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Anonymity on the Web

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In this pearltree I will organize the most interesting arguments of the debate about anonimity of the web.

A Case for Pseudonyms. The freedom to be who you want to be… Posted by Alma Whitten, Director of Privacy, Product and Engineering Peter Steiner’s iconic “on the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” cartoon may have been drawn in jest--but his point was deadly serious, as recent events in the Middle East and North Africa have shown.

The freedom to be who you want to be…

In reality, as the web has developed--with users anywhere able to post a blog, share photos with friends and family or “broadcast” events they witness online--the issue of identity has become increasingly important. So, we’ve been thinking about the different ways people choose to identify themselves (or not) when they’re using Google--in particular how identification can be helpful or even necessary for certain services, while optional or unnecessary for others. Who is harmed by a "Real Names" policy? This page lists groups of people who are disadvantaged by any policy which bans Pseudonymity and requires so-called "Real names" (more properly, legal names).

Who is harmed by a "Real Names" policy?

Often theses policies attempt to reduce or eliminate the veil behind which online bullying, harrassment, and stalking can occur. However, there are unintended consequences to anti-pseudonymity policies. This article is an attempt to create a comprehensive list of groups of people who are affected by such policies. The cost to these people can be vast, including: harassment, both online and offline discrimination in employment, provision of services, etc. The groups of people who use pseudonyms, or want to use pseudonyms, are not a small minority (some of the classes of people who can benefit from pseudonyms constitute up to 50% of the total population, and many of the others are classes of people that almost everyone knows). Marginalised and endangered groups Edit.

“Real Names” Policies Are an Abuse of Power. Everyone’s abuzz with the “nymwars,” mostly in response to Google Plus’ decision to enforce its “real names” policy.

“Real Names” Policies Are an Abuse of Power

At first, Google Plus went on a deleting spree, killing off accounts that violated its policy. When the community reacted with outrage, Google Plus leaders tried to calm the anger by detailing their “new and improved” mechanism to enforce “real names” (without killing off accounts). This only sparked increased discussion about the value of pseudonymity. Anonymity has value, in comments and elsewhere. The old joke about being online is that “no one knows you’re a dog.”

Anonymity has value, in comments and elsewhere

But the idea of online anonymity has been taking a beating recently, in part because of celebrated cases of fraud such as the Gay Girl in Damascus blog — which turned out to be written by a 40-year-old Scottish man. And the former ombudsman for National Public Radio has also come out swinging against the anonymity of commenters, which she calls “an exercise in faux democracy.” But allowing people to be anonymous isn’t the problem — plus, it has real value for society that shouldn’t be dismissed so quickly. But as online media veteran Dan Gillmor pointed out in a piece for The Guardian on the “Amina” affair, the fact that someone can pretend to be a gay blogger in the Middle East without being discovered also means that real lesbians and other persecuted people in Damascus or anywhere else can also post their thoughts online, and that can be a very powerful force for democracy and human rights.

Christopher "moot" Poole: The case for anonymity online. Randi Zuckerberg Runs in the Wrong Direction on Pseudonymity Online. The Nymwars rage on.

Randi Zuckerberg Runs in the Wrong Direction on Pseudonymity Online

Over the past several weeks Google has been engaged in a very public struggle with its users over its “real names” policy on Google+, prompting blog posts and editorials debating the pros and cons of allowing pseudonymous accounts on social networking sites. But there is one person for whom insisting on the use of real names on social networking sites is not enough. Unsurprisingly, that person is Facebook’s Marketing Director, Randi Zuckerberg.

Speaking last week on a panel discussion about social media hosted by Marie Claire magazine, Zuckerberg said, I think anonymity on the Internet has to go away. Take a moment and let that sink in. The problem with the civility argument is that it doesn’t tell the whole story. As a private company, Facebook is free to set its own policies. Internet Evolution: The War on Web Anonymity. The Avenue de l'Opéra in Paris is a respectable address, surrounded by banks, boutiques and cafés.

Internet Evolution: The War on Web Anonymity

The tenants listed on door plaques include a language school and an airline. But the name of the building's most famous tenant is not listed: Google. The global corporation values privacy -- its own privacy, at least. "We take data protection seriously," says Peter Fleischer, Google's Global Privacy Counsel. Why Facebook and Google's Concept of 'Real Names' Is Revolutionary - Alexis Madrigal.

The primary version of identity online is a radical departure from what we expect in real life Should you have to use your real name online?

Why Facebook and Google's Concept of 'Real Names' Is Revolutionary - Alexis Madrigal

It's an issue that's long simmered among social media critics and supporters alike. On one end of the spectrum, there's 4chan, where everything is anonymous. On the other, there are Facebook and Google Plus. “For Those Who Don’t Want To Believe” I feel uncomfortably like a prophet.

“For Those Who Don’t Want To Believe”

In January, and again last week, I wrote about the prospect of UAVs used as weapons by terrorists; yesterday a man was arrested who “planned to attack the Pentagon using ‘small drone airplanes’ filled with explosives and guided by GPS.” In August I wrote about omnipresent mobile phones turning the world into a panopticon; today’s NYT has an article about ordinary Koreans paid by the government to snitch on scofflaws with photo evidence. Surprisingly Good Evidence That Real Name Policies Fail To Improve Comments. YouTube has joined a growing list of social media companies who think that forcing users to use their real names will make comment sections less of a trolling wasteland, but there’s surprisingly good evidence from South Korea that real name policies fail at cleaning up comments.

Surprisingly Good Evidence That Real Name Policies Fail To Improve Comments

In 2007, South Korea temporarily mandated that all websites with over 100,000 viewers require real names, but scrapped it after it was found to be ineffective at cleaning up abusive and malicious comments (the policy reduced unwanted comments by an estimated .09%). We don’t know how this hidden gem of evidence skipped the national debate on real identities, but it’s an important lesson for YouTube, Facebook and Google, who have assumed that fear of judgement will change online behavior for the better.

Last week, YouTube began a policy of prompting users to sign in through Google+ with their full names. If users decline, they have to give a valid reason, like, “My channel is for a show or character”. Online anonymity.