Anonymity and Incivility on the Internet

Readers debate the benefits and drawbacks of requiring real names in online postings.

Danielle Citron's post:
Mr. Wolf astutely observes that anonymity online can unlock people’s rage. Why not vent bigotry, spread lies or threaten others if no one can identify us to hold us accountable?
Intermediaries’ insistence that users employ their real names might stem the tide of incivility and hate online. But its costs may not outweigh its benefits. Without anonymity, victims of domestic violence and sexual assault might not join online survivors groups for fear that their abusers might discover them.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teenagers might decline to seek advice about coping with bullying. Blogging may be less attractive to women; writing under female names raises one’s risk of cyberharassment.
Rather than a mandatory real-name policy, intermediaries ought to adopt anonymity as their default setting, a privilege that can be lost by harming others in ways that intermediaries find unacceptable. That preserves anonymity’s upside potential and potentially forestalls its downside.
To read the full story please click on the original publication.