UC Law Constitutional Quarterly


The ability of Internet users to be anonymous is often touted as one of the benefits of the Internet. It is argued that anonymity on the Internet should be protected because it enhances the free exchange of ideas and helps preserve individual privacy. But anonymous on-line communications have an obvious darkside. Anonymous Internet messages and advertisements increase the potential for fraud by making it difficult, if not impossible, for the true identities of communicants to be traced. This article explores the tension that exists between efforts to regulate anonymous Internet communications and the free speech principles of the First Amendment. Based upon the U.S. Supreme Court's existing commercial speech doctrine and its holdings in several anonymous speech cases, it concludes that a statute that requires Internet advertisers to disclose their correct legal identities and principal place of business would not be unconstitutional.