Home » Leftism » Anti fun brigade » Dr Jason Wilson thinks that Internet anonymity is an unequivocally good thing, sigh

Dr Jason Wilson thinks that Internet anonymity is an unequivocally good thing, sigh

The Good Doctor Jason Wilson

For someone who teaches about the new media the good doctor seems to be extremely naive about the issue of internet anonymity,  as his opinion piece at Crikey demonstrates

Free speech at risk as Google embroiled in ‘nym wars’

by Jason Wilson, an assistant professor in journalism at the University of Canberra

There’s a struggle going on at the moment between the world’s biggest internet company and its users over the right to be pseudonymous or anonymous online.

There is just NO right to anonymity in the law of any country on the planet, in fact most legal systems are predicated upon the notion that citizens should be obliged to speak and act in their own names so that if they violate the law by doing so that they can he held to account

Google is facing a growing backlash over a policy that effectively forces people to use their “real names” on its new social media service, Google+.

Personally I think that this is a good thing because it means that discourse  will be more civil

At first Google deleted several accounts set up with pseudonyms or online handles. When this turned into a PR disaster, it tried a different approach, but with the same end point in mind. Whatever your reasons, however legitimate your concerns, revealing your real name to the world is a condition of using their service.

If there are the rules set up by the service provider that you don’t like, you are quite easily able to avoid them by simply  not using the service

This has taken some of the shine off the factory-fresh social network.

No not really it just means that those who use the service will be able to enjoy an environment where those that they interact with are real people rather than fakes with potentially underhanded agendas

It’s reminded many of the catastrophic handling of privacy issues in its last attempt at getting on the social media bandwagon, Google Buzz.

Well this is the curse of not checking what is involved in enabling any thing on the net isn’t it?

Some users are furious. Many argue that their pseudonymity is necessary because speaking under their real names would endanger their employment, their relationships, or even their personal safety. A website, my.nameis.me, showcases the concerns of those who feel they can only speak freely under a pseudonym, because of their fears of harassment, discrimination, physical harm, and in some jurisdictions, arrest and punishment up to and including execution.

If you don’t want to use the social media  internet in your real name then the solution is simple just don’t use it at all

Testimonies there show that it is the most marginalised who have the most to lose. Part of their indignation arises from the arrogance of large internet firms who seem to be trying to change the rules of online speech, and thus remove the protections people have enjoyed for decades.

This is utter bollocks those with the most to lose are the scum-bags and arseholes who use the net for malicious purposes, no one is obliged to participate in anyway on-line but if they do then they have to abide by the rules and expectations of the entities that offer the social media platforms.

An incensed blog post from danah boyd characterised this as an “abuse of power”.

This is part of what are being called the nym wars, a genuine free speech battle overlooked by some in Australia who are currently too busy defending Rupert Murdoch’s right to own 150 newspapers.

What rot! besides the fact that there is no right to anonymity no one’s right to free speech is at risk in this or most western countries, if you are mindful of the laws of defamation you can say anything you please on the internet and there is no doubt that civility is enhanced when your identity is known.

The often crude privilege-blindness of the other side of the debate was given expression last week by Facebook’s former marketing director, Randi Zuckerberg (who left the company to launch a social media firm called RtoZ Media), who said:

I think anonymity on the internet has to go away. People behave a lot better when they have their real names down … I think people hide behind anonymity and they feel like they can say whatever they want behind closed doors.

What she failed to consider was that many “hide behind anonymity” online because of very real risks to them and their families.

There is only a risk to anyone from their on-line utterances come when they act like arseholes Jason, like when they defame or try to discredit people who post in their real names from behind those Pseudonyms that you so endorse. Your problem is that you don’t appreciate that it is the mixed population on line that is the problem, If everyone was equally anonymous then it would not matter at all what anyone says about another person, but when you have some who post under pseudonyms and some who post under their real names you run in to the accountability problems that I know all to well

Similar arguments are made frequently in this country by some journalists who are irritated by pseudonymous online critics. Indeed, it’s the same sentiment that was expressed in justifying the “outing” of the pseudonymous “Grog” as Greg Jericho by The Australian last year.

While I tend to agree that there was no real need to out Greg Jericho he has clearly not suffered form the experience, in fact it served to raise his profile substantially and he certainly has not lost his day job either. Then again he has always written as if his name was known and that he could be held accountable for anything that he has said.

Coming from the profession that should be most committed to free speech, it’s pretty ugly. The idea  seems to be that operating under their real names will make people moderate their criticisms. Whichever way you look at it, it’s an attempt to limit people’s speech.

There has always been some limits on “free speech” so the suggestion that it could or should be otherwise is just a furphy here. The question is all about getting the right balance and expecting that on-line speech should be  be bound by the same expectations as we have for other types of public expression like the print media, radio or television is not unreasonable.

A lot of people making these complaints are relatively new to online debate — we can hope that they will toughen up and see that the odd flaming is the price we pay for a relatively free flow of information.

No Jason some of us have been going on about this issue for years mate and we do so because we have had the first hand experience of people using anonymity of the internet  to disparage and defame them and their being no practicable way to bring those offenders to account.

Meanwhile, we need to reflect on what the “nym wars” show us: that the most powerful internet giants will actively erode our freedoms when it suits their interests. How should we respond?

Perhaps there is a middle way to be advocated here, namely that the providers of the social media  platforms should oblige their users to disclose their verifiable identities to sign up but allow people to then post under a screen name. Thus if there is a problem with what is said  an aggrieved party can seek redress either by direct negotiation or through the courts. Thus people will be encouraged to good on-line behaviour and those squeamish souls who lack the courage to speak in their own names can still play in the On-line sandpits .

Cheers Comrades

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37 Comments

  1. The Other Iain says:

    I find any preaching from you about internet anonymity/behaviour to be absolutely hilarious Iain. Those of us who know the past will understand why.

    That said, I agree with your fundamental point. It’s Google’s service and they can define the terms of service. Others can like it or do as they please. There are plenty of social media options these days. It strikes me as odd that people would winge about not being able to use a pseudonym on it. Just don’t use it at all if it bothers you that much.

    It would be nice if everyone used their real name on the Net. But for some people that isn’t practical. Not only is the internet full of weirdos who fill entire blogs with info and pictures of others, but employers these days are also becoming more and more snoopy. I believe there are employment companies that even file reports on the online activities of job applicants. Not sure about you but I reckon that’s a bit too ‘Big Brother’.

  2. Iain Hall says:

    TOI
    When it comes to the pernicious aspects of Internet anonymity I am very much more sinned against than a sinner, In fact those who whine about things that I have done do so because I have outed a few of them (take a look in the mirror mate to see one so treated)

    It would be nice if everyone used their real name on the Net. But for some people that isn’t practical. Not only is the internet full of weirdos who fill entire blogs with info and pictures of others, but employers these days are also becoming more and more snoopy. I believe there are employment companies that even file reports on the online activities of job applicants. Not sure about you but I reckon that’s a bit too ‘Big Brother’.

    The question that you need to ask yourself TOI is just who posted that info and those pictures in the first place? If you want your stuff to stay private then don’t post it on the internet where it will by definition be public and subject to public scrutiny . As for that stuff being found by employers well given what I have just said about not posting that which you want kept private? Frankly I think that any employer who does not do a basic google search on prospective employees is being rather remiss and failing in their duty to their business.

  3. The Other Iain says:

    When it comes to the pernicious aspects of Internet anonymity I am very much more sinned against than a sinner

    Oh yes. Just don’t get all high and mighty, because you have sinned yourself. Even if in lesser proportion.

    In fact those who whine about things that I have done do so because I have outed a few of them (take a look in the mirror mate to see one so treated)

    You have also mistakenly outed a few of them. But that’s not the point. You have used outing people as a weapon. You continue to do it (e.g. you speculate on the identities of the left leaning commenters here, but don’t tolerate it about the right leaning ones.)
    As for me, well, if only I gave a toss in the first place. I was really just curious about how long you would take before you started playing detective about who I was (see above point). And it didn’t take long.

    If you want your stuff to stay private then don’t post it on the internet where it will by definition be public and subject to public scrutiny .

    Just because something is on view Iain doesn’t mean that others should be taking it and posting it on their own blogs/sites. Like Ray says about gay parenting, just because it’s “legal” doesn’t make it “right”.

    Frankly I think that any employer who does not do a basic google search on prospective employees is being rather remiss and failing in their duty to their business.

    Maybe. But as I understand it, many companies are perusing the contents of peoples Facebooks, etc. I think this goes beyond what is good for the company and intrusion to privacy.

  4. evcricket says:

    Fascinating Iain. Is there anything you aren’t an expert in?

  5. Iain Hall says:

    Evan, so I’m opinionated and I don’t hide it, is that a crime?

  6. Iain Hall says:

    TOI

    Oh yes. Just don’t get all high and mighty, because you have sinned yourself. Even if in lesser proportion.

    My sins are all very small beer Iain.

    You have also mistakenly outed a few of them. But that’s not the point. You have used outing people as a weapon. You continue to do it (e.g. you speculate on the identities of the left leaning commenters here, but don’t tolerate it about the right leaning ones.)

    :lol: I’ve been right more than I’ve been wrong, as for using it as a weapon, well why not if someone has given me cause to do so?

    As for me, well, if only I gave a toss in the first place. I was really just curious about how long you would take before you started playing detective about who I was (see above point). And it didn’t take long.

    Its simple Iain, I believe in proactive self defence and of course I check out anyone who fronts up here and starts to criticise me personally, but in your case it was your love of profanity and the way that you went on about the restrictions on the availability of painkillers that gave you away , that and a Geelong IP address

    .

    Just because something is on view Iain doesn’t mean that others should be taking it and posting it on their own blogs/sites.

    Like Ray says about gay parenting, just because it’s “legal” doesn’t make it “right”.

    Sorry but this is a stupid line of argument the internet is a public place and anyone who thinks otherwise is a fool, you know that I’m on Facebook don’t you? well you jut try to read my page and you will find taht its on the most private setting possible and I never say anything that personal on it either.

    Maybe. But as I understand it, many companies are perusing the contents of peoples Facebooks, etc. I think this goes beyond what is good for the company and intrusion to privacy.

    If people don’t want their employer to see their facebook then they should certainly go to the highest possible privacy settings and definitely don’t make your boss a face-book friend ! You see what I have said earlier applies to Facebook as much as anything else on the net If you want to keep it private then don’t post it on a page that is open to the public.

  7. The Other Iain says:

    I’ve been right more than I’ve been wrong as for using it as a weapon, well why not if someone has given me cause to do so?

    And therein lies the problem. You use it as a weapon, they use it as a weapon, and it becomes a blog war tactic.

    I believe in proactive self defence and of course I check out anyone who fronts up here and starts to criticise me personally

    But you don’t check out anyone who fronts up here and starts trolling Jeremy Sear or his girlfriend or other lefties. In other words you are a-ok with anonymity if someone is using it to attack your mortal enemies. Hypocritical is it not?

    you know that I’m on Facebook don’t you? well you jut try to read my page and you will find taht its on the most private setting possible

    Actually I have seen screen grabs of your Facebook used on the internet for nefarious purposes, so I guess your account hasn’t always been as “private” as you imagine. And on that basis, you are OK with rogue lefties re-posting stuff from your Facebook then? I mean if it’s posted on the internet then it’s fair game, according to your earlier point.

    If people don’t want their employer to see their facebook then they should certainly go to the highest possible privacy settings and definitely don’t make your boss a face-book friend !

    The privacy/security settings of Facebook are complicated Iain and I don’t think a lot of people understand how they work. I think the default setting is that your “wall” is visible to the public, and that ‘friends of your friends’ can see all your pictures. That may be a post for another day… but I guess the question is, if you accidentally leave your curtain open while undressing, do the people next door have a right to look at you in the buff? I say no.

  8. Iain Hall says:

    TOI

    And therein lies the problem. You use it as a weapon, they use it as a weapon, and it becomes a blog war tactic.

    :lol: why do you always assume that I was the first to sin here?

    But you don’t check out anyone who fronts up here and starts trolling Jeremy Sear or his girlfriend or other lefties. In other words you are a-ok with anonymity if someone is using it to attack your mortal enemies. Hypocritical is it not?

    You only see what I allow through Iain and when it comes down to it I do some basic checks on any new poster (like seeing if the IP address has been used here before and looking at any homepage
    cited ) for the record though the only people that I have on permanent moderation are not in fact lefties and they have some of their comments rejected when they go too far.

    Actually I have seen screen grabs of your Facebook used on the internet for nefarious purposes, so I guess your account hasn’t always been as “private” as you imagine. And on that basis, you are OK with rogue lefties re-posting stuff from your Facebook then? I mean if it’s posted on the internet then it’s fair game, according to your earlier point.

    Yes and the purging of some faux friends fixed that, but as I said I don’t post personal stuff on face-book and I won’t let my kids use it at all.

    The privacy/security settings of Facebook are complicated Iain and I don’t think a lot of people understand how they work. I think the default setting is that your “wall” is visible to the public, and that ‘friends of your friends’ can see all your pictures. That may be a post for another day… but I guess the question is, if you accidentally leave your curtain open while undressing, do the people next door have a right to look at you in the buff? I say no.

    “rights don’t really come into it Iain, its a mater of understanding the reality of any online medium that you use but one thing that we may agree on is that as a default face book should be set on its most private setting. I am rather attracted to the way that Google+ allows you to differentiate between real friends and family and those who are just acquaintances because it has always struck me as problematic that someone is either your friend or not on Facebook when in real life that is not ever the case.

  9. Ray Dixon says:

    It’s not rocket science. If people who use “nyms” to comment/post/ blog on the Internet do not abuse that position then it’s fine. The problem that Jason conveniently overlooks here is that some people (quite a few) misuse it. Including some people he knows. So blame your mates, Jason, not Google.

  10. Ray Dixon says:

    Typical TOI response(s) above – instead of talking about the issue he turns it into a personal attack on the author. Talk about shooting the messenger.

  11. Iain Hall says:

    Its what I’ve come to expect from him Ray, he is like certain others rather naive and silly in his inability to understand that if something is deliberately published on the internet it is made public and it is entirely delusional to suggest that any information or images thus published are in ANY sense private. As I have said many times if anyone wants to keep any part of their life private then don’t tweet it, post it on face book, or write about it in an open blog. The biggest enemy of anyone’s privacy is their own indiscretions.

  12. Ray Dixon says:

    I agree it’s public, Iain, but it depends how the information and images are used. Some of the stuff you’ve put up has been questionable and some of it justified. But in all cases you’ve done it under your own name so if your ‘targets’ feel their reputations have been damaged then they have a remedy and you can be held accountable. As far as I know no one has sued you yet (or even come close to making genuine demands of you) so I guess that speaks for itself.

    But as we know only too well, there are some people out there who cowardly use that information to maliciously denigrate and defame people, while hiding behind pseudonyms and anonymously authored blogs and/or other social mediums. I wonder why TOI doesn’t address that aspect of the anonymity question that Wilson so hypocritically raises?

  13. David says:

    “There is just NO right to anonymity in the law of any country on the planet”.

    Dear Iain, before you indulge in a rant like this you may wish to do some research to see whether your preconceptions reflect reality.

    Looking only at your own country, there is and has been legal protection in Australia for many years for a legally protected right to anonymity, under the Privacy Principles at the heart of the Victorian Information Privacy Act 2000, Schedule 1, Principle 8. See http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/vic/consol_act/ipa2000231/sch1.html. You are not the beneficiary of this law, being in Queensland, but it is part of a gradually spreading protection of information privacy and personal information security, so the next round of amendments, perhaps in the wake of the UK abuses of personal communications by News Ltd, may bring this to you.

    There are also legal judgments in a number of jurisdictions including the US that recognise that anonymous or pseudonymous speech is sometimes necessary for the protection of the right to free speech, including where governments, companies or individuals would seek to attack or intimidate people on the basis of their views.

  14. Spot'sLilGirl says:

    “some people out there who cowardly use that information to maliciously denigrate and defame people, while hiding behind pseudonyms and anonymously authored blogs and/or other social mediums”

    Like sockpuppet?

  15. Ray Dixon says:

    No, people like YOU, who use an alias, a false email address and a proxy IP to make false accusations like yours.

    As for SP, I did not use that parody character to “maliciously denigrate and defame people” so perhaps you should take your trolling elsewhere and shove your accusations up the same place where you invite untold numbers of strangers to fiddle with – daily.

  16. Iain Hall says:

    David
    Your assertion and citation are both wrong when it comes to the matter at hand ,namely that no person has a “right” to use any public medium, via the internet anonymously. Now while I have often acknowledged that there is on occasion good reason to use a pseudonym I maintain that there comes with that a clear obligation to do so without malice. Sadly many people see being able post anonymously as a licence for bad behaviour and when they do that they forfeit any legitimacy for their use of on-line pseudonyms.
    None the less thanks for your comment and welcome to the Sandpit

  17. Ray Dixon says:

    David, those privacy laws re anonymity do not extend to using that anonymity to act maliciously. You’re missing the point.

    Maybe check The Crimes Act in relation to cyberstalking while you’re at it?

  18. Ray Dixon says:

    I was out for most of the day when you wrote this post, Iain, so that’s why I didn’t comment on it until later. Well, that and the fact I wanted to see the responses first. I see Jason hasn’t responded this time by coming here to lecture you on “Internet ethics”, as he’s done before.

    Anyway, I think it’s now time to make a more specific comment on his ridiculously over-simplified & full-of-omissions Crikey artcle (that, btw, has attracted a whole 8 comments – wow!). He says:

    A lot of people making these complaints are relatively new to online debate — we can hope that they will toughen up and see that the odd flaming is the price we pay for a relatively free flow of information.

    This statement is so full of it and so hypocritical, it’s hard to know where to start. To start with it conveniently ignores the fact that there are anonymous shitheads out there acting maliciously and possibly illegally (some of whom Jason associates with online and maybe even off).

    And I seem to recall Jason getting his own nose out of joint when SP sent him up (not maliciously and quite legitimately) in a post or two here.

    So maybe Jason should (1) stop protecting & justifying the wrongful actions of his ‘friends’ and (2) take his own advice and “toughen up”?

    As for TOI, words fail me to describe his hypocrisy on this issue. I’m still pretty sure he participates (or has participated) at SW, otherwise known as anonymousscumbags&shitheads.com.

  19. damage says:

    He’s still there on a regular basis Iain.

    And how about the homophobic rant above? Sheesh!

  20. Iain Hall says:

    I think that Jason is just playing to the lefty gallery with this post if the truth be known, he seems to be Oh so in love with the concept that being anonymous on the net is an overall good thing that he forgets just how sanctimonious he was about someone using a pseudonym here

  21. The Other Iain says:

    As for TOI, words fail me to describe his hypocrisy on this issue.

    Your own hypocrisy is pretty glaring, Sockp… err Ray.
    As for your suppositions about where else I post and under what name, what business it is of yours?

    As for Iain’s earlier point that I make personal attacks on him, no that is not right. I just like sticking pins into over inflated balloons. Iain is fond of lecturing and grand standing about internet anonymity and misbehaviour, yet he rarely admits that he has engaged in it himself.
    My view is that the internet is a great place but it has peculiar rules and conventions, and tends to bring out the worst in people. And neither of you have clean hands, even if they might be cleaner than the hands of others. I just find it very amusing when you play the innocent victim who has done nothing to deserve what others say about you on the web.

    As for this post, well, it was probably just a wordy troll to needle J. Wilson and maybe get him to comment here.

  22. Ray Dixon says:

    What hypocrisy would that be, TOI? When & where have I denigrated & defamed anyone under my own name or as the parody character SP? I haven’t. But there YOU go again making unsubstantiated accusations and taking swipes at real identities without backing them up. And doing it under an alias. Geezus man, you just don’t get it (or care) do you?

    As for saying this: “As for your suppositions about where else I post and under what name, what business it is of yours?” the answer is PLENTY, if what you’re posting is malicious, untrue, derogatory & defamatory crap about me.

    And I certainly do have “clean hands”. Funny how you seem to be condoning anonymous abuse though.

  23. The Other Iain says:

    It’s just my opinion Ray. I don’t have to explain myself to you….

    And I certainly do have “clean hands”. Funny how you seem to be condoning anonymous abuse though.

    No you don’t and no I’m not.

  24. Iain Hall says:

    TOI

    As for Iain’s earlier point that I make personal attacks on him, no that is not right. I just like sticking pins into over inflated balloons. Iain is fond of lecturing and grand standing about internet anonymity and misbehaviour, yet he rarely admits that he has engaged in it himself.

    Do I really have to go back through all of the comemnts you posted under the “Billy Bedlam” monika? Anyway that is water under the bridge as far as I’m concerned But you are absolutely wrong when you claim “he rarely admits that he has engaged in it himself” ever since my name became known I have acknowledged my authorship of the words that I have written.

    My view is that the internet is a great place but it has peculiar rules and conventions, and tends to bring out the worst in people. And neither of you have clean hands, even if they might be cleaner than the hands of others.

    Well thank you for acknowledging the relative cleanliness of our hands on this issue but I would suggest that the problem with the internet is the clear fact that there are in fact no clear rules and that to a large extent we are all making it up as we go along.

    I just find it very amusing when you play the innocent victim who has done nothing to deserve what others say about you on the web.

    Hardly, I have repeatedly acknowledged my sins but as I said earlier and as you acknowledge I have far cleaner hands than my critics

    As for this post, well, it was probably just a wordy troll to needle J. Wilson and maybe get him to comment here.

    As you will see in my archive I have been fascinated by this issue for many years so its only natural that I should respond to Jason’s article not because I seek a response from him personally but because I so disagree with his position and his argument.

  25. The Other Iain says:

    Fair enough Iain, I will leave it at that.

  26. Ray Dixon says:

    You certainly DO have to explain yourself when you make unsubstantiated allegations about people under their real names, TOI. Geezus, you’re warped.

  27. The Other Iain says:

    So sue me, Ray.

  28. Ray Dixon says:

    Have you got any assets worth suing for? If so I’ll gladly do it. Just confirm that you have posted about me at SW and then supply your name & address. I’ll then get an immediate intervention order preventing you from doing it again. Then I’ll start the defamation & harassment/stal*king action against you. Okay?

  29. The Other Iain says:

    So you want me to HELP you sue me? No chance matey.

    It will be an intriguing case. “The motel operator who pretended to be a pig on the internet, sues someone for saying nasty stuff about him”. The papers will love it.

    I expect your briefs in mail soon.

  30. Ray Dixon says:

    Yep, it might read that way, TOI, but the fact is that anyone contributing to the crap at SW is in breach of The Crimes Act and can be charged for that as well as being sued for defamation and sta*lking. So I understand why you don’t want to help me put you in jail and the poorhouse.

    And I’ll gladly wear the publicity because I’d be vindicated.

  31. Ray Dixon says:

    Btw, GG is not a “motel”. Do try to get your mud-slinging & slandering at least partially correct.

  32. The Other Iain says:

    Yes Ray. I’m afriad of being given seven years transportation to England.
    You obviously won’t need a lawyer, with that extensive knowledge of the law you’ll be able to represent yourself.
    See you in court :roll:

  33. Ray Dixon says:

    I can afford a lawyer if I ever decide to take you on, TOI. I’m just playing with you here, today, but if I do decide to get serious, believe me, you won’t know what’s hit you. I believe in taking my time to get serious about something but when I do, I go full throttle. You’ve no idea of things I’ve achieved with that outlook and I’m not about to “boast” about them.

    Anyway, I’m a bit tired of this for now – why don’t you just go back to your serial wanking off in the corner and leave it there (unless of course you’d care to confess & apologise. I’m a forgiving sort)

  34. The Other Iain says:

    Oh yes, I’m sure you would be just as boorish and obnoxious in court as you are here.

    Until the judge sees the evidence for the respondent…

    “Your honour, I present as exhibit A, the collected works of “Sockpuppet”.

    Then the phrase ‘laughed out of court’ might come into play. You might even be charged with contempt of court and producing a ridiculous parody.

  35. Ray Dixon says:

    More stupidity from TOI. There’s nothing in SP’s ‘works’ that justifies the criminal behaviour of SW.

  36. [...] don’t see how defending the users of twitter who are deliberately offensive is at all consistent with his argument here that the Racial discrimination act and the case against [...]

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