Friday, August 31, 2012

How to Make and Receive an Anonymous Donation

A couple of months ago, I came across the following letter to Dear Abby, seeking advice:
Dear Abby: Many years ago I shoplifted a $30 item from a department store. Now I'd like to clear my conscience and make amends, but how?

I want to remain anonymous, so I can't send a check. Sending cash by mail seems unwise, and even with Google I have been unable to find a corporate address for an appropriate division. Can you help?

Anonymous in the USA

~

Dear Anonymous: Because you have made an honest effort and haven't been able to come up with an address to send the money, try to find out if the department store sponsors an activity for charity and donate to that. Or, alternatively, give the money to a charity of your choice, which may salve your conscience and do a good deed at the same time.
Abby's answer seemed like a good faith effort to placate a restless soul wishing to right a past wrong, by suggesting that, if direct reparation was not possible, the guilty party could always settle a karmic debt through indirect reparation, by doing good works or giving to charity. As much as we'd all like to think we have been unfairly persecuted, picked-on, held to a higher standard than anybody else, or made to be the butt of jokes and the target of undeserved abuse or ridicule, few of us can say that we have never been nasty ourselves, bullied someone, screwed someone over in a way that makes you cringe even now, or teased someone mercilessly for a reason that society now very much frowns upon. Wherever you go, people are people, but we as human beings all know the value of a dollar, or at least are familiar with the concept of money and a unit of currency and what it can buy. If you have wronged a party in the past financially, you may think back with some shame about how you'd like to assuage your guilt, without fully owning up to the misdeed, or, better yet, express your sorrow and regret, without publicly identifying yourself. Perhaps you want to save yourself public embarrassment, or avoid having a target painted on your back, or you may want to prevent the people around you, who have stood by you in the past, from losing face. What to do? Make an anonymous donation with bitcoin ("btc" is the shortened form)!

If you have wronged me financially in the past, and would like to make an anonymous donation to me, you may send it to this address:
13TwEVYFgdDMsoXrwzbpDrV9ipXznpE8ZJ
This represents your new bank account number, and Wikipedia says your bitcoin address is a string of characters that will always start with a '1' or a '3', and will usually be around 33 characters (34 in my case). Here's how to get your own bitcoin address account number and start accepting donations: download and install the bitcoin client software on your computer. Once you're up and running, you now have something akin to a live, active bank account on your computer, in the form of a bitcoin digital wallet that keeps track of bitcoin coming in and going out. You are now part of the bitcoin network. You can get free bitcoin here.

There are of course many other reasons, besides crushing guilt, atonement and redemption, for why you'd want to conceal your identity when giving money to someone. An editorial in the Riverside Press-Enterprise says it best:
Federal Judge Morrison England Jr. ruled in Sacramento that contributors to the campaign for Prop. 8 in 2008 should not be exempt from campaign disclosure rules. Prop. 8 supporters filed suit in 2009, claiming that releasing donor names behind the $43 million campaign would subject contributors to retaliation and harassment, thus chilling free speech. Prop. 8 made same-sex marriage unconstitutional in California, and is the subject of a separate, ongoing legal battle.

Hot-button issues can generate angry disputes and bare-knuckle politics, certainly. And no one should face intimidation and threats for political views. But the First Amendment guarantees free speech, not freedom from the consequences of speaking out. People who want to express strong views on public issues — even by way of campaign donations — should not expect any shield from objections by those who disagree.
We live in a world where donating to the wrong political cause, which also happens to be deeply unpopular in your area, may result in serious consequences to your business, your livelihood, your income, family, and may be a possible detriment to your social state and emotional & physical health. To make things more interesting, the Supreme Court recently ruled, by a narrow majority in Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission, that limits on corporate speech (i.e., money spent by corporations in furtherance of some political cause or in support of a political figure) are unconstitutional. So we also now live in a world where, at least for the foreseeable future, corporations, just like you, are entitled to their opinions, and are allowed to say what they want, within reason (more on this later). We live in a nation where money is speech.

There's nothing wrong with a point of view, unless that point of view can get you in trouble. Whether it be reporting a crime to the police, but fearing retaliation, blowing the whistle on corporate financial fraud, or saying something contrary to what everyone else believes, there is the idea in this country of your basic right to freedom of speech, but just watch what you say. A recent article by James Temple makes the point that:
The Federalist Papers, which sought to encourage ratification of the Constitution, were written under a pseudonym. Unidentified sources were critical to the Washington Post's Watergate scoops, and the New York Times' publication of the Pentagon Papers.

And the promise of anonymous speech online allows people dealing with disease, depression, sexuality questions and countless other life challenges to seek out information and support, without necessarily revealing their situation to bosses, ministers or parents.

"The United States was founded on the presumption that anonymous or pseudonymous speech was a part of civic discourse," said Michael Froomkin, professor at the University of Miami School of Law, who has written several papers on this issue.
Of course, there are limits to what you can say anonymously. If you publicly defame someone, or even imply that somebody in an official capacity has committed a crime, that person can petition the court to force the forum wherein you posted your anonymous comment to reveal your identity, so that person can sue you for libel or slander, as was reported last month in the Los Angeles Times:
The commentator, Almostinnocentbystander, had wondered on the newspaper's popular Huckleberries Online blog if $10,000 missing from the Kootenai County Republican Party might be stuffed in local GOP chairwoman Tina Jacobson’s blouse, prompting Jacobson to file suit against "John Doe" for defamation.

U.S. District Judge John Patrick Luster in his ruling Tuesday rejected the idea that freewheeling Internet commentators necessarily have the right to hide behind the 1st Amendment — not even under the special privilege that often attaches to newspapers’ anonymous sources.

“While the individuals are entitled to the right of anonymous free speech, this right is clearly limited when abused,” the judge wrote in his order, released in Kootenai County District Court.
...
Dave Oliveria, who administers the Huckleberries Online blog, took the comment down a little more than two hours after it appeared.

Still, he and attorneys for the newspaper argued in court papers that the ability to comment anonymously draws in readers and points of view that would be lost if everyone had to ‘fess up to their identities.

“It’s based on a belief that we have freedom of speech in this country, even if it’s anonymous, and people ought to be able to say what they want in whatever fashion,” Spokesman-Review Editor Gary Graham said in a telephone interview.
Should you decide to take a stand and support anonymous (or pseudonymous) free speech by investing in bitcoin, you can buy them by visiting an exchange like http://mtgox.com, or, if you don't mind paying a higher fee, you can buy your bitcoin with much less of a paper trail, and, should the mood strike you, get btc possibly faster, by using a service like http://www.bitinstant.com (you deposit money at a physical bank branch, and you get your btc about an hour later).

Freedom of speech! Just watch what you say.

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A satoshi (0.00000001 btc) is the smallest amount a bitcoin can be divided into, and this is the QR code of my own aforementioned personal bitcoin address:

1 comment:

  1. Did you think about picking the best Bitcoin exchange company - YoBit.

    ReplyDelete