Should Public Officials Have Privacy Online?

June 20, 2014

Online pseudonyms like Thucydides or Falcon9 aren’t just for private citizens anymore. Public officials use them, too — or at least those are the favorite alter egos of Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal.

In the past three years, Huppenthal has gone to various websites and posted comments about Child Protective Services and Planned Parenthood, among other organizations. And those comments weren’t limited to unemotional banter. Some are inarguably controversial.

Perspectives vary on whether online commenting anonymously or with a pseudonym is appropriate.

Dave Maass is a spokesperson for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which defends civil liberties in the digital world. He says elected officials shouldn’t have to give up their privacy.

Richard Herrera, a political scientist at Arizona State University, says he’s surprised that someone with Huppenthal’s experience as a public figure made the online comments.