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Can Internet Pseudonymity Be Saved? 491

Posted by timothy
from the you-may-comment-anonymously dept.
jfruh writes "Imagine that you're a lawyer who also runs a popular sexual fetish podcast. Or that you're a blogger on political issues and you want to determine for yourself who you're going to get into political arguments with. Or you're a transgender woman who isn't out to your real-life associates but you want to explore your gender identity online. Or that you're a female gamer who wants to play World of Warcraft without being hit on or harassed. All of these people have perfectly good reasons for wanting to use a pseudonym online. And yet more and more websites are making it difficult or impossible to do so, often for perfectly legitimate reasons of improving civility and stopping anonymous abuse. How can pseudonymity — one of the key foundations of early internet communities — be saved?"
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Can Internet Pseudonymity Be Saved?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:21PM (#44874005)

    citation needed: what kind of pseudonym restriction actually does improve civility?

    You can't just speculate that it does. You can't even play games of association that don't prove causality. You need to actually show it. I understand it matches your intuition, but I think your intuition is wrong.

  • by crow (16139) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:22PM (#44874025) Homepage Journal

    Our local newspaper publishes almost everything online. It also allows people to make comments. A few years ago, they decided to deal with the level of uncivil comments by requiring everyone to establish an account before posting. After a few months, it was mostly back to normal, but marginally better. Then this summer, they switched to requiring a Facebook or Linked-In login, and almost all commenting stopped--not just the problem comments, all comments.

    They killed the commenting system by trying to force real identities.

  • by pellik (193063) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:25PM (#44874069)
    With tracking cookies and javascript hacks being as prevalent as they are I've been using separate sandboxes for browsing profiles for some time now with Sandboxie. I suppose I could go extra paranoid and throw in a proxy, too.

    As long as the sites which know your real identity are walled away from the rest of the internet tracking then some level of anonymity can still be expected.
  • Re:Don't log in (Score:3, Informative)

    by zidium (2550286) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:52PM (#44874467) Homepage

    Don't forget about The Panopticlick. Clearing stuff simply isn't enough.

  • Re:Lie (Score:5, Informative)

    by Joce640k (829181) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @01:00PM (#44874567) Homepage

    So? I have access to a number of Pre-Paid phones.

    Lucky you. There's no such thing as an anonymous, pre-paid phone in most countries.

  • Re:Identify it (Score:4, Informative)

    by contrapunctus (907549) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @01:44PM (#44875191)

    I made the mistake of using my real name on hulu, then I found out my activity was searchable on google. so then I had to change my name to something else then cancel account and create a new account with a fake name just so people can't see what/how many shows I've watched.

    Needless to say I will never get a hulu plus account.

    And more importantly, I never use my real name unless I absolutely have to. I wasn't so careful in the 90s, so my name still shows up next to posts I have made back then.

    I have a rare name.

  • Re:All? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Oligonicella (659917) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @02:00PM (#44875443)
    If you start verbally berating someone at my house, I will eject you. No censorship involved. Censorship is about government suppressing freedom of expression. Same goes for blogs and gaming sites.
  • Re:All? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @03:07PM (#44876259)

    Wrong. This argument comes up a lot from the government alone is the source of all evil crowd. Look up the definition of censorship in any dictionary, not one of them states that government action is required to constitute censorship. Censorship is any action by any entity intended to suppress or conceal information. ClearChannel Communications is every bit as capable of censoring things as the FCC.

    From Merriam Webster: "censorship noun \sen(t)-sr-ship\ : the system or practice of censoring books, movies, letters, etc."

  • Re:All? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @03:08PM (#44876263)

    The first amendment exists because you can offend people and/or not be civil. If you disallow that, you're saying people don't have a right to speak freely.

    I'm sorry, but you're wrong. The first amendment exists to protect people from being punished by the government for having a dissenting view. It prevents those in power from using force to silence those whose only power is their speech. It's to prevent the U.S. from becoming Russia. Individual people, businesses, and non-government organizations are free to retaliate.

    If you don't like the things that Orson Scott Card has to say about marriage, then you are free to boycott his books/movies, write angry letters to his publishers, and do many other things to tear down his livelihood and discredit his name. What the first amendment does is prevent some sheriff/judge/politician from having him imprisoned, and his possessions confiscated.

  • Re:Identify it (Score:4, Informative)

    by Obfuscant (592200) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @04:59PM (#44877573)

    ... a Democratic form of government is not possible without free and anonymous speech, and anonymous voting.

    A democracy is impossible with anonymous voting. If you can't determine that the person who is voting has a right to vote, then anyone can walk in and vote. If you can't determine that someone has already voted, then they can vote a dozen or more times. You can't have the concept of "one person one vote" if you can't determine when that one person has cast his one vote.

    What you are thinking of is secret ballots, not anonymous voting. It is absolutely imperative that you identify the person who is doing the voting and his right to be there, and only at that point should the origin and content of the actual vote become unidentifiable.

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