Imagine a world where everything you say and write is stored indefinitely and attributable to you. No escape from youthful indiscretion, no respite from the past. Every tweet, every blog, every angry comment at the bottom of a Daily Mail article. Traceable back to you, writes anonymous barrister TheLawHorse.
This is the world in which Deputy Chief Constable Gordon Scobbie would have us live. Anonymity is not a necessity of democratic discourse, he suggests, but a menace and a hindrance to the effective policing of the internet. None of this would matter if Scobbie, tweeting under the handle @DCCTayside, wasn’t the "UK police lead for Social Media".
Fortunately for us, Scobbie’s words have been recorded. This is what he said:
"I can understand why this is necessary in countries where freedom of speech is restricted but in the UK I think if you’ve got something to say – as long as it’s respectful – there is no need to be anonymous."
It doesn’t take an Orwellian imagination to conjure, from these words, a dystopian vision of state-stifled dissent. Apparently Scobbie doesn’t have much of an imagination at all, deciding instead to believe that anonymous speech in all its forms is redundant in a democratic society. In the context of the government’s planned snoopers’ charter this is especially troubling. After all, it is the citizen’s right of open expression – whether unguarded or anonymous – that stands as the vanguard against the creeping advancement of the type of police state in which anonymous dissent would so manifestly be beneficial.