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Online Anonymity in the Modern Digital Age: Quest for a Legal Right


E. Moyakine

The University of Groningen, NL
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In the modern interconnected world heavily relying on the Internet, individuals, criminal organisations, governments and others can use and abuse these infrastructures. Online anonymity is a core concept in protecting the rights to freedom of expression, privacy and data protection and is of crucial importance to any free and democratic society. It serves as a condition for avoiding identification and means that persons act or communicate online and do not use their own names or identities, use substitute names or real names or identities are well-protected and cannot be determined. There are, however, perceivable intentions of governments, for instance, in the United Kingdom and France, to establish far-going surveillance mechanisms on the World Wide Web, significantly restrict anonymity of online users and limit their right to privacy. Therefore, a pertinent question arises as to whether there is a legal right to online anonymity providing a sufficiently high degree of protection to those entering the limitless world of the Internet.

Until now, the right to online anonymity cannot be said to have been fully recognised under international law. The present contribution adopts literature review as the main legal research method and by exploring whether it is possible to identify a right or an emerging right to anonymity online as a fundamental right under international law indicates that some traces of this right can already be perceived in international law, establishes its acceptance level and elaborates on its interplay with freedom of expression and the rights to privacy and data protection. The article provides insights on the significance of this right and its added value in the Internet infrastructures as a facilitator of safe and anonymous telecommunications and sheds light on its legal foundations and actual legal status. Furthermore, it examines requirements for the applicability of this right, existing State obligations and restrictions employed to limit or eradicate online users' anonymity. Finally, conclusions are drawn with respect to the right to online anonymity and its potential for the future.

How to Cite: Moyakine, E., 2016. Online Anonymity in the Modern Digital Age: Quest for a Legal Right. Journal of Information Rights, Policy and Practice, 1(1), p.None. DOI:
Published on 18 Oct 2016.
Peer Reviewed



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