There’s more talk today of the dangers and risks of online bullying, highlighted by Leo Traynor’s troll (Read this blog, seriously, read it) and the recent unfortunate death of another teenager driven to suicide by similar online bullying.
One of the general knee jerk reactions to this is, of course, the removal of anonymous accounts for commenting. Obviously, I cannot agree with this.
I’ve been online commenting and playing as Damocles for about 20 years and I stand over anything I’ve said or done as Damocles in context in that time. Including standing over certain people’s xpilot bases and shooting them as they respawn, you deserved it … really you probably did … or I’d been drinking … and let’s be fair we’d all been drinking.
But now people are saying we can’t be anonymous online, and we can’t because some people abuse online anonymity. Some people also abuse alcohol (I’ve had my moments) … shall we ban alcohol?
So what do we lose if we lose online anonymity and force all accounts to be linked to a readily identifiable person?
We lose the whistle blowers, we lose the ability to ask and discuss without being identified, we lose controversiality, what if you had an embarrassing ailment and you wanted to discuss it without letting people you know in on it (chronic athlete’s foot if you must know)? We lose, in fact, necessary anonymity.
On controversiality we’d all suffer. I, for one, know I hold some opinions that others will disagree with. I also know that some of those people are idiots, often stupid, mindless, violent idiots. Now, if I say something that I believe to be true, like suggesting as I did this morning that the UK has a duty to retain Northern Ireland as long as the people there indicate by self-determination that they wish to do so, some people might be moved to violence. If I say this as Damocles what can they do? Hit a red thumb button, complain at me a bit (to which I’ll respond if their point of debate is of interest) and then move on. If I do this as a readily identifiable real life person what can they do? Oh, they can look me up in the phone book. Great.
So no one would be able to be even a little bit out there because it just takes one idiot with a phone book to over react.
So where would be then? No debate, no discussion, just lots of little echo chambers with no one daring to speak out. Again … Great.
Still, what to do about unnecessary anonymity and the trolls and the haters and the bullies? Well what do we do about them in the real world? Oh yes, we pursue, prosecute, and censure them and we keep our loved ones alert to the dangers and we protect them and help them. Let’s do that then.