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
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 .