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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Internet Anonymity: Point/Counterpoint

Posted by Alison Hallett on Thu, Mar 10, 2011 at 12:46 PM

A few days ago, Blogtown got into it over the question of removing anonymity from blog comments. Then yesterday, Slate ran an article called "Anonymous Comment: Why We Need to Get Rid of Them Once and For All."

Anonymity has long been hailed as one of the founding philosophies of the Internet, a critical bulwark protecting our privacy. But that view no longer holds. In all but the most extreme scenarios—everywhere outside of repressive governments—anonymity damages online communities. Letting people remain anonymous while engaging in fundamentally public behavior encourages them to behave badly. Indeed, we shouldn't stop at comments. Web sites should move toward requiring people to reveal their real names when engaging in all online behavior that's understood to be public—when you're posting a restaurant review or when you're voting up a story on Reddit, say. In almost all cases, the Web would be much better off if everyone told the world who they really are.

And THEN Erik and I got into an argument about this. Clearly, it's a Thing. So, we present a Blogtown Point/Counterpoint™:

Alison, Point: I am completely opposed to this idea. I have no interest in a discourse defined by "What if my mom reads this?" The internet is not one space, it is many spaces; things I say in one space may not be appropriate for another. In real life I make decisions every day about what to say, and in front of whom; I want the freedom to make those decisions digitally as well.

Erik, Counterpoint Counterstrike: It's not about wringing your hands over what your mom would think—it's about having the guts to stand behind the words you use. In real life, we're held accountable for what we say and who we say it to; just because the internet makes it easy to cower behind digital masks doesn't mean that we should. *Gets loudly jeered by anonymous commenters, begins long walk back to Amish homestead*

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