Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley attempted to clarify comments earlier this week in which she called for eliminating anonymity online, mandating that social media companies verify all users and requiring the use of real names.
Haley called online anonymity a “national security threat,” saying that hostile foreign actors could be eliminated online by forcing everyone to be verified on social media.
“You’re gonna get some civility when people know their name is next to what they say and they know their pastor and their family members [are] gonna see it,” she said Tuesday. She later doubled down on her statement, saying, “I want it by name,” and “I want everybody’s name.”
After facing blowback online, Haley addressed her comments during an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday.
“We need our social media companies to verify everybody,” Haley said. On the subject of forcing everyone to use their real names online, Haley said, “Do I think life would be more civil if we were able to do that? Yes. … You should stand by what you say. But no, like, you can have anonymous — I don’t mind anonymous American people having free speech. What I don’t like is anonymous Russians and Chinese and Iranians having free speech.”
Addressing Haley’s proposal, Mary Anne Franks, a professor at George Washington University Law School, said that the government forcing social media companies to require users to be verified “would be at odds with long-standing and robust First Amendment protections for anonymous speech.”
Franks noted that even if Haley was only suggesting that social media companies should do that on their own accord, it would still “have implications for free speech more generally.”
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David Greene, director of civil liberties at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said that cracking down on anonymity would harm whistleblowers, victims of domestic abuse, and political dissidents in countries like Russia, China, and Iran, where brave activists attempt to show the world what is going on in their countries and often risk being killed.
“For these individuals and the organizations that support them, secure anonymity is critical. It may literally save lives,” Greene said. “Anonymous communications have an important place in our political and social discourse.”
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