The Trouble with Anonymity.

by , under personal, Pirate

Anonymity is important. I’m going to say that upfront. Anonymity is necessary for people to be able to speak freely about atrocities going on, without fear of repercussions from others. So that they can speak up.

But that isn’t what you typically see anonymity used for.

Over on Tumblr, a few friends of mine have been hurt by anonymous users who’ve started campaigns to bully them. One was couched as an “academic discussion” – but really, it was bullying masquerading as something intellectual. If it had really been a discussion of how possibly problematic themes were used, there wouldn’t have been any need to hide behind a pseudonym.

And that’s how it’s done these days. Decide you hate someone? Log out and start spewing garbage, because you’re no longer a person. Just an angry voice in the wind.

It doesn’t matter if you have a screenname, the second you’re not the name you’re known as on the street, you’re technically anonymous. Just look at the hate spewed towards Anita Sarkeesian when she even proposed a video series to discuss sexism within video games. (And unfortunately for that, not all of it was anonymous)

I love Tumblr. I’ve met a lot of wonderful people there- but I’ve seen so much hatred and wank that it’s painful to be there at times. The worst part is when there’s someone you thought might become a friend, who turns out to be part of the problem.

Likewise, I love G+, but it’s just as bad. Last week I shared a funny video that had a bit of a feminist message to it – it was a parody of those “Trends Men Hate” lists that were going around, that essentially mocked both the lists in general (since those are nothing knew) and the idea of catering to men. But out of nowhere, I had bros popping up to tell me that I had completely missed the point of the video… one even going so far to imply that I had no right to share my opinion. Which let’s just grasp that logic. I couldn’t share my opinion, but he apparently could. Cultural misogyny at its finest.

I don’t have any solutions. Because as big of a problem as it is… there will always be the people who need the anonymity. Whistleblowers. Abuse victims. People trying to get information out of media blackouts (like tweets from Iran, Egypt or Syria).

What are your thoughts? Is anonymity worth it on the internet anymore? Or have we reached a point where the bad outweighs the good?