Mike Godwin
Mike Godwin - VOA - September 2017-square-bluebackground.jpg
Godwin in September 2017
Michael Wayne Godwin

(1956-10-26) October 26, 1956 (age 66)
Houston, Texas, U.S.
EducationUniversity of Texas at Austin
(BA, JD)
Occupation(s)Attorney, author
Known forGodwin's law

Michael Wayne Godwin (born October 26, 1956) is an American attorney and author. He was the first staff counsel of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and he created the Internet adage Godwin's law and the notion of an Internet meme, as reported in the October 1994 issue of Wired.[1] From July 2007 to October 2010, he was general counsel for the Wikimedia Foundation. In March 2011, he was elected to the Open Source Initiative board.[2] Godwin has served as a contributing editor of Reason magazine since 1994.[3] In April 2019, he was elected to the Internet Society board.[4] From 2015 to 2020, he was general counsel and director of innovation policy at the R Street Institute.[5][6] In August 2020, he and the Blackstone Law Group filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on behalf of the employees of TikTok,[7] and worked there between June 2021 and June 2022. Since October 2022, he has worked as the policy and privacy lead at Anonym.[8]

Early life and education

Godwin attended Lamar High School in Houston,[9][10] and graduated in 1980 from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Arts degree in the Plan II Honors program. Godwin later attended the University of Texas School of Law, graduating with a Juris Doctor degree in 1990. While in law school, Godwin was the editor of The Daily Texan, the student newspaper, from 1988 to 1989.[11]

In his last semester of law school, early in 1990, Godwin, who knew Steve Jackson through the Austin bulletin board system community, helped publicize the Secret Service raid on Steve Jackson Games. His involvement is later documented in the non-fiction book The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier (1992) by Bruce Sterling.[12]

In 2017, he married hotel leasing manager Sienghom "Jessy" Ches. According to Politico, he was in Cambodia in 2015 to help activists draft an "internet Bill of Rights", and they met in the business center of the hotel where she worked.[13]


Godwin's early involvement in the Steve Jackson Games affair led to his being hired by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in November 1990, when the organization was new. Shortly afterwards, as the first EFF in-house lawyer, he supervised its sponsorship of the Steve Jackson Games, Inc. v. United States Secret Service case. Steve Jackson Games won the case in 1993.[14]

As a lawyer for EFF, Godwin was one of the counsel of record for the plaintiffs in the case challenging the Communications Decency Act in 1996. The Supreme Court decided the case for the plaintiffs on First Amendment grounds in 1997 in Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union. Godwin's work on this and other First Amendment cases in the 1990s is documented in his book Cyber Rights: Defending Free Speech in the Digital Age (1998), which was reissued in a revised, expanded edition by MIT Press in 2003.

Godwin has also been a staff attorney and policy fellow for the Center for Democracy and Technology; a Chief Correspondent at IP Worldwide, a publication of American Lawyer Media; and a columnist for The American Lawyer magazine. He is a Contributing Editor at Reason magazine,[15] where he has published interviews of several science-fiction writers.[16]

From 2003 to 2005, Godwin was staff attorney and later legal director of Public Knowledge, a non-governmental organization based in Washington, D.C., concerned with intellectual property law. Godwin has worked on copyright and technology policy, including the relationship between digital rights management and American copyright law. While at Public Knowledge, he supervised litigation that successfully challenged the Federal Communications Commission's broadcast flag regulation that would have imposed DRM restrictions on television. From October 2005 to April 2007, Godwin was a research fellow at Yale University, holding dual positions in the Information Society Project (ISP) at Yale Law School,[17][18] and at the Yale Computer Science Department's Privacy, Obligations and Rights in Technologies of Information Assessment (PORTIA) project.[19]

Staff photograph of Godwin in June 2008
Staff photograph of Godwin in June 2008

Godwin was general counsel for the Wikimedia Foundation from July 3, 2007,[20][21] until October 22, 2010.[22][23] Commenting on the self-correcting nature of Wikipedia in an interview with The New York Times in which he said that he had corrected his own Wikipedia article, Godwin said, "The best answer for bad speech is more speech."[24] When the Federal Bureau of Investigation demanded in July 2010 that its seal be removed from Wikipedia, Godwin sent a "whimsically written letter"[25] in response, denying the demand and describing the FBI's interpretation of the law as "idiosyncratic ... and, more importantly, incorrect."[26][27]

Godwin has been a proponent of net neutrality since 2006, along with other internet advocates such as Vint Cerf. When the Wikimedia Foundation agreed with major telecommunications providers to create Wikipedia Zero, an application that violated the principles of net neutrality, Godwin believed that the benefits of the program outweighed its negatives. Wikipedia Zero was discontinued in 2018.[28][29][30][31][32][33]

Godwin was named a member of the Student Press Law Center Board of Directors in January 2009,[34] of the Open Source Initiative Board of Directors in March 2011,[35] and the Internet Society Board of Trustees in April 2019.[4]

In June 2021, Godwin took a role as director in trust & safety at the media company TikTok. In October 2022, he began working at Anonym as the trust and safety lead.[8]

Popular culture

Character in The Difference Engine

The character "Michael Godwin" in the 1990 book The Difference Engine by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson was named after Godwin as thanks for his technical assistance in linking their computers to allow them to collaborate between Austin and Vancouver.[12]

Godwin's law

Main article: Godwin's law

Godwin originated Godwin's law in 1990,[1] stating:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.

Godwin believes the ubiquity of such comparisons trivializes the Holocaust, which he finds regrettable.[36][37] He has since made it clear that, in his opinion, the alt-right, especially the participants in the 2017 Charlottesville Unite the Right rally, deserve comparisons to the Nazis.[38]


See also


  1. ^ a b Godwin, Mike (October 1994). "Meme, Counter-meme". Wired. Retrieved March 24, 2006.
  2. ^ "Board Meeting Report". Open Source Initiative. 2011-03-17.
  3. ^ "Mike Godwin : Contributors". Reason.com. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Al-Saqaf, Walid (18 April 2019). "2019 Internet Society Board of Trustees Final Election Results". Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  5. ^ "Internet ain't broke, don't let AG try to fix it". clarionledger.com. February 11, 2015. Retrieved February 18, 2015.
  6. ^ Amira, Dan (January 29, 2013). "Mike Godwin on Godwin's Law and Nazi Comparisons - Daily Intelligencer". Nymag.com. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
  7. ^ "Mike Godwin, the Creator of Godwin's Law, Is Suing Trump Over His TikTok Executive Order". Reason.com. 2020-08-24. Retrieved 2020-08-31.
  8. ^ a b Godwin, Mike. "Mike Godwin on LinkedIn". LinkedIn. Retrieved 2022-09-07.
  9. ^ Smith, Evan (August 19, 2007). "Re: A Complete Waste of Time". Texas Monthly. Austin, Texas. pp. "State of Mine: A Mostly Texas Blog" section.
  10. ^ Casey, Rick (August 13, 2009). "Commentary: Lamar grad laid down Nazi law". Houston Chronicle.
  11. ^ A call for TSP independence Archived 2007-09-30 at the Wayback Machine – Editor Godwin's co-authored letter about Daily Texan reform, July 5, 2005.
  12. ^ a b Sterling, Bruce. The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier, 1992; download link from Project Gutenberg.
  13. ^ Sherman, Jake; Palmer, Anna; Lippman, Daniel; Montellaro, Zach. "Playbook Power Briefing: TRUMP and MACRON meet in PARIS -- THE NEW SENATE HEALTH CARE BILL". POLITICO. Retrieved 2021-08-05.
  14. ^ Meme, Counter-meme Wired, October 1994.
  15. ^ "Reason Magazine — Articles by Mike Godwin: Contributing Editor". Reason.com. Retrieved 2009-07-19.
  16. ^ Reason Bruce Sterling interview January 2004, Neal Stephenson interview February 2005, Vernor Vinge interview May 2007.
  17. ^ "People at the ISP". Yale Information Society Project. 2006. Archived from the original on 2010-10-10. Retrieved 2010-10-11., listing Mike Godwin as Resident Fellow, 2005–2006.
  18. ^ "Resident Fellows". Yale Information Society Project. Yale University. 2006. Archived from the original on August 20, 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-25., listing Godwin as Microsoft Fellow, 2005–2006.
  19. ^ "Education". Yale PORTIA Project. 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-25., listing Godwin as Research Scientist, 2005–2007.
  20. ^ Welcome Mike!Florence Devouard announcing Godwin's Wikimedia appointment, July 3, 2007.
  21. ^ Nick Farrell (July 5, 2007) Mike Godwin joins Wikipedia. Beware the Wiki-Nazis., The Inquirer.
  22. ^ Gardner, Sue (October 19, 2010). "Wikimedia Foundation Announcement: Mike Godwin leaves the Wikimedia Foundation". Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  23. ^ Patricia Paine (October 25, 2010) Wikipedia's General Counsel Says Goodbye, Corporate Counsel, law.com
  24. ^ Noam Cohen (2007-08-20). "Defending Wikipedia's Impolite Side". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-08-20.
  25. ^ Sutter, John D. (2010-08-03). "FBI to Wikipedia: Remove our seal". CNN. Archived from the original on 2010-08-04. Retrieved 2010-08-04.
  26. ^ Schwartz, John (2010-08-02). "F.B.I., Challenging Use of Seal, Gets Back a Primer on the Law". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-04.
  27. ^ "Wikipedia and FBI in logo use row". BBC News. 2010-08-03. Retrieved 2010-08-04.
  28. ^ Net Neutrality in the Context of Provision of Fair and Equitable Access to Information Sources and Services, 2018-10
  29. ^ Vint Cerf recommending
  30. ^ Why Free Marketeers Want To Regulate the Internet, 2014-09-15.
  31. ^ Wikipedia Zero and net neutrality: Wikimedia turns its back on the open internet, 2014-08-08.
  32. ^ Everyone Should Be Getting Wikipedia for Free, 2017-06-04
  33. ^ Wikipedia Zero, Which Provided Over 800 Million Users in 72 Countries With Access to Wikipedia at No Data Cost, is Being Discontinued, 2018-02-18.
  34. ^ "PRESS RELEASE: Student Press Law Center Welcomes Virginia Edwards as Chair; Patrick Carome and Mike Godwin to Board of Directors". Archived from the original on 2013-04-15.
  35. ^ Phipps, Simon. "OSI Board Meeting Report". The OSI Web Site. Retrieved March 17, 2011.
  36. ^ McFarlane, Andrew (2010-07-14). "Is it ever OK to call someone a Nazi?". BBC News Magazine. Retrieved 2010-08-04.
  37. ^ Fishman, Aleisa (1 September 2011). "Interview with Mike Godwin". Voices on Antisemitism (Podcast). U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Archived from the original on 20 May 2014.
  38. ^ Mandelbaum, Ryan (14 August 2017). "Godwin of Godwin's Law: 'By All Means, Compare These Shitheads to the Nazis'". Gizmodo. Retrieved 19 June 2019.