The End of Anonymity

Who are you?
Who are you?

I was catching up on Ron Rosenbaum’s recent posts when I came across this article about a super model who took her anonymous internet slanderer to court. She apparently pressed Google for the specifics (and got them), resulting in what they are calling the first case of anonymity-busting in internet history. True or not, I’m glad to see one of these anonymous bozos get whopped. There is too much abuse of anonymity–bloggers and commenters alike–and one day we will look back at now as the lawless frontier days of the early internet.

Of course, this doesn’t rule out the reality of those who are in real danger lest their identities be discovered (think Iran or China). But what these self-aggrandizing abusers are doing is damaging the online environment for those in real need of anonymous expression.  

Kevin Kelly, of Wired, wrote in Edge:

There’s a dangerous idea circulating that the option of anonymity should always be at hand, and that it is a noble antidote to technologies of control. This is like pumping up the levels of heavy metals in your body to make it stronger.

Privacy can be won only by trust, and trust requires persistent identity, if only pseudoanonymously. In the end, the more trust the better. Like all toxins, anonymity should be kept as close to zero as possible.

In a similar vein, Yaacov Lozowick suggests that the recent CiF Watch website–created to monitor the Comment is Free blog at the Guardian–would benefit from not being anonymous. He reasons thus:

The one quibble I have is their choice to remain anonymous. I’m not a fan of such decisions. They don’t live in Hamas-controlled Gaza, or Iran, or Egypt, or Syria, or all the many other places in the world where it’s dangerous to have an opinion.

Comment may be free, but opinion apparently is not.

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