After reading Adam Goldenberg’s article Online Anonymity is the Last Refuge of Cowards, it made me think more about anonymity on the internet and whether it’s good or bad. Certainly, there must be both positive and negative factors to anonymity like your own privacy on the internet to prevent unwanted strangers from seeing your information is a positive factor. Negative factors would be the behaviour of others as presented in the article, where people abuse and take advantage of being anonymous. I did a quick google search on whether or not Internet Anonymity is good or bad and I found this page on Debate.org that has “yes, internet anonymity is good” winning the debate.
To summarize the points in the debate, the ones that said yes to internet anonymity being good said that it can protect us from predators by protecting our own identity (but what if you encounter someone saying awful things but their identity is protected?). Others say it’s a given right because without it, “it strips a persons basic right to privacy away.” However, their example of supporting that statement has its flaws. Their example was that if they don’t want people to know their opinion of how they think their president is a moron, then they won’t speak about it. They keep it private, and when you take away the right of privacy, nothing good will come from it. The flaw I see in this is that you could have that opinion, but you could keep it to yourself and not post it; that’s not taking away the right of privacy from you. It’s your choice on whether or not you want to post something on the internet for everyone to see and you’re responsible for what you post. There is also the point of freedom of expression that is mentioned, and how theres a price to pay, in the form of internet trolls, for equal freedom of expression for everyone. This one always stumps me, because I’m not sure how to argue freedom of expression and it’s always used as a point when someone says whatever they want. You can’t just post whatever you want and just dodge the incoming hate by claiming it’s freedom of expression without consequences, right? At what point does someones words cross the line of ‘freedom of expression’ and is there a line?
On the other side, the people that believe internet anonymity is bad said cyberbullying is a very negative occurrence brought on by internet anonymity. This is because “people say messed up stuff when they are not held accountable for it,” which is exhibited in the article from Goldenberg. The people that said hateful things about Christopher Peloso did so because they had the ability to hide behind their computer and not be held accountable for their words. However, there are occasions where people that don’t protect their identity still post hateful things because the internet and the computer itself feels like a shield. Consequences of not thinking before posting are displayed in the article, where Justine Sacco posted something without thinking about it first and ended up losing her job.
Is there a way to regulate anonymity? There are both benefits and disadvantages to internet anonymity, which makes it hard to have a real answer on whether or not its good. In a perfect world, people could have the choice to be anonymous or not on the internet but they would also have to follow the rule of not posting hurtful things online. But, that could never happen because people do whatever they want to do, unfortunately.
Goldenberg, Adam. 2013. “Online anonymity is the last refuge of cowards.” Macleans.ca. Dec 2013. Available from: http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/12/31/online-anonymity-is-the-last-refuge-of-cowards/
Link to Debate on Internet Anonymity: