Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Delete The Hate: The Problem Is The Nasty Content Not The Anonymity

Posted by Tom Foremski - August 14, 2009

There's been a fair amount of discussion of online anonymity lately. Paul Carr, a columnist at Telegraph.co.uk wrote that there is no place for anonymous comments on the Internet. ['Rascal! Your name!': Schopenhauer vs the Internet trolls]

I'm in no doubt that if we forced everyone who wanted to respond to a blog post or online article to use their real name, the Internet would be transformed.

Andrew Keen, also writing at Telegraph.co.uk, is also a supporter of banning anonymity and pseudonyms. [Punishing anonymity]

Not for the first (or last) time, I'm in 110% agreement with Carr. Anonymity is indeed killing our online culture and making it, in Carr's words, "a cesspool of trollery and abuse".

I disagree, there clearly is a place for anonymity on the Internet. Anonymity is one way people can express themselves or publish information that they might not be able to do under their own name.

Why ban anonymity and throw the baby out with the bath water if all you want to do is reduce the nasty comments? Just delete them, anonymous or not.

Yet this goes against one of the cardinal rules of Web 2.0, that users have control, that users have the right to be heard. Deleting comments or moderating comments is often considered a form of censorship and anti-free speech, and therefore it is wrong.

I disagree. This is not a free-speech or censorship issue. No one has the right to scrawl whatever garbage they want on my server. They can go out and get a free blogger account and publish as much as they want over there.

Newspapers don't publish every letter they receive why should it be otherwise for online publications?

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