2024 Election

Haley on her plan to eliminate online anonymity: ‘I don’t care about anonymous Americans having free speech,’ but not foreigners

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Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley attempted to clarify comments earlier this week calling for eliminating online anonymity, requiring social media companies to verify all users and requiring the use of real names.

Haley called online anonymity a “national security threat” and said hostile foreign actors could be weeded out online by forcing everyone to be verified on social media.

“You’ll get some courtesy when people know your name is next to what they say and they know their pastor and their relatives. [are] “I’m going to see it,” he said Tuesday. He later doubled down on his statement and said, “I want it by name” and “I want everyone’s name.”

After facing criticism online, Haley addressed her comments during an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday.

“We need our social media companies to verify everyone,” Haley saying. On the topic of forcing everyone to use their real names online, Haley said: “Do I think life would be more civilized if we could do that? Yes. …You should respect what you say. But no, you can have anonymity. I don’t care about anonymous Americans having freedom of speech. What I don’t like is that anonymous Russians, Chinese and Iranians have freedom of expression.”

Addressing Haley’s proposal, Mary Anne Franks, a professor at George Washington University Law School, saying that forcing the government on social media companies to require that users be verified “would be at odds with strong and long-standing First Amendment protections for anonymous speech.”

Franks noted that even if Haley was only suggesting that social media companies should do so on their own, it would still “have implications for free speech generally.”

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David Greene, civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said cracking down on anonymity would harm whistleblowers, victims of domestic abuse and political dissidents in countries like Russia, China and Iran, where brave activists are trying to show to the world what is happening in their countries and often risk being killed.

“For these people and the organizations that support them, ensuring anonymity is essential. It can literally save lives,” Greene said. “Anonymous communications have an important place in our political and social discourse.”

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