17

Is Anonymous Blogging Possible?

anonymity2.jpgHoward Bashman at How Appealing muses whether anonymous blogging is really possible:

These days, however, most users of the internet understand that every bit of information communicated electronically leaves electronic fingerprints that can be used to trace the source of the information, even if the source hoped to remain anonymous. To be sure, there are ways to anonymize emails and other forms of communication, but they tend to be complicated to use and difficult to figure out. . . .

I doubt whether anonymous blogging is possible. It surely isn’t possible if the blogger conducts email correspondence with others and fails to mask his or her internet protocol address. Plus, even the act of logging on to a blogging service provider, such as TypePad or blogger, leaves electronic fingerprints, and I’d have to assume that “UTR” had a TypePad subscription, enabling someone to subpoena the blog owner’s identity and/or payment information. So, to you anonymous bloggers out there, have fun, but don’t fool yourselves into thinking that simply by not providing your identity you are doing an effective job of remaining hidden.

I generally agree that it is very difficult to blog anonymously, but it is certainly possible if a person is careful.

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10

Is this right?

A refrain I sometimes hear is that “there are no conservative organizations for law students, except for the Federalist Society.” For one recent example of this, see this comment at Confirm Them:

Most law schools (I went to a top 25 school) have a large, strong liberal activist groups which include the ACLU groups, Gay-Transgender groups, Environmental Groups, American Constitution Society (the anti-Federalist Society), and various “Human Rights” groups. The ONLY conservative group on most law campuses is maybe the Federalist Society and a Republican group here or there.

I don’t think this is correct, based on my own observation. At Columbia when I attended, there was a number of conservative or conservative-leaning student organizations: Christian law student society, Catholic law student society, LDS (Mormon) law student society, pro-life organization (Coalition for Life), plus the Republican student organization and the FedSoc. And I may be forgetting one or two. In any case, there’s at least six conservative organizations at that bastion of conservative thought Columbia University.

My current employer is Thomas Jefferson law school. It’s a school that an observer would almost certainly characterize as leaning left. Again, there is more than the FedSoc. TJSL has a Republican group, a Christian law student society, and the FedSoc; it also has an LDS law student society in the process of organization. (I know, because I’m their faculty advisor).

Over the tiny sample size that I’m particularly familiar with, the accusation that the FedSoc is the only conservative organization on campus is quite clearly not true. But perhaps my own lack of data is hindering me here. Are there any schools where the FedSoc is truly the only conservative voice on campus?

(Note — The broader argument — that left-leaning student organizations outnumber right-leaning organizations — is true at both of the schools with which I’m familiar, and I see no reason to believe it’s not true in many other schools. I’m speaking to the particular statement, which to me seems hyperbole, that the FedSoc is the only conservative organization at law schools.)

1

Journalist Privilege and Law Enforcement Leaks

freespeech1.jpgIn a very interesting case, U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer recently held a Washington Post reporter in contempt of court for not revealing the source of a leak in the investigation of Wen Ho Lee. [Click here for the court’s opinion.] The case involves a civil suit by Lee against a number of federal agencies for violating the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a. Lee was a scientist employed by the Department of Energy and was being investigated by the FBI for espionage for China. Ultimately, the espionage case collapsed and Lee pled guilty to one count of mishandling computer files.

During the investigation, Washington Post journalist Walter Pincus published a few articles about the Lee investigation, identifying him by name and discussing extensive details of the investigation, including “his and his wife’s employment histories, their financial transactions, details about their trips to Hong Kong and China, details concerning the Government investigation and interrogation, and purported results from polygraph tests.” Pincus indicated that anonymous government sources supplied him with the information.

Lee has sued the government for violating the Privacy Act, which prohibits government agencies (including the FBI) from disclosing records about an individual. Lee sought from Pincus who his sources were. Pincus raised the journalist privilege, claiming he should be sheilded from being forced to disclose.

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3

A frightening idea

tenco.jpgFrom a message to a conservative e-mail listserv:

I just received a suggestion from [name redacted] that Judge Roy Moore be nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court. What a great idea. Let’s all call President Bush and our congressmen, representatives and senators, supporting this suggestion.

It’s hard to think of a worse candidate. Whatever one thinks of Alito, Roberts, Souter, Scalia, Thomas, Ginsberg, Breyer, whoever — and I disagree with much about the politics Alito, and with various decisions and statements of each of the Justices — at least it’s clear that they all share a basic understanding of how the rule of law operates.

The same cannot be said for Moore.

8

Weird Searches for Our Blog

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I recently blogged about where hits to our blog come from, and one of the major sources of hits to a blog are searches via Google and other search engines. In our site meter stats, you can see what search terms people use to visit our blog. I’ve looked at these on occasion, curious about what brings people to our blog.

Most of the very common search terms are obvious –- “opinions,” “concurring,” “law,” “legislating,” and “paparazzi.” But then there’s also “naked” and “celebrity” –- we have Kaimi to thank for that, as he posted a post entitled “Naked celebrities make the best magazine covers” about a ranking of the best magazine covers of the past 40 years, with the nude John Lennon and nude Demi Moore covers as #1 and #2 respectively.

Here are some of the more interesting searches I discovered:


SEARCH: Contents of the Dead Man’s Pocket

I have no idea what this is possibly about or how it led a reader to our blog.


SEARCH: aals meat

This one’s my fault – I posted on the AALS meat market.


SEARCH: chemical changes that of apple without a peep

Huh?


SEARCH: peep shows

My fault – I named a post Airline X-Ray Peep Shows.


SEARCH: FREE NAKED PEEP SHOWS

I’m certain that this person was very disappointed upon learning my post was about airline screening X-rays.


SEARCH: Unbeknown to you the sun has jumped the gun

Totally baffling!


SEARCH: humorous curses

I have no idea what post this linked to, but perhaps I don’t want to know . . .

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18

Is Anybody Out There? Assessing a Blog’s Audience

auditorium6.jpgHello? Is anybody out there? Who are you? These are the questions that often go through a blogger’s mind. Hardly anybody wants to blog to nobody. As one blogger once wrote: “Maintaining a blog with no one visiting or commenting would be [as] sad as a clown doing a show with no one watching.”

I’ve often wondered who our readers are. That’s right – you. I’m writing this blog post to you . . . and I might not even know who you are. Some of you comment a lot, and we’re very grateful, since the comments on this blog have been absolutely wonderful. But we have many readers who don’t add comments. Who are the readers who lurk in the shadows? Is anybody reading? How does one find out?

The best answers thus far are supplied by Site Meter, which tracks IP addresses visiting the blog. I’ve become obsessed with Site Meter, seeing who is coming in, whether they’re from government or academia or somewhere else. We have visitors from over 70 countries, with the most coming from the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, and Israel. We also have visitors from Qatar, Belarus, Papua New Guinea, Togo, Bangladesh, Nepal, Malta, and Tanzania.

Site Meter doesn’t do a great job of telling us much more about who is visiting, but it at least gives us a head count. The numbers, however, perplex me. Do blogs with thousands of visitors a day really have a readership of thousands? Site Meter doesn’t lie, right?

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0

Orin Kerr on the USA Patriot Act Compromise

My colleague Orin Kerr has gone through the nearly 100 pages of statutory text of the new USA Patriot Act renewal compromise bill. He offers his tentative conclusions here. The bill makes changes in Section 215 Orders, National Security Letters, and Sneak and Peek Warrants. Basically the changes are more recordkeeping and more judicial review — both laudable improvements. There are, however, many other problems in the USA Patriot Act as well as in the underlying electronic surveillance laws that still remain. Check out Kerr’s analysis, which is insightful and intelligent as usual. You could, of course, read the almost 100 pages of statutory code yourself, but I’m sure you’ve got a life. Thank goodness there are folks like Kerr to do it for us. That’s why we keep him around.

Related Posts:

1. Solove, National Security Letters

2. Solove, More on National Security Letters

3. Solove, The USA Patriot Act: A Fraction of the Problem

3

I wonder what Dan Markel thinks of this

Private use of shaming punishments:

Tasha Henderson got tired of her 14-year-old daughter’s poor grades, her chronic lateness to class and her talking back to her teachers, so she decided to teach the girl a lesson.

She made Coretha stand at a busy Oklahoma City intersection Nov. 4 with a cardboard sign that read: “I don’t do my homework and I act up in school, so my parents are preparing me for my future. Will work for food.”

I suspect that many of the same arguments apply here that might be used against state shaming punishments. (For some of them, see Dan’s paper).

On the other hand, it sounds awfully effective. Perhaps I should write up a proposal for the next faculty meeting suggesting that we implement this. A few students marching in front of the library wearing “I didn’t do the reading” sandwich boards would go a long way towards improving class participation, no?

0

Rocks, SOX, and roundhouse kicks

As all securities lawyers know, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act introduced new provisions relating to codes of ethics. Section 406 of the Act requires that companies disclose whether they have a code of ethics for their senior financial officers, and if not, the reason why not. This has led many companies to adopt codes of ethics.

I don’t think that the market has realized how simple this requirement actually is. As with most other areas of life, the best course here is simply to follow the guidance of Chuck Norris. To make this easier, Chuck has provided a clear list of “Chuck’s Code of Ethics.” (link via sharp-eyed reader Steve Evans). A company simply needs to adopt the list wholesale, and it can’t go wrong. chuck-ethics.jpg

What does Chuck’s code provide? A few highlights:

“I will develop myself to the maximum of my potential in all ways.

I will forget the mistakes of the past and press on to greater achievements.

I will always be in a positive frame of mind and convey this feeling to every person that I meet. . .”

Does Chuck’s code meet the requirements of Item 406 of Reg S-K? You might as well ask, “Does Chuck Norris have a beard?”

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3

David Giacalone on the FTC’s Price Gouging Statement

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David Giacalone has a nice new post up about the FTC’s recent position statement against a federal price gouging law. I had missed this development last week.

According the FTC’s chairperson, “[e]nforcement of the antitrust laws is the better way to protect consumers.”

As a first take, I think I agree that there is no pressing need for yet more federal regulation of economic activity, especially where states are both capable, and in this case motivated, to take care of the “problem” themselves. This is particularly true in this context, where the harms attributed to price gouging are localized and fleeting.