Techdirt reports that the California Appeals Court has upheld the right to be anonymous online. I think that this is a wise ruling that is in the interest of free speech. For me it has a Voltairian twist. While I don't much like anonymous comments, character bloggers and contrivances the diminish transparency, I respect people's rights to post anonymously as much as I believe in my own right to remive such Comments on my own blog.
There are times when anonymity makes a good deal of sense. Years ago EA Spouse anonymously posted about awful working conditions at Electronic Arts. She did so out of fear of employer reprisals against her husband. More recently and seriously Egypt's Wael Abbas posts anonymously video recorded footage of government and police abuse in his country.
There are lighter sides to anonymity. While I am no great fan of Dan Lyons, his Fake Steve Jobs hit many nerves in the time-honored tradition of satire. Now that we all knw it was him, the thing seems much less interesting and seems to be diminished in conversations.
All this being said, I think it is generally lame to post anonymously, particuarly if your post is critical of a person or company. I personally respect people who have the courage and conviction to put their own names behind what they have to say, to stake their own reputations on the accusations that they make. I also support my LivingRoom Policy which allows me the right to take down anonymous comments whenevr I feel like it.
I think Ehrich Weiss summarized it best in a comment he left on the TechDirt post: "The thing we often forget is that the right to offend is much more important than the right not to be offended."