Module 3 -- October 14 through 20, 2013

Topic: Speech, Privacy and Anonymity in Cyberspace

Is there a tradeoff between privacy and security? Is the relevant Constitutional standard to be found in the 1st Amendment or in the Commerce Clause? Under the theory that radio signals travel in a limited spectrum and are commercial activity, the FCC enforces all kinds of content restrictions (including transmitter identification) that would never be permitted for printed material. Yet, radio waves can be used for speech, and books can be sold in commerce. If 1st Amendment analysis controls, then the anonymity of speech is protected because of the chilling effect identification would have on content. If the Commerce Clause is the relevant analysis, then the presence of protected speech does not limit regulation any more than putting a political bumper sticker on a tractor-trailer truck exempts it from displaying a registration plate or a safety inspection sticker. In the physical world, those principles are clear. The Supreme Court has not really reached such issues pertaining to cyber. The Circuit Courts have held both that the Internet is an instrumentality of commerce, which would permit requiring authors of websites to identify themselves, and that the content of packets are protected speech, which would suggest that anonymity is protected.


Reading Activity:

Please read this handout, which includes selections from:

1. statutes;

2. judicial cases;

3. excerpts from Baker, Skating on Stilts; and

4. summaries by Professor Snyder.



Please click the button below to start this week's lecture in Adobe Presenter format. The lecture runs about 52 minutes.


Pre-Discussion Activity:

Please post on the Discussion Board at least one question or clarification regarding the readings or the lecture prior to the live session on Thursday.


Online Seminar - Live Session:

Participate in the live online seminar on Thursday, October 17, 2013, 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

Click the button to go to the seminar room:



You can take a mini-examination including the questions about Module 3 now or at any time before the end of the course.


Additional Resources:

Proceed to Module Four -->


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