Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Judge Orders Twitter to Unmask FBI Impersonator Who Set Off Seth Rich Conspiracy (npr.org)
247 points by uptown 9 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 224 comments



All the threads are talking about Free Speech, but that ended when the person impersonated an FBI agent.

That is not a protected act and is prosecutable[0].

[0] https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/912


The article claims they forged an FBI document, as far as I can see, not that they impersonated an FBI agent. I'm not quite sure that's the same thing and it's a civil case, whereas that appears to be criminal law.


Is impersonating not a dependency of forging? You're performing an action usually performed only by someone else, and then promulgating an artifact thereof.


That’s an interesting take. I suppose what you are saying is that even if you don’t claim that you are FBI, when you write a document that purports to be from the FBI, during the writing process you are impersonating an FBI agent.

That makes sense logically. I don’t know anything about the legal argument though.


There are plenty of FBI docs that get released by journalists and others who are not FBI agents, so it's hard to take that as a given without seeing the tweets in context, which I did not see. The ruling does mumble something about the account passing itself as an FBI agent, as I've since had a chance to read, but it doesn't give any details and I didn't see any mention of that law.

Also, I'm surprised the NPR ran this article, given the disclaimer at the bottom that it's a party to it. Usually the lawyers just don't let you do that.


No. When you forge a document, you do not purport to be the person who notionally created that document legitimately. You only represent (falsely) that the document was created legitimately, generally not by you.


This sounds like the opposite of what you meant to say. When you are forging the document and claiming the document is from the FBI, you are fully t acting as an FBI agent.


>When you are forging the document and claiming the document is from the FBI, you are fully t acting as an FBI agent

That's sophistry and confuses the issue. One is absolutely not acting as an FBI agent when forging FBI documents. There is a clear and common-sense difference between impersonation and forgery, and you seem to be misusing language to willfully misunderstand the difference.

When you're forging the document, you are not pretending to be an FBI agent. You are being a forger. The forger then claims that the FBI made the document.

Saying, "The FBI made these documents and here they are" is fundamentally different than saying, "I made these documents and am with the FBI." They do not collapse into the same thing.

To be honest, I still would hope forging FBI documents is a crime in the same way that impersonating an FBI agent is a crime; however that's a matter of law. It is a matter of fact that forgery and impersonation are different. One is falsifying documents, the other is falsifying identity. If you want to say that both can be reduced to falsification or deception, sure, but that's not a crime. Forgery (falsifying documents) and impersonation (falsifying identity) are crimes, and separate ones.


Why would you assume that everyone with an FBI document is an FBI agent? Especially given that any random person could get docs from the FBI Vault, FOIA, etc.?


Not "everyone with an FBI document" but "everyone creating an FBI document" because forgery means creating, not possessing.

I think it's fair to say that someone creating a document with FBI letterhead/signatures/etc. is pretending to be an FBI agent.


Do you really expect them to go around claiming to have forged the document or putting their own name on it?

And if they don't, nobody knows this, so nobody has cause to think that they are an agent. They can't really impersonate an FBI agent to themselves because they know that's not true.

Thus, if nobody thinks they're an FBI agent, how can they have impersonated one?


Maybe it's presumptuous of me to think it is the FBI that is hiring, vetting, and managing the people who produce it's documents?


Given the number of contractors and some of the abuse caused by them, I would say that yes, it is presumptuous.


If the FBI isn't vetting, hiring, and managing their contractors, then who is?


All I can do is repeat my original comment. If you think I said the opposite of what I meant, the problem is with you.


I don't think it falls within the bounds of the crime of impersonating a Federal agent [1]

> Whoever falsely assumes or pretends to be an officer or employee acting under the authority of the United States or any department, agency or officer thereof, and acts as such, or in such pretended character demands or obtains any money, paper, document, or thing of value, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

[1] https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/912


The key clause there is "acts as such". Highlighting mine:

> Whoever falsely assumes or pretends to be an officer or employee acting under the authority of the United States or any department, agency or officer thereof, and acts as such

If the twitter account operator(s) claims that a document is an official FBI document, when it is not, then they have falsely exercised the exclusive authority of the FBI to issue statements as the FBI, an agency of the United States. The available evidence meets the criteria highlighted above.

(This centers around the definition of the verb "forge"; to forge a document, you must falsely pretend to be acting with authority to produce that document, or else it wouldn't be forging.)

If the twitter account operator(s) was provided the document by someone else and was misled by the provider, then the operators did not falsely pretend to be FBI, and so the operators would be protected from prosecution. The operators would need to make this claim to the court; they do not appear to have done so at this time.

(Standard disclaimer applies. I am not your lawyer, I have not prepared citations for review, please seek legal counsel before taking any action based upon an HN comment.)


>Is impersonating not a dependency of forging

I think we should keep definitions of words consistent. Impersonation is not forgery or a dependency thereof. Those are different words for different terms.


Would Dan Rather or his source be liable for the faked documents that questioned GWBushes service records, for example? Unfortunately for US GwB emerged unscathed and Dan Rather is ignominious now... though that doesn’t happen to bad reporters any longer.


Twitter is a private platform. Free speech laws in America do not apply.

People seriously need to get this pounded into their heads. Read the bill of rights. You do not have a right to free speech on private platforms.

Twitter is the equivalent of you arguing with me in my house. I can tell you to be quiet or I’ll kick you out of my house. You have no free speech rights in private spaces. Twitter is a private company. You have no free speech rights on their platform.


I saw the free speech angle as related to the government’s ability to go after Twitter, and this user. (But I agree with GP that the point is moot if they impersonated the FBI.)


I don't see any reference to the 1st Amendment in the parent comment.

Rather, this is a better analog to shield laws, which can protect media from divulging sources in many cases.


OP mentioned free speech and Twitter is using free speech in their legal defense.


In the argument you made, private versus public is entirely irrelevant.

There are two free speech arguments. Keep in mind that "free speech" is not relegated to the 1st Amendment and defenses of that generally lean on supplementary law.

1) The free speech of the user. Again, while it's true that it's not protected within a private entity, it's irrelevant because your protections are limited; in this case when your speech breaks another law.

2) The free speech of the platform. Being compelled to reveal this information really doesn't even touch any free speech argument except a vague interpretation of shield laws. DMCA as it exists provides legal protection against the crime, of course.


[flagged]


Are you seriously arguing that falsifying government documents is/should be protected/free speech?

If so I have a tax return to sell you.

P.S. My cousin is a prince form Nigeria that might want to discuss a business opportunity with you let me know if you’re interested.


I can't believe how unbelievably little people like you know about law and free speech. Are you the one seriously arguing that it's illegal to lie on Twitter? Or to lie a newspaper? Of course faking a document is perfectly legal as long as it's not used for fraud. Tricking people on Twitter or at a newspaper isn't fraud unless they're contractually paying you for authentic documents and you deceive them for monetary gain.

Is this really that hard? The Onion fakes documents all the time and claims to have quotes from police officers and government officials on a daily basis.

Free speech is the most essential of all freedoms, and you'd trade it away for a song and a dance out of sheer ignorance.


Great guy your cousin. Would do business again 10/10.


It comes down to intent. If you falsify a government document and use it to defraud someone then that would be a criminal act. But if you show a fake tax return form for "Donald Trump" as a joke then that would be protected free speech.


How convinient for the state to prosecute citizens spreading "fake" documents. I mean what could go wrong.


... Hold on, are you just now realising that fraud isn't legal? Like, it's one of the first things to have been illegal; the oldest legal codes that we know about cover it.

That said this isn't a criminal case and the state isn't prosecuting anyone. (Yet; I assume the person might be prosecuted at some point)


And this is fraud... how? Because a guy made up fake stories and gave them to a newspaper for free? Or because he posted untrue things on Twitter? I guess the folks at The Onion better expect police knocking at their door any day now. They make up documents and quotes from "government officials" all the time. Better arrest them!


Who else would prosecute people for spreading fake documents? Do you think a civil suit would be more effective?


In this case it's a civil lawsuit, and the Twitter user isn't being charged with anything.


Not yet


The state isn't prosecuting anyone. It's a civil lawsuit.


Free speech has never meant that citizens get carte blanche abilities to say absolutely anything they want, and there are pretty darn good reasons why it's illegal to impersonate an officer.

Free speech laws don't cover the distribution of child porn, for example. Are you saying that the government shouldn't restrict the distribution of child porn because it infringes on free speech?


[flagged]


Actually, perse[1] didn't make much sense. Perse missed the point. The point is that whether some speech is prosecutable under US law is not a deciding factor of whether it should be protected under the principles of freedom of expression.

[1]https://stallman.org/articles/genderless-pronouns.html


> The point is that whether some speech is prosecutable under US law is not a deciding factor of whether it should be protected under the principles of freedom of expression.

You're arguing that whether a particular form of speech is illegal or not should have no weight on deciding whether or not to protect that form of speech? Are you really arguing that laws don't matter here? So straight up, do you believe that the government is infringing on people's rights by banning child porn, yes or no?


> You're arguing that whether a particular form of speech is illegal or not should have no weight on deciding whether or not to protect that form of speech?

I don't know if they're arguing that, but I will argue that. Whether or not it is protected speech is a question you approach before you decide whether or not it is illegal.

For example, speech intended to cause someone to immediately assault you is not protected. It's not protected regardless of whether or not the government chooses to make it illegal, it can both not be protected speech, and still be legal. On the other hand arguing for a political position (with the goal of advancing the political position, not "arguing" a political position in an attempt to get someone to immediately punch you) is protected. It's protected regardless of whether or not congress passes a law forbidding it.

> So straight up, do you believe that the government is infringing on people's rights by banning child porn, yes or no?

This question misses the point, no, but I also wouldn't believe it was protected speech if the government had just not passed a law against it. Rather I would continue to believe that by virtue of it's lack of expressive nature and by virtue of how it harms people unable to consent that it is not protected speech.


What does protected speech mean and how does it differ from not being protected if it is different from laws making certain things illegal? And how is legal/illegal relevant to arguing in relation to protected/unprotected since it seems your arguments steers towards that being a philosophical definition.


Protected speech is the set of things you can do and say that are covered under freedom of speech from a philosophical standpoint. It is the set of things protected by 1a legally in the us (roughly, 1a also includes some non-speech rights). It is the set of things that you should not forbid as a legislature, and the set of things that courts will not enforce laws against even if you try to forbid them anyways.

All those are slightly different definitions, but I wasn't being precise enough in my previous comment that the differences are important.


Then I think the issue is simple. Any speech made illegal by law isn't protected unless the supreme court rules that case to be different, IIRC you americans have precedence rules for that sort of stuff.

Protected speech is any legal speech that additionally enjoys protection from the constitution, while unprotected speech would be legal speech that is not otherwise protected. And then you have illegal stuff that is outlawed.

Courts to my knowledge, even in american, don't consider the constitution at the lower levels, just local legislation, ie any legal speech is equivalent regardless of protected status.

Specific protection status would be regulated by precedent in higher courts which do have the capacity to interprete the constitution.


No, your just wrong here.

Courts at every level consider the constitution. Lower level courts routinely rule on constitutional grounds.

The legislature routinely passes unconstitutional laws that purport to punish constitutionally protected speech, and those laws are routinely not enforced against that speech. (Often these laws have other constitutionally valid purposes and are still enforced for those purposes, more rarely their main purpose is to forbid protected speech and they are thrown out entirely).

It is simply not the case in the us that the legislature passing a law against speech means that the speech is unprotected and illegal.


The police would very much enforce them, they aren't in charge of what is constitutional or not, unless your police is incompetent.

What you'd rather want to say is "they are thrown out in court".

>It is simply not the case in the us that the legislature passing a law against speech means that the speech is unprotected and illegal.

Until a court considers otherwise, it very much is. A law is valid until a court overthrows it. Hence it requires proper police (the executive) to enforce it. Otherwise the state will just not function.


>So straight up, do you believe that the government is infringing on people's rights by banning child porn, yes or no?

According to U.S. law some kinds of child pornography are legal. Do you believe, therefore, that it is against the principles of freedom of speech that the NZ government has banned them. Yes or no?


> According to U.S. law some kinds of child pornography are legal.

Do you have any evidence of this? I'm not aware that this is true at all and I don't believe it to be the case.

> Do you believe, therefore, that it is against the principles of freedom of speech that the NZ government has banned them. Yes or no?

No, I believe that freedom of speech comes with limitations and preventing distribution of child porn is a perfectly good limitation to put in place on freedom of speech.


Paintings, sketches, cartoons, etc. of children and of a pornographic nature are legal at the federal level so long as they have artistic, cultural, or [something I've forgotten] merit. Or so I believe - not a lawyer.

Anyway, to make the point in a more straightforward way:

What ought and oughtn't be allowed expression according to the principles of freedom of speech is not a clear-cut thing. There are many different views on it, and to dismiss all those with views different from those who wrote US law is silly.


Consider two things:

A. The kinds of expression protected under U.S. law

B. The kinds of expression which should be protected according to the principles of freedom of speech

The point is that, because A and B are separate things, the fact that impersonating an FBI officer is not protected under US law[1] does not entail that impersonating an FBI officer should not be protected according to the principles of freedom of speech.

[1]which may or may not be the case, I'm not a lawyer nor an American


So what exactly are the "principles of freedom of speech" you describe here, and how do they take precedence over the law? Is it just your interpretation of the concept of freedom of speech? It's one thing to argue that a particular law isn't kosher, but you're differentiating on this nebulous term that in no way supersedes the actual law here.


Sorry, could explain more simply what it is that you are asking?


Conversely, if laws have no meaning, what makes them think that the concept of free speech is protected by law? It's turtles all the way down.


> Conversely, if laws have no meaning, what makes them think that the concept of free speech is protected by law? It's turtles all the way down.

Nothing. There are some aspects where US law is pretty well aligned with the principles of freedom of speech, and others where it isn't aligned at all. For example: A significant percentage of speech is carried out on social media, where US law does not require free speech to be enforced - but, according to the principles of freedom of expression, free speech is very valuable.


Generally speaking the US Constitution restricts the actions of government, and not anybody else. E.g. you can preach with a megaphone whatever you want on the sidewalk; you can't do it in my living room without my consent.

Also people tend to forget that freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences; limiting consequences of speech, even if it were desirable, can start restricting others' freedom of expression and association. If Bob gets on a stump and starts spewing controversial hate speech his employer is perfectly free to not want to associate with that behavior and fire him.


> So straight up, do you believe that the government is infringing on people's rights by banning child porn, yes or no?

As I recall it, people can and have been prosecuted for drawing and owning cartoons of child porn. That is a victimless crime - so yes it probably has gotten to the point where the government is infringing rights unreasonably. The government can walk in and created a loser in a situation where nobody was unhappy. It is the production of the porn that worries me rather than the possession. I'd be ok with the whole situation if everyone was sticking to one cache of obscene material produced 50 years ago and nobody new was being harmed.

But more to the topic at hand, CP isn't a free speech issue. The crime is, by and large, possession of child porn and so the issue is one of privacy rather than speech. They may as well legalise distribution, if anyone were stupid enough to do it publicly it would make it easy for the police to find everyone involved and prosecute them.


What rules of freedom of expression actually cover false impersonation?


I'm not sure why you ask. But one example would be as follows:

-RULES OF FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION-

1. Any person may say anything


Yeah I don't think any reasonable person believes this is the absolute inviolable sacrosanct ideal, nor is this actually a legal standard anywhere.

Spouting falsehoods under a false pretense as an authority shouldn't be protected. Otherwise what's stopping society from drowning in a he-said she-said of conspiracy noise?


A reasonable person might reason as follows:

1. If the government is to restrict speech, then it must be granted the power to restrict speech

2. If the government is granted the power to restrict speech, then it may misuse this power in its own perceived interests

3. If the government misuses its power in this way then democracy will be threatened

4. Democracy is good

Conclusion: the government should not be allowed to restrict speech


That means blackmail, threats of violence, divulging state secrects, forging documents, fake passports, and terrorist propaganda should all be allowed.


Agreed.


CP isn't a free speech issue. It's a child abuse issue. Even a hypothetical no-holds-barred free speech extremist situation, CP would still be illegal.


Proponents of child porn argue that it should be protected speech, just as distribution of legal porn is often argued on free speech grounds.

I completely agree that it child porn exposes children to abuse and should be illegal, but it’s important to note how proponents of that medium argue for its legitimacy.


There is a coinvent sidestep to this issue.

Distributing sexual images of someone without their consent is a clear crime against that person. Children can not consent.


> Even a hypothetical no-holds-barred free speech extremist situation, CP would still be illegal.

This is what they always say. All of the exceptions get some reason why they don't count as free speech. Why can't this argument be used on both sides?


Fraud is not protected speech, so you are correct, free speech does not apply?

Are you really arguing there should never be any legs consequences for text/speech? If so, so many laws would no longer apply - fraud, harassment, false advertisement, perjury, racketeering... hell, you couldn't even convict someone of hiring a hit man to kill someone, because it was just words telling the guy to kill someone for money!


A statement standing alone is not fraud.

Fraud is a tort that involves several elements, with the ‘speech’ being merely one element.

Ditto with harassment.

To analogize, your comment is akin to the following:

Poster: We should have a right to use knives.

You: Murder by stabbing is not a right!

[edit] In short, you can lie all day long... it’s your right. It only becomes ‘fraud’ when (in most jurisdictions):

1. You make a misrepresentation,

2. About something material,

3. That you intended another to rely upon,

4. And which they did in fact rely upon,

5. And that reliance was reasonably justified,

6. And they suffered harm thereby,

7. And the harm was proximately caused by the statement.

If any element is missing, your free to engage in the conduct without interference by the govt.


So it sounds like in this case, all 7 elements are present, which is why they are being ordered to break anonymity.


Where do all your anti-free-speechers get your identically wrong talking points? Lying on Twitter or to a newspaper ISN'T FRAUD. And if you used your half-assed definitions to write laws, you could throw authors at The Onion in jail for creating fake documents and making up fake quotes from government officials.

Newspapers and Twitter users have no right to expect that anonymous statements made online or documents given to them for free are accurate or true. If they chose to publish defamatory articles based on their lack of due diligence, the civil liability rests with them.


Of course lying on Twitter isn’t fraud, just like lying in any other medium isn’t fraud. However, if the lie on Twitter is used to commit fraud, than it is no different than getting a court order to track down someone who used a phone call to commit fraud.

This isn’t charging someone with lying in a tweet. This is someone who used twitter to contact people in order to commit a crime (or at least that is what is alleged in court)... they can use the law to attempt to find out who this user is.


> if the lie on Twitter is used to commit fraud

I'll apologize if I have the details of the case wrong, but where is this supposed fraud? The only way I could see this being fraudulent is if (1) the private investigator being PAID for his investigatory services created the account and faked the document himself to continue getting paid for additional investigation or (2) the journalist being PAID for her journalistic work created fake documents so that she could publish them and accrue the financial benefits of authoring a juicy story.

But if whysprtech is anyone else on the planet—a conspiratorial kook, a troll, or even a political operative trying to embarass people—no fraud has been committed and there is no basis for unmasking him. The people responsible for the defamation aren't random anonymous internet trolls, but publishing companies who make money purporting to report the rigorously validated truth, but are actually lazy, naive, and gullible.


That's what the law says. You may also surprised to hear that you can't lie under oath.


That’s not true.

Your are confusing lying under oath with the crime of perjury.

The false statement, standing alone, is not actionable... it is merely one of several elements that make up the crime of perjury.


The false statement can't stand alone, it's always under a specific historical context.


The principle of free speech in American law is government-granted to begin with. Why did it surprise people that it comes with limits?


No it isn't. The US government grants no rights. That's how the Chinese constitution works with each right specifically enumerated. In the US there are bounds placed on the power available to the government. Everything else not expressly ceded to the government belongs to the people.


Then why is this specifically encoded in the first amendment?


The amendment is "Congress shall make no law...". It is solely a prohibition on government power and nothing else. You have guaranteed free speech when a citizen interacts with the government. You don't have it when interacting with a private institution. This is how social media can censor and deplatform with impunity.


From the text: "The exceptions here or elsewhere in the Constitution, made in favor of particular rights, shall not be so construed as to diminish the just importance of other rights retained by the people, or as to enlarge the powers delegated by the Constitution; but either as actual limitations of such powers, or as inserted merely for greater caution."


From the text: "The exceptions here or elsewhere in the Constitution, made in favor of particular rights, shall not be so construed as to diminish the just importance of other rights retained by the people, or as to enlarge the powers delegated by the Constitution; but either as actual limitations of such powers, or as inserted merely for greater caution."


This is the correct response.


If we've gotten to the point where we just accept that individual rights are granted by the government and can thus be limited by said government by any means or process, then the idea that private individuals have inalienable rights against the state is de-facto dead.


Rights are a societal construct and there is no higher moral authority who gets to decide what the true set of of inalienable rights are. If you decide that X is an inalienable right and the society around you doesn’t agree, on what grounds do you have the authority to claim that everybody else is wrong and only you are in possession of the Truth?


Furthermore, each 'inalienable right' places some burden on the rest of society to actually enforce it.

For example, 'right to a fair trial by a jury of their peers' means that judges and the rest of them must be organised, paid for, etc.


This is true. You only have rights when others agree to grant you those rights. If everyone agreed it was an inalienable right to kill anyone who looked at you sideways, thus it would be.


What grounds would a slave, living in a time and place where slavery is legal, have to argue in defense of their freedom?

If you are willing to recognize that society has had an incorrect view of rights in the past, you must recognize that there is a standard beyond society to appeal to.


In the case of actual slaves living in such a time, they still appealed to society both directly and through government (another abstraction,) because not even authoritarian societies are absolutely uniform, and societal constructs are mutable.

Unless you want to invoke divine will as that "standard beyond society," humanity and its arbitrary social constructs are all you have available to deal with, and some problems can't be reduced to objective and absolute terms as a result.

You could invoke "nature" but nature doesn't recognize rights. No creature has a natural right to food, safety or property. Nature engages in warfare, cruelty, violence, rape and slavery with abandon, and without even the pretext of morality. Even anarchists wouldn't want to live in a world governed entirely by natural law.


Reducing the options to divine or arbitrary is a false dilemma. Math is discovered/invented by humans, but it is far from arbitrary.

A slave will appeal to society because society has the power. But if the society does not listen to the appeals of the slave, we can still judge that the slave is correct and the society is wrong. And that judgement is not arbitrary.


> What grounds would a slave, living in a time and place where slavery is legal, have to argue in defense of their freedom?

The same grounds that we use to argue against slavery today. Just because the society around you doesn't believe certain rights are real doesn't mean you can't personally buy into them. "Rights are a societal construct" doesn't mean that nobody has a right to believe different things from society. It just means that our conception of rights derive from societal consensus, not a higher power or objective source, and conversely that there is no higher power or objective source we can invoke to override society's mores.

> If you are willing to recognize that society has had an incorrect view of rights in the past, you must recognize that there is a standard beyond society to appeal to.

No, you can just criticize them using the today's moral standards. You can be sufficiently committed to your moral standards to be willing to impose them on other people without simultaneously believing that those moral standards are a objective property of the natural universe.

Hume's is-ought guillotine is a thing. A normative statement does not magically become an positive fact just because that normative statement is an extremely strongly held (e.g. slavery is bad). The notion of inalienable rights is a rhetorical trick that lazily conflates the normative and the positive.


> "Rights are a societal construct" doesn't mean that nobody has a right to believe different things from society.

Unless society doesn't recognize your right to believe differently, no?

The is-ought problem does not rule out the existence of normative facts. It simply states that they can't be proven by positive facts. You seem to be trying to rule out the existence of normative facts by appealing to positive facts.


Why does believing society had an incorrect view of rights in the past entail such a thing? It's compatible both with believing that society today has a correct view of rights and the opposite, believing that society today has an incorrect view of rights - even if that view is different than before.

Having an opinion doesn't make that opinion an objective fact!


Having an opinion doesn't make that opinion fact. But if you say that one opinion is in any way superior to another opinion then you are recognizing that there is something to measure those opinions against. There is some truth that we are trying to discover through reason.


You have the freedom to defend yourself, you do not have the freedom to kill the president - they both involve guns and people


That's why you support fraudulent advertising, right?


This is an irrelevant issue here.

1) The Twitter user isn't charged with anything, so no one is trying to restrict their speech.

2) Anonymous speech isn't the same as free speech

3) This is a civil suit. Civil suits have always been able to compel the disclosure of some private information in some circumstances.


Anonymity is not free speech, but anonymity is absolutely required for some free speech. Consider the case of free elections, most people consider it an absolute given that these need to be anonymous.

The potential for reprisal in expressing your choice or opinion in some circumstances is very high and anonymity is sometimes the only thing that can eliminate the chill of that risk. It is in this way a free speech issue.

On the other hand, if a crime or tort was committed, well that isn't considered free.


> Consider the case of free elections, most people consider it an absolute given that these need to be anonymous.

Interestingly, this has not always been the case. Elections in the US did not use anonymous voting until nearly the 20th century. And the reason for instituting the secret ballot was apparently less due to free speech concerns, and more because of rampant corruption and bribery to buy votes.


Yes I agree it can be needed in some circumstances, but this isn't absolute or defined in the constitution or law and has to be balanced against other rights.

> On the other hand, if a crime or tort was committed, well that isn't considered free.

And this is a tort case


> ... absolute given that these need to be anonymous.

British elections aren’t anonymous - the ballot paper has a unique identifier and this is written beside the voter’s name on the polling station’s list when the ballot is issued by a polling clerk.

The list is sealed when the polling station closes, but can be opened by court order if the election result is challenged.



It’s only anonymous at the polling station - the Returning Officer (senior local government employee overseeing the election) can match the voter’s unique anonymous ID to a specific person.


Yes, and they also keep a record on WHO voted, (not how they voted except as you pointed out), as well. This information is made freely available to registered political parties.


My point was UK elections aren’t anonymous.

Ballot papers (votes) and their corresponding number lists (matching voter to ballot paper) are kept for 12 months before destruction, and together allow who voted for who to be known - however - it seems no-one is allowed to inspect this except for the purposes of prosecuting an electoral fraud, so votes are to all intents and purposes private.

Perhaps the top downvote was for pedantry (?), but there is a difference between anonymous and private. The British system could issue ballots without recording to which specific person - that would be anonymous. You’d lose the ability to ask a particular voter if their counted ballot was the one they marked (substitution fraud), but I don’t think this ever actually happens.


> but that ended when the person impersonated an FBI agent

I didn't know larping was illegal


American law. Pft. Not everyone in the world is subject to Roman rule...

Not talking about Twitter here - the individual may not be American (America - the new Rome.)


Twitter is, though


You can break American law without ever going to the US (and for that matter, the law of any country really). If I hire an assassin to kill someone in the US, I don't ever have to set foot on US soil and I am still breaking US law.

It really doesn't matter where I am physically to break a law of a different country. Now whether my country is going to extradite me is a different question.


Their headquarters is in America.


Well aware.


You underestimate the reach of the American banking system.


So Twitter can turn over the information and allow investigators to determine whom or where the user was from.


Yes, of course - that’s not debated. Now if that post was by a someone outside American boarders...


This seems irrelevant. The Twitter user isn't charged with anything.


And this is the other side of the famed tech desire to collect tons of info but refuse to give it to the government. We get disinterested social networks allowing fake news that cause direct harm, created by anonymous users who they don't want to reveal.

I am a strong privacy advocate, but the idea we should give corporations our data while hiding it from the government is kinda ludicrous when you look at the results.


The fact that every online interaction (almost unavoidably) gives valuable data to corporations is bad enough. I do not understand why you would want to compound the damage by pouring that information directly into the hands of the government.


I am for keeping personal information siloed and ideally offline as much as possible. I am not sure that it is good to make it impossible to trace where online information came from though.


if somebody "anonymously" taped banners and posters on the street espousing messages, would it make sense to have a camera record every public space and identify who placed those banners there?


I'm not 100% sure where I stand on the issue but that analogy falls a little flat - the potential reach of a couple of posters on a couple of streets is much smaller than that of posts online.


so you're saying that as long as you can limit the reach of a message, anonymity is fine? Where and who decides that line?

I think society should either accept that if there should be anonymity, that there must also be free speech (which includes free speech you may not like). And the inverse is also true - that if there's no anonymity, then there can be no free speech (including free speech you _do_ like).


This might shock you but the world is full of shades of grey


I think in the physical space there's a lot of ways investigators can discover this information after the fact, whether it be interviewing witnesses, looking for forensic evidence (fingerprints, DNA), etc. Things that, arguably, are not privacy violating, but can be acquired in investigating a specific problem.

The difference in the digital space is that Twitter/Facebook/etc. have all that forensic data... and then just refuse to provide it.


>We get disinterested social networks allowing fake news that cause direct harm, created by anonymous users who they don't want to reveal.

You should probably look at the historical cases about harm and speech.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schenck_v._United_States

>The Court, in a unanimous opinion written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., held that Schenck's criminal conviction was constitutional. The statute only applied to successful obstructions of the draft, but common-law precedents allowed prosecution for attempts that were dangerously close to success. Attempts made by speech or writing could be punished like other attempted crimes; the First Amendment did not protect speech encouraging men to resist induction, because, "when a nation is at war, many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight, and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right."[7] In other words, the court held, the circumstances of wartime allow greater restrictions on free speech than would be allowed during peacetime, if only because new and greater dangers are present.

Reminder that the US has been at war since 2001.

The harm caused by whoever is the perpetrator of the moral panic of the moment always pales in comparison to the harm caused by the response to it.

Let a thousand Russian bots post on facebook, it will cause less damage to society than a single deleted post.


You do realize that Schenck v US is no longer the current standard for restriction on speech, right? Brandenburg v Ohio tightens the restrictions to "imminent lawless action", and the underlying philosophy exhibited in "publishing critical speech of the government in war isn't constitutional" was implicitly repudiated by NY Times v US.


In court filings, attorneys for the social media giant claimed such a disclosure would violate the First Amendment rights of a user to be anonymous.

That ship has sailed, it seems convenient to argue for their users first amendment rights when out the other side of their mouth they argue that they are a private platform and should not be subject to free speech regulations when they choose to censure speech.

As a note before any projection I am a advocate of free speech and also a advocate of corporations being able to choose their direction. I am just not an advocate of hypocrisy and only pointing out the obvious.


>That ship has sailed, it seems convenient to argue for their users first amendment rights when out the other side of their mouth they argue that they are a private platform and should not be subject to free speech regulations when they choose to censure speech.

No. You are operating under an extremely confused and muddled understanding of the law and its purpose. The First Amendment and associated case law is an actual specific legal thing, and is not necessarily the same as broader subjective feelings "free speech". Specifically, it applies exclusively to the government, not the people. From a legal point of view, the purpose of freedom of speech and freedom of association is to allow the public at large to sort out what ideas and information is useful within extremely loose boundaries rather then the government using its monopoly on physical force to impose it. Part of that freedom is naturally social and economic consequences (as opposed to physical consequences): you have the "right to generally say what you wish" but other people by the same token have the right to have nothing to do with you, and to refuse to help you if they think you are wrong.

So no, like most of the times people use "hypocrisy" on the internet you've gotten it wrong. There is nothing hypocritical in the stance you describe, because the United States Government and private actors are not legally equivalent. The USG is both empowered to do things private actors may not, and forbidden from doing things that private actors can. Twitter may assert its rights to associate with whom it pleases. Under different law (the same that protects Hacker News and every other US-based user content site in existence), Section 230 of the CDA, Twitter is also empowered to moderate as it wishes to the best of its abilities without having to be 100% perfect without incurring liability rather then being forced to choose between full common carrier or full publisher. It could also voluntarily cooperate, within its various contracts and law. But the USG doesn't get to do the same.

And rightfully so.


>Twitter may assert its rights to associate with whom it pleases. Under different law (the same that protects Hacker News and every other US-based user content site in existence), Section 230 of the CDA, Twitter is also empowered to moderate as it wishes to the best of its abilities without having to be 100% perfect without incurring liability rather then being forced to choose between full common carrier or full publisher.

Absolutely. Your analysis WRT 1st Amendement and CDA230 were spot on.

I'd add that while Twitter isn't liable for the speech of the anonymous "FBI Agent", in this case no one is suing Twitter for liability.

Rather, Twitter was trying to quash a subpoena for potentially identifying data about the twitter handle "@whyspertech" in a civil suit brought by Seth Rich's brother.

The judge's order[0] upholding the subpoena lists Twitter as a "non-party" in the defamation lawsuit and provides background and context to the court's denial of the motion to quash the subpoena.

This isn't a First Amendment case at all, it's an issue of discovery in a civil case, regardless of Twitter's claim to be attempting to protect the anonymity of the twitter handle.

As the order[0] states:

"Motions to quash are limited by the scope of discovery under of Fed. R. Civ. P. 26, which states that “[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties’ relative access to relevant information, the parties’ resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). The relevancy standard under Fed. R. Civ. P. 26 also applies to third-party subpoenas."

[Removed excess whitespace for readability.]

[0] https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/7223134/ORDER-RIC...


It is a First Amendment case though, in that the discussion is all about the principle that “non-party disclosure is only appropriate in the exceptional case where the compelling need for the discovery sought outweighs the First Amendment rights of the anonymous speaker.”


My understanding, and I could have misread the article, but my understating is, that this is a private party that wants the data in a civil matter. Free speech has it's limits and in this case it appears that limit is libel. The governments only involvement is in the interest of that private parties case, in which a civil offense is alleged (libel). Also, I am not advocation for Twitter to make the decision to open their platform to the ills of society. I know the practicality and the ramifications of letting every troll have a voice on any platform they choose, but I do see "hypocrisy" in protecting the anonymity of a troll (generally wrapped up in free speech and association), when one engaging in censoring the spirit of free speech via their platform. I fully understand and support their right to do so, but they are doing so on the back side of this because it serves their interest, not because they are a beacon of free speech and I see it hypocritical to run to hide behind the law once you need it, when one does not subscribe to the spirit of the law, even if it cannot be applied to your entity. To be clear, I don't want any platform to be forced to accept the dregs of society, but I also don't want to see them hide behind regulation when it suits them. Especially when using a law that restrains the government, as a shield against a harmed (allegedly) private parties interest, in a case where, if true, the offending parties right to free speech legally ended at libel.

Also a point of clarity I was not trying to insinuate that the bill of rights can or should be applied to private entities. I am clear on the fact that it restrains what the government can and cannot do. I apologize if that was not clear in my post. I still contend that Twitter, the organization, is being hypocritical here.


> you have the "right to generally say what you wish"

In public. You have that right in public. Twitter is not in public. Twitter is the equivalent to you coming into my house.


>In public. You have that right in public. Twitter is not in public. Twitter is the equivalent to you coming into my house.

You too are muddling things a bit, and this is important and goes to the core of the point of what US 1A "rights" actually are. A person's right here encompasses not having force used against them, directly or by proxy. If you have someone as a guest in your house, they still have "the right to generally say what they wish", they cannot be criminally prosecuted, fined, and you may not just shoot them or punch them in the face or the like either. But of course you absolutely may say as you wish right back, give them the boot, refuse to help out with a cab fare (you didn't previously contract too), tell other people about it, never voluntarily associated with them ever again, etc. You may freely discriminate based on ideology. Their 1A rights don't go away in your house, and neither do yours.

And all that is "Free Speech" as well, because it's not a single solitary thing, it's a system. It's not that ideas are all equal and deserving of "fair treatment" or the like, it's that they're not, but we don't have an oracle to tell us which is which. Keeping consequences to social and economic balances some level of stability and pushing people towards what many/most consider to be good ideas while allowing room for those dedicated enough to try to go against the current accepted wisdom and convince others. A process which may well take years, decades, even centuries, but the hope is that with enough time good ideas and information will tend to succeed better then false, so long as the system remains dynamic.


I'm not sure why you think that the two arguments are contradictory. Rights are always rights of private entities against the state. It's perfectly normal not to be bound by some right that you are at the same time claiming against the state.

Fundamental rights are very different from (for example) contract law where duties are often somewhat connected to each other.


It would be utterly contradictory to attempt to apply the restrictions placed on the government in regards to "free speech" to private entities.


So your reading of the First Amendment is that if I'm hosting a party and somebody starts belligerently accusing me of trying to steal their wife, I can't kick them out or else the First Amendment will no longer protect me from government censorship?

I don't think that's a common interpretation of how the law works. The First Amendment is generally held to protect you from government restraint or retaliation, but not private restraint or retaliation, and having retaliated against someone for speech you find objectionable is not generally held to remove your Constitutional rights.


To clarify, as I read this situation, it would be more analogous to you host a party, someone at your party tells someone else that I killed a person, it is a factually untrue statement, it ends up having real world ramifications for me. I go to you and ask who it was and you say I am not going to tell you, so I go to the government and petition my right to not be slandered and then you say well my party is protected by this first amendment law, I will not tell you or the government who it was. In this case my being slandered trumps and terminates (civilly) your and your guests free speech rights. I should get the persons name and I walk away going what a hypocrite (to be clear not real you personally, but imaginary you at our imaginary party). Which is what I was expressing in my first post, I think they are being hypocritical in using the law as a shield. They don't want a law that restrains government applied to them, but they want to use a law applied against the government to block a private party from seeking redress from harm.


There is no contradiction. It's the prerogative of a website owner to control the content of their own website, this includes the freedom to remove content from the site they don't want to rebroadcast for whatever reason they like. It's a completely separate issue when the government is trying to coerce a private company to unmask a private citizen because of their speech. However, at the end of the day, the judge's ruling seems pretty reasonable considering the user fabricated FBI documents that are material in the question of the defamation case.


> it seems convenient to argue for their users first amendment rights when out the other side of their mouth they argue that they are a private platform and should not be subject to free speech regulations when they choose to censure speech

Even ignoring the other arguments made about companies versus the government, I don't think the right to be anonymous is from the First Amendment. Most often the Fourth Amendment is cited as the basis; although it's not as explicit as the First Amendment is about the protection of speech, the Ninth Amendment does say that rights don't have to be explicitly enumerated.


The right to anonymity has been grounded in the first amendment by U.S. court decisions before, maybe most notably

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watchtower_Bible_%26_Tract_Soc...

(You can feel free to disagree with this approach, it's just not "made up".)


This is mentioned in the article (“attorneys for the social media giant claimed such a disclosure would violate the First Amendment rights of a user to be anonymous”) and further explained, with citations, in the court’s decision:

> “An author's decision to remain anonymous, like other decisions concerning omissions or additions to the content of a publication, is an aspect of the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment.” McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm'n, 514 U.S. 334, 352 (1995). The Ninth Circuit recognizes that the decision to remain anonymous extends to anonymous speech made on the internet … The Ninth Circuit has explained that “the ability to speak anonymously on the Internet promotes the robust exchange of ideas and allows individuals to express themselves freely without ‘… concern about social ostracism.’”

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/7223134-ORDER-RICH.p...


This headline is propaganda, and isn't reflected in the content of the story (which quotes lawyers saying the document "fuel[ed]" the theory.)

The Seth Rich as the DNC leaker "conspiracy" theory was set off by the fact that there was a DNC data leak large enough that some people think that it couldn't have been remote without being detected, so they think it was by an insider. Also, Seth Rich, a DNC IT guy was randomly murdered in an unsolved case.

Nothing else. There was no evidence, just a suspicious coincidence. It is a theory with no evidence supporting it other than that coincidence, not a refuted or a false theory.

This is a person who fabricated a document supporting the theory, not the person who set it off.

Other outlets have generally been more careful.


> It is a theory with no evidence supporting it other than that coincidence, not a refuted or a false theory.

Key elements of it were false, though. The conspiracy theory largely focused on his “assassination” by being shot in the head, when in reality he was shot twice in the back. There was also physical evidence of an altercation, suggesting robbery. The idea that a trained assassin would first try to fistfight the target and then shoot is pretty absurd.

Later, the public found out that hackers tied to Russian intelligence hacked the DNC, which further refuted the conspiracy theory. There’s a lot out there that fundamentally contradicts the conspiracy theory.


>hackers tied to Russian intelligence hacked the DNC

That was debunked this summer.


Not according to Crowdstrike, who was hired to do the audit[0].

0: https://www.crowdstrike.com/blog/bears-midst-intrusion-democ...


No it wasn't at all! What makes you think that? If you have read that somewhere you should be very careful with that source in the future because it is telling you the wrong things.

Here's the Republican-led senate report from September confirming exactly that the Russian intelligence hacked the DNC:

"The committee found that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian effort to hack computer networks and accounts affiliated with the Democratic Party and leak information damaging to Hillary Clinton and her campaign for president" etc.

See page 174 onwards for details of what the GRU did and how they were traced.

https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/sites/default/files/docu... or a good summary if you prefer: https://theintercept.com/2020/09/03/trump-russia-senate-repo...

The earlier Mueller report finds the same thing of course.

"Beginning in March 2016, units of the Russian Federation’s MainIntelligence Directorateof the General Staff (GRU) hacked thecomputers and email accounts of organizations, employees, and volunteers supporting the Clinton Campaign, including the email account of campaign chairman John Podesta." - see page 36, https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/sites/default/files/docu...


I haven't followed much with Seth Rich since a couple years ago. I remember saving these points from a Zero Hedge article:

1. Kim DotCom said he knew Seth Rich and knew he was the leaker. He tried to Mueller to take his testimony about Seth Rich but he wouldn't reply to his emails.

2. "two men working with the Rich family - private investigator and former D.C. Police detective Rod Wheeler and family acquaintance Ed Butowsky, have previously stated that Rich had contacts with WikiLeaks before his death."

3. Friend of the family Ed Butowsky says there's an FBI report "establishing that Seth Rich sent emails to WikiLeaks."

4. Private investigator and former D.C. Police detective Rod "Wheeler also claimed in recently leaked audio that Seth Rich’s brother, Aaron – a Northrup Grumman employee, blocked him from looking at Seth’s computer and stonewalled his investigation."

6. "Metro police detectives claim that Mr. Rich was a robbery victim, which is strange since after being shot twice in the back, he was still wearing a $2,000 gold necklace and watch. He still had his wallet, key and phone."

Has any of this changed or been questioned since then?

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-03-02/contradictions-set...


Zero Hedge does not provide factual information.

"...we rate Zero Hedge an extreme right biased conspiracy website based on the promotion of false/misleading/debunked information that routinely denigrates the left." https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/zero-hedge/


I agree about Zero Hedge up to a point, just from personal experience and seeing the kinds of articles it puts out .. but who is mediabiasfactcheck.com and why should I trust the unpaid interns* that work there to tell me what I should and shouldn't believe in, and who is and isn't credible?

EDIT:

From https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/about/

"Dave Van Zandt is the primary editor for sources. He is assisted by a collective of volunteers who assist in research for many sources listed on these pages."

All these fact checking organizations rely on young, inexperienced unpaid/low-paid interns to interpret complex situations and provide a final 'truth' score that is then used as some sort of authority. Insanity.


I mean it's not like their reasoning is secret.... you're obviously free to respond to the substance of their analysis if you disagree.


OP stated that Zero Hedge has not been found credible by some fact checking organization. I'm asking what makes them credible to make those judgment calls. It's not incumbent on me to assume their competence and/or objectivity and expand effort to prove otherwise.


Even if zero hedge has an extreme right bias, does that mean everything they report is fake news? Was seth rich really shot twice in the back and not robbed despite the official story saying he's a robbery victim? He certainly had access to the DNC emails and was a devote bernie sanders supporter. It's a low barrier to connect those dots and it becomes even more suspicious when left wing media and "fact checking" websites jump to calling it a conspiracy theory. It seems a lot more likely than the russian story which is falling apart every day with official memos saying hillary pushed the russian narrative to distract from her email server. I'd love to believe we live in a fair and just society, but maybe we dont.


Still tripping at how clueless you're pretending to be. Grow the fuck up and take responsibility for your view of the world.


It's also true that you can respond to the substance of ZeroHedge's analysis in the article in question rather than deferring to a third party who made an assessment of ZeroHedge's general trustworthiness.


Media Bias Fact Check rates the Washington Post as "Factual Reporting: HIGH" even though they accepted $4.6 million from the Chinese Communist Party to run the China Watch section of their website with articles provided word for word by the CCP.[2]

The articles look exactly like real news articles except for the text "A paid supplement to the Wasington Post" in the upper right corner.[2] Had I not known better I would've assumed this meant I'd get a paywall if I viewed too many articles.

This seems every bit as egregarious as anything you'd find on ZeroHedge. I have a very low level of trust for almost all media, but I check Zero Hedge to at least see interesting items ignored by the mainstream.

1. https://efile.fara.gov/docs/3457-Amendment-20200601-2.pdf

2. https://web.archive.org/web/20170715051533/http://chinawatch...


Point 3 is what this whole article is about. Butowsky is being sued for defamation, that is, for lying about Seth Rich to serve his own political/personal ends.


I think a better question is: has any of this been validated? These all sound like the kind of things that should be verifiable yet I've read these claims many times but never seen a source.


The Zero Hedge article has links. E.g. you can see KimDotCom's tweets.


Right, but have any of his claims been verified? I can’t find anything substantive to corroborate that Rich reached out to Wikileaks. I just see the same accusation over and over that the FBI has a report confirming this. If Butowsky and Wheeler have evidence that Rich contacted Wikileaks, why haven’t they released it?


Kim DotCom is full of it. He claims to have evidence. That was three years ago. Since then: nothing. Seriously, Kim DotCom claiming to know anything about this makes me doubt it even more.


Double gunshot wound to the back... Clearly it must be a suicide. That tends to be the preferred way for whistle-blowers to commit suicide; that is what previous case records indicate. There is a clear correlation in the data.

This conclusion is supported by the most highly paid experts including Bill Gates, his wife Melinda and Mr Fuzzballs; their trusted family cat. The evidence is absolutely overwhelming and undeniable.

It should also be pointed out that self-strangulation inside a prison cell using a piece of clothing which bears no trace of DNA and resulting in 2 broken neck bones while the security cameras are off and all the guards are asleep just as you're about to testify in an important high-profile case is the preferred suicide method for would-be whistle-blowers.


Didn't you read the NPR article? They clearly stated that it's been debunked.


Have you actually watched the media recently? I mean all of it (all political sides). How can one possibly believe anything that is in the media today...


Nobody said he committed suicide.


So I'm just going to point out that the first sentence of the article shows that the title is misleading. The twitter user didn't set off the conspiracy theory, the theory has been floating around since 2015 and is quite popular in certain circles.


I'm with you on this.

I used to drive late at night and occasionally would catch an episode of Coast to Coast (a conspiracy radio show). It felt like a kind of performance art where callers would world-build together, each adding or changing or clarifying another bit. The end result was a complicated parallel world of psychics and aliens and illuminati woven together into a kind of cohesive narrative.

This 'FBI Impersonator' was just one individual adding to the existing conspiratorial narrative that Seth Rich was killed by Democrats because he knew too much.


4chan theories work in a similar manner.


It's unclear to me why twitter was protecting this persons identity to begin with.

They have no obligation to do so and this persons actions were dishonest, anti-social, and likely unlawful.


If twitter didn't stand up for their dishonest users, a whole lot of the outrage bait they depend on to keep people glued to their twitter feeds might disappear.


The same reason you get a lawyer and a trial even if you look guilty.


Because twitter is a court of law...?


From the article: “Twitter's primary goal is to ensure that the subpoena not be used to chill anonymous speech that does not rise to the level of defamation.”


While I do believe the person behind the twitter handle should be found out and investigated (forging fake government documents seems wrong, even though this is the internet after all), pressing criminal charges for any wrongdoing is off. The blame for the whole thing is definitely on news sources not fact checking the credibility of their sources (come on seriously a random twitter account?).

Under a reasonable system, this person should be interviewed to see what their connection to Seth Rich was and possibly what their initial motive was for forging and publishing what they had.

Having said this, I do see some issues down the line around how this unmasking could be abused. Someone might post something they think is trivial and a parody but could have dire consequences based on a chain reaction of events that happen.


... the story says they forged FBI documents. Surely that's a crime?


It seems like the only people who would need FBI documents would also know a fake wasn't theirs?


Fox ran and then retracted a story because the thought they were legit enough to publish a story based on them.


Fox ran the story despite the journalists knowing it was likely a fake document. From messages quoted in the judge's order[1]:

In the texts, Biggs stated “It’s a fake for sure.” Zimmerman responded “Do you know anything about him or where he really works or who he is? . . . [I’m] wondering why he passed a fake document when other info he’s shared has been spot on.”

[1] https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/7223134-ORDER-RICH.h...


She made those statements well after the story was run and the fakes had come to light.


That's not obvious in the order. Do you have somewhere we can read that?


I’m partly basing this on firsthand knowledge, since I was somewhat involved with it, but it’s in the order as well although it’s confusing.

You’ll note that the first mention of Whyspertech emails ... dates several weeks after Fox published the initial article. Whyspertech wasn’t a source for the article. He was someone who was encouraging Fox to keep it up, and possibly go further in reporting.

It wasn’t Fox just willy-nilly reporting what some Twitter account said… It was complicated with multiple people being deceitful, in a coordinated way.


I tried to find the messages since they seem to be in evidence in this case, but they don't seem to be uploaded to documentcloud (yet).


I'm not surprised given their general history of journalistic integrity, but I still don't think that justifies trying to identify and charge the person who made it.


Isn’t this article about a civil suit? I don’t think anyone is at risk of being charged, here.


> pressing criminal charges for any wrongdoing is off

Well, first of all, that's not what's happening here. But, er, why do you think it shouldn't prosecuted? Much more minor fraud than this is routinely prosecuted.


> The blame for the whole thing is definitely on news sources not fact checking the credibility of their sources (come on seriously a random twitter account?).

The news source (Fox) had a fair idea it wasn't real.

To quote the Judge's order[1], quoting the reporters on the story: "It's a fake for sure.[...] wondering why he's passed a fake document"

[1] https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/7223134-ORDER-RICH.h...


It's confusing, because right before that the same ruling says "Biggs and Zimmerman never explicitly mention the name of the account or exactly what and who they are talking about."


If criminal charges shouldn't be made, because a crime hasn't occurred, why should the account be investigated?


Because Twitter has evidence that may be relevant to one or both sides of a defamation lawsuit, and civil litigants can use subpoenas to get evidence in the possession of third parties into court.

> The identity of the user is directly and materially relevant to Rich's defamation claim since it will inform whether Defendants made their statements with the requisite state of mind … The information sought is also materially relevant to the defense of truth because the original source may be able to provide what facts, if any, formed the basis for the various assertions about Rich. Additionally, the user information for the Account could lead to an essential witness for Rich and/or Defendants.

https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/7223134/ORDER-RIC...


This is an order in a civil, not criminal, case.


Oh, that explains it, thanks.


The source was “attached” to the Twitter account but that want his only communication with Fox. He’d been a source for over a year on a number of stories.

The Twitter account may be the only way to identify him ... assuming he didn’t take basic precautions.


call me a partisan, but Fox News and the Washington Times don't exactly have a reputation for "credible new sources"


Julian Assange suggested it on a Dutch news show


There has been a lot of support for Assange on HN lately, but I rarely see any discussion of his relation to the whole Seth Rich debacle. Is there any possible defense for Assange's role in that?


The possible defense would be that Julian wasn’t trying to mislead people, but he was actually telling the truth.

He hinted that Seth rich was a Leaker to him, and encouraged people to think that without saying it explicitly. He was either A) lying to cover up getting information from The Russians, or B) telling the truth and the “analysis” that says the Russians hacked the DNC server is actually false.


>A) lying to cover up getting information from The Russians, or B) telling the truth and the “analysis” that says the Russians hacked the DNC server is actually false.

Assange was still communicating with and receiving DNC documents from his source after Seth Rich was already dead. Assange was not telling the truth. It was obviously option A.

A journalist should try to hide their sources. A journalist doesn't try to hide their actual source by pretending their source is a dead person and as a result opening that dead person's family up to repeated harassment.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/20/us/mueller-report-seth-ri...


Notably the Republican led Senate report confirms that the GRU used fake personas to try to cover their links to Wikileaks, including this ("Seth Rich did it") specific theory (page 220)

The report itself has a number of technical details of the hack. See page 174 onwards: https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/sites/default/files/docu...


IF Julian was able to exercise his right to free speech, I'm sure he would provide ample evidence to support his position.

However, that is not the case with Julian today - but he would be the one who actually knew whether Seth Rich leaked the DNC documents.


Unless Assange meet the person who provided the documents he would not be able to know for sure who it was.


Assange had first started to insinuate a connection to Seth Rich in 2016. He has had plenty of opportunities since then to share any supporting evidence, but he hasn't. That isn't due to any free speech issue.

Also Assange was still communicating with and receiving DNC documents from his source after Seth Rich was already dead. Seth Rich wasn't Assange's source.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/20/us/mueller-report-seth-ri...


The man was shot twice in the back. Nothing was stolen and no one was arrested. There were no cameras or witnesses to confirm what happened. But the police said this was a robbery. Shouldn't the police version itself qualify as a "conspiracy theory".


Yes, but that would damage the narrative, so no.

Regardless of whether in actual fact the murder has anything to do with the leaks, the claims that an absence of evidence is evidence of absence serve only to promote an evil purpose. We will likely never know the truth, and the narrative that this couldn't possibly be related to the leaks is a major part of why. The answer to cui bono [from the narrative] is therefore "the murderer, whoever that is, regardless of whether there is in fact a conspiracy". Why then do so many support the narrative?! Why has the murderer been deemed "part of our tribe" and thus worthy of plot armor, as it were?!


Note that these days, you can’t just sign up for Twitter with a VPN or Tor and use it like anyone else. They will very shortly lock you out of the account until you provide a phone number.

Removing the number gets you locked out again.


> "Twitter's primary goal is to ensure that the subpoena not be used to chill anonymous speech that does not rise to the level of defamation"

Surely fabricating evidence to accuse a group of individuals of assassinating someone amounts to defamation?


Will the clowns behind QAnon, FBIAnon, CIAAnon also get prosecuted? that would be beyond fantastic.


[flagged]


The Washington Times [0] (this is not the Post) and Fox News are both propaganda outfits, not legitimate news sources.

The Washington Times is run by the Unification Church (popularly known as "moonies") which some consider a cult.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Washington_Times


Many could argue the same about the legitimacy of the Post.


[flagged]


We've banned this account for using HN for flamewar. If you don't want to be banned, you're welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com and give us reason to believe that you'll follow the rules in the future. Those are here: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Right, because the impersonator set off the conspiracy theory, not the facts of the events.


Does anyone think this kind of action will backfire? Anyone who believes in this kind of conspiracy will just think government action gives validity to their claims.

And this isn't just an assumption. I know a few of these people in real life and that's how they think.

Personally, I think it would be a better move to just ignore this completely.


So you're essentially arguing that the legal system and individuals generally should behave in accordance with what conspiracy theorists believe? This makes no sense to me.

It doesn't matter if conspiracy theorists get upset, many of them were convinced that there was a child sex dungeon in a pizza shop. If everybody started basing their actions on trying not to upset conspiracy theorists, society would completely stop functioning.


Backfire to whom? This ruling is a result of a civil defamation suit.


The Rich family. This kind of move might win them some money, but it will just fire up the conspiracy theorists who have been harassing them.


Oh, my other comment was on the wrong track. This idea smacks of "don't tattle on your abuser for fear of further abuse."

If this riles up conspiracy theorists, Butowsky and friends should simply be made to pay for further shielding for Rich's family. It's not the Rich's fault this conspiracy theory spread like wildfire.


If you tattle on your abuser to someone who supports your abuser, youre just going to get abused more...

If you're going to tattle, you have to be smart about how you go about it.

For example, their lawyer could avoid unneeded attention by not pushing for motions that generate national news headlines and fire up the conspiracy theorists.


It's immaterial whether it backfires against "the government," whatever that is. This is a civil suit: Arron Rich v Edward Butowsky and friends. The government really doesn't have a say in this matter beyond enforcing law.


It might not convince the conspiracy loons on this particular matter, but Fox might think twice before running with the next document provided by @DefinitelyTheFBIIPromise.


But if they did ignore it, then perhaps the government is ignoring it on purpose because it knows and is hiding something.

You can't win with conspiracy theorists.


Not a fan of this order. I'm no expert on the Seth Rich insanity, but my understanding is that this account was basically just a scam artist or prankster. It claimed some stuff, and then when the Fox reporter took the bait provided some fabricated documents.

This isn't a criminal suit. It's a civil thing having to do with Fox's behavior. And their failure to validate their sources and documents isn't really related to the original identity of those sources. I mean, we don't know who @whyspertech is, Fox certainly didn't know who @whyspertech was. No one knew. So why is it relevant for us to know now to determine whether or not Fox was at fault?


The structural problem is that the impersonator's identity is irrelevant. Q himself, if revealed to be some kid in their parents' basement, would still be treated as a hero by the true believers.

I don't know how to cope with the knowledge that the system is so fundamentally broken that even simple facts are no longer able to be agreed upon. How can complex problems be addressed when truth is perceived to be entirely subjective?


Presumably they would like to know if there is a link between Fox and @whyspertech. What if @whyspertech was just a convenient 'anonymous' source for Fox?


I am less certain that Fox didn't know who @whyspertech was.


So why is it relevant for us to know now to determine whether or not Fox was at fault?

"Learning the identity of @whysprtech is necessary in order to confirm that @whysprtech was not in fact a FBI 'insider' or otherwise someone who had access to non-public FBI material," Benedict Hu wrote in a filing."


I see two faults. A prankster, who I believe should be uncovered, and that goes to the nature of anonymous communications in the commons, and I know its complex, and that the channels are not always "the commons" as we used to understand them.

And, it goes to Fox being a non-journalist non-news agency which should be de-listed in any structural sense, since they are incapable of displaying what true journalism is.

You seem to want to address the second. No problem, but I don't think that invalidates the first. I want to know who this is. I want to know who Q is. I want to know who the White House Deep Throat is. I am tired of anonymous sources.


You want to know so badly who deep throat is, that you can’t even be bothered googling??


Please, don't be literalist about the fact of who Deep throat is. The point was, the perpetuating (decades) lack of knowledge of who Deep throat was, and its effect on the news cycle and journalism.

What we need, is whistleblowers. Not deep throat.


Deep Throat was Mark Felt. This has been public knowledge since 2005.


And what lag from Nixon was this again? The rhetorical quality here, is that "eventually" isn't good enough. The dependency on inside behind-the-scenes is tainting journalism. Yes, they get deep inside knowledge. They also get fed a line.




Applications are open for YC Winter 2022

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: