Should there be no such thing as online anonymity?

eye Imagine seeing comments about you written on a website…and they’re not complimentary, they’re pretty nasty. The internet company, in this case Google, decides to reveal the identity of an anonymous blogger after a court and now this blogger is threatening to sue Google.

It’s the now famous “NYC Skank” case. And Rosemary Port, the unmasked blogger says Google should have protected her identity and respected her right to privacy. Kelly McParland, writing in the National Post, says Rosemary Port has some attitude issues to deal with. He quotes her: “Without any warning, I was put on a silver platter for the press to attack me. I would think that a multi-billion dollar conglomerate would protect the rights of all its users.”

And as Patricia Hughes writes on a legal website, this case, as well as news that Wikipedia is to end it’s unrestricted editing of articles about people, that maybe more regulation of the internet is needed.

This blogger says: I find that these web brawls (and there are many) where people “drop the gloves” on each other to be quite bizarre. Often one anonymous “poster” is going at it with another anonymous “poster” and the discussion degenerates into a schoolyard verbal joust where they end up saying things that, but for the anonymity, would never be said or written. Maybe, these recent cases will stem some of this behaviour.

So should online anonymity exist any longer? With other forms of media adhering to laws protecting people from defamation, what’s so different about the internet or blogs? Should there no such thing as online anonymity? If you’re likely to offend someone, why should your identity be protected?

24 Responses to “Should there be no such thing as online anonymity?”

  1. August 26, 2009 at 12:32

    No such thing as anonymity…
    If you are too scared to pen down your name, don’t pen down the comment.
    BUT am surprised, knowing that the internet is full of fake accounts, how did this person end up in trouble?
    Well, my name is Nengak.

  2. 3 Deryck/Trinidad
    August 26, 2009 at 12:41

    It’s pusillanimous and reprehensible to hide behind a moniker or anonymity in order to slander and pillory someone.

  3. 4 gary
    August 26, 2009 at 12:44

    If the old maxim concerning the benign nature of words as compared to the lethality of sticks and stones were true, this question would have little significance. The saying is of course not true. Thus, perfect protection of an abusive blogger amounts to perfect abrogation of the rights of his or her victim. However, this statement just opens a gigantic can of worms concerning the exact definition of abusive blogging. I suppose my bottom line is this: Since absolute anonymity does not exist in other communications media, why should it in this one?

  4. August 26, 2009 at 13:19

    Common decency would say, anonymity should never have existed on the web.

  5. 6 patti in cape coral
    August 26, 2009 at 13:21

    After looking up pusillanimous, I have to agree with Deryck. I actually like the idea of anonymity, but not when it is used to hide behind while you bully others. As I have said before, it seems to me that the anonymity on the net seems to bring out the worst in some people, and they say things they may not say face to face.

  6. 7 Tom K in Mpls
    August 26, 2009 at 14:38

    Why should there be any difference between ‘real’ and online interactions?

  7. 8 anu_D
    August 26, 2009 at 15:03

    We are all used to online anonymity from it’s nascent days of evolution.

    However as the e-world evolves as an essential aspect of modern daily lives…… tighter rules will also evolve to sanitize the content and make them more responsible…just like print media is responsible for the contents of what they publish.

    And when that happens….people won’t be able to write under anonymity like they ahve been used to in early days.

    I predict anonymity will go.

    Responsibility ( of content ) and anonymity are anti-thesis to each other

  8. 9 Sophia
    August 26, 2009 at 16:28

    Although online anonymity has its merits as a communication medium that makes people feel comfortable by allowing them a degree of freedom that is not granted by other sources, it can also be blamed for the offensive and often inappropriate behavior of people.
    Governments in the industrialized worlds are starting to enact legislations regarding internet-use by the people. With anonymity completely removed and proper legislation enacted , the incidences of cyber-crimes including stalking and abuses could be greatly reduced. It would be easier for the government to track down perpetrators of online abuse and for internet-users to report these incidences.
    However, concerning the UK and an article that I read in the guardian that claimed the British government was considering a Big Brother-type online surveillance program that would basically allow the officials to eavesdrop on any end-user across communication mediums anywhere in Britain, I think it has already defeated the purpose of anonymity, at least when confronted with the British government. Considering one knows that the government is watching them, I can’t imagine why anybody would want to remain anonymous online.

    I wish I had the link to the article…

  9. 10 ZK
    August 26, 2009 at 16:29

    There is a US federal law that makes it a crime, punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment, to annoy or harass someone via the Internet while hiding behind a screen name or remaining anonymous. Google was just doing the right thing and following the law, in my opinion.

  10. 11 Jennifer
    August 26, 2009 at 16:43

    People should be allowed anonymity online. However, I think they give up that right there are certain instances like what Patti said, they are simply bullying another person. As it relates to news outlets and our increasing reliance on blogs for news, I think people that make up deliberate lies that are widely circulated by the media as fact should be held accountable. An example: Jessie Griffin. Children are in his care! It’s one thing to have a blog with readers and your opinions; it’s another thing to start monstrous lies about people to damage their career.

  11. 12 Dennis Junior
    August 26, 2009 at 17:11

    I think that sure be some privacy on the internet, but, in due respect; Privacy is something that is scared and should be protected….

    =Dennis Junior=

    August 26, 2009 at 17:57

    Anonymity is important but I think it is the high time for us to be responsible for our actions. Online world is real like the rest. I take all online community as normal people who should be respected. Even though I have personal freedom to create fake accounts am completely unable to create them because I value whoever took time to be on the net. Anonymity should not be turned into a neo culture because you may end up with haunted conscious if you abused someone or peddled harmful lies.

    It is my wish to be always totally responsible for my behavior in order to avoid living in guilt. If that person committed a crime, he/she has to pay for it.


  13. 14 Josiah Soap
    August 26, 2009 at 20:44

    I think peoples wishes to remain anonymous should be protected. The internet is great because of that. I have joined chat groups and had some pretty foul things said to me. But thats OK because you don’t know who said it and more than likely you will never meet them. I am totally against revealing anyones identity. People should be allowed to hide behind a smoke screen and be and say anything they want. Now if they followed up in real life with an attack thats different. But the internet is still a fantasy land. The problem when you reveal identities then we stop the free speech. The internet is the last bastion of free speech that is not controlled by the media or the far left PC loonies. Lets keep it that way. And no this is not my real name, I would never post under my real name just because I would even be afraid to write what I have above.

  14. 15 T
    August 26, 2009 at 23:31

    Online anonymity needs to stay. If it goes away, how can anyone (blogger, MSM journalist or others) literally do anyting at all?

  15. 16 scmehta
    August 27, 2009 at 06:12

    Most of those people, who may speak in favour of being given On-line Anonymity, would be those wanting to indulge into objectionable/ indecent / antisocial bragging or slandering. I don’t think it’ll be socially healthy to allow or promote such kind of online interaction.

    • August 27, 2009 at 13:41

      Scmehta,Your post is spot on.

    • 18 Tom K in Mpls
      August 27, 2009 at 15:06

      I know people that fear individuals and groups getting information yet want to speak their minds. I separate my personal and professional lives, just as in a face to face event. Nobody shows their true self to more than a very small group under any conditions. I ask again, why should there be a difference online?

  16. 19 patti in cape coral
    August 27, 2009 at 20:21

    I disagree with David and Scmehta. I am in favor of anonymity, and I do not indulge in any objectionable, indecent, antisocial, slandering, or bragging behavior, and I think most people don’t either. However, I do believe if you start indulging in indecent or unlawful behavior, the priviledge of anonymity should be taken away.

    I like the anonymity because it seems to make me pay more attention to what the person is actually saying, and their statements don’t get colored or disorted by anything else. Sometimes that works in reverse, however. Recently on WHYS there was a blog on the subject of race and as usual everyone had their opinions, but it was interesting that when it came to that particular blog, a lot of people were careful to include information about their race, specifically, because others might make wrong assumptions about their race based on their opinion.

  17. 20 Jim Newman
    August 28, 2009 at 14:41

    Hello again
    I’ve never really thought about it. I’ve never felt the need to hide myself or my views behind anonymity. At the moment society is so regulated and programmed that the powers that be have no need to victimise me in particular. A simple touch of the censor button is enough.
    However I can see the time coming when people like me will have to stop talking and start doing and then anonymity will be necessary.
    What Josiah Soap said is troubling . One must ask oneself whether his paranoia is justified or not.
    Anyway I think that those who need anonymity should have it.

  18. 21 John
    August 30, 2009 at 01:00

    The laws definately need to be revised. Nobody can realistically expect to hide behind a screen name and then blatantly flaunt the Libel Laws. The owners of sites should have a moral obligation to advise bloggers that their content is possibly libelous and therefore to proceed, the email address of the blogger will have be published along with the material. By doing this the blogger will have the option of submitting their material or halting the process then and there. Anonimity is a cowardly way of attacking somebody’s character or reputation with no recourse for the victim. You can’t do it in a newspaper, you can’t do it on television, you can’t do it on a street corner without the victim having recourse to the Libel and Slander Laws. The only place it can be done with impunity is in Parliament so why should the internet be allowed to do it?

  19. August 31, 2009 at 13:58

    There is an old saying you have in England “sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me”. The internet is about words and images not live meetings. People should contain themselves in the face of any nastiness in any way they see appropriate using the currency of the internet: words and images. I support the right to anonymity totally. To those wilting violets who cannot stand the heat I say get yourself the skin of a rhinoceros.

  20. September 1, 2009 at 11:27

    Anonimity is at the core of Internet and will always be necessary. Big providers such as Google need more legal restrictions

  21. September 28, 2009 at 18:36

    For sure, some people hide behind anonymity and do bad things, but I believe anonymity can also have very positive effects. One of the most positive effects is that it can enable free speech. Some people would be very uncomfortable sharing their thoughts without anonymity. For instance, an honest an citizen is likely to be much more inclined to denounce a criminal group if anonymity is guaranteed. And what about voting? Most people agree with anonymous voting. There are very legitimate cases where you don’t want others to know it was you. I think there is also a very legitimate place for anonymity on the web. And companies keep offering new services in that area. For instance, USpeak (http://uspeak.goodcamel.com/), a service that allows anybody to create anonymous discussions so that you can freely discuss about delicate or unpopular subjects with your peers. It will be very interesting to see where that debate goes with such new emerging technologies in that area.

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