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UK Government Report Recommends Ending Online Anonymity 282

Posted by timothy
from the but-you-have-a-right-to-be-forgotten dept.
An anonymous reader writes with a bit of pith from TechDirt: Every so often, people who don't really understand the importance of anonymity or how it enables free speech (especially among marginalized people), think they have a brilliant idea: "just end real anonymity online." They don't seem to understand just how shortsighted such an idea is. It's one that stems from the privilege of being in power. And who knows that particular privilege better than members of the House of Lords in the UK — a group that is more or less defined by excess privilege? The Communications Committee of the House of Lords has now issued a report concerning "social media and criminal offenses" in which they basically recommend scrapping anonymity online.
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UK Government Report Recommends Ending Online Anonymity

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 31, 2014 @03:30PM (#47576533)

    Maybe they forgot that the Internet has no borders?

  • by cowwoc2001 (976892) on Thursday July 31, 2014 @03:42PM (#47576621)

    You disregard all the harm that anonymity causes online, from bullying, to hate speech, to terrorism.

    I'm not saying the argument for Freedom of Expression is irrelevant, but the other perspective has legitimate concerns as well.

    Pro-anonymity advocates have been saying for years that Freedom of Expression will fix all ills but we've seen a substantial rise of bullying, hate speech and terrorism-advocacy in the past decade. Saying that people will find the truth so long as it's out there, somewhere, does not seem to be working. Great in theory but doesn't work in practice.

    We need to find a middle ground that will help curtain online abuse with minimal impact on Freedom of Speech, but the statue quo is not sustainable.

  • by hsthompson69 (1674722) on Thursday July 31, 2014 @03:44PM (#47576639)

    If government wants to have peeps into our private lives, I say they should offer themselves up first. Have every government employee's financial records, emails, purchases, and other records completely public. Install GPS trackers on them so we can all track their movement. Put cameras in their homes, cars, and offices so that we can watch them 24/7.

    If they want the panopticon, let them go first.

  • by Stormy Dragon (800799) on Thursday July 31, 2014 @03:45PM (#47576645) Homepage

    So you think making it possible for bullies to determine the RL identities of their victims is going the REDUCE online abuse?

  • by ruir (2709173) on Thursday July 31, 2014 @03:45PM (#47576651) Homepage
    Think of the children?? People will always find ways to be anonymous if they want, even if they have to tunnel connections to outside UK. The Internet is a global village, and the cat is out of the bag. Furthermore, terrorists will always be terrorists, and it is a lame excuse. It is like forbiding guns, and then the only ones having guns are the criminals. It does not work at all. As for dealing with hate speach, grow a pair, and ignore what you dont want to see/read.
  • by jbburks (853501) on Thursday July 31, 2014 @03:47PM (#47576667)
    Hate speech is just that. Speech. It should never be prohibited.

    Universities and others that make hate speech a crime are violating the principle of free speech.

  • by Alomex (148003) on Thursday July 31, 2014 @03:49PM (#47576681) Homepage

    It greases up communication. If I had to attach my name permanently to this comment, at best I would have to spend 15 minutes fully thinking out every implication of it, at worst I would likely not make it at all.

    However using either AC or a pseudonym I can post my initial thoughts and let someone else support/refute some of the points using their own personal experience and knowledge.

    One arrives to the truth much faster by collaborative debate than by solitary thinking or not posting at all.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 31, 2014 @03:53PM (#47576711)

    Every so often, people who don't really understand the importance of anonymity or how it enables free speech (especially among marginalized people), think they have a brilliant idea: "just end real anonymity online."

    I disagree. These people understand perfectly well the importance of anonymity. Which is precisely why they want it banned.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 31, 2014 @03:56PM (#47576743)

    They don't seem to understand just how shortsighted such an idea is.

    It's not short sighted AT ALL. It may not be conducive to your view of how things and/or the internet should work but it isn't a short sighted suggestion in any way, shape, or form. It works, 100%, towards their true goals and aspirations - to hold people accountable for what they say, to better track who is saying what, and to shut people up. They may attempt to sell it as beneficial for something else to make it more favourable to the public, but that's their goal and it's a long term goal which ending anonymity would accomplish in both the short term and long term.

    Nothing short sighted about it at all.

  • Re:House of Lords? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Thursday July 31, 2014 @04:42PM (#47577163)

    The political fervour that is whipped up in the populace, from security theatre / war on terror, the war on drugs, etc, takes a life of its own in a pure democracy.

    Who whips up that fervor, the war on drugs wasn't started as a grass roots campaign, for sure, it came from the top. It's the same in the US and UK, I think, certainly with the same dark motivations and same ill-gotten power. Anonymity is a friend to the masses and an enemy to power. Whistle-blowers, leakers and disharmonious speech are threats to the status quo, the same one that provides the wealth they wield to have this alleged long-term view.

    I don't disagree with the concept of having a ruling body that is not beholden to the mob, I just haven't seen any mechanism by which that body can be kept honest and magnanimous. That is the same spirit which brought down monarchies to begin with.

    I'm certainly too ignorant to decide in what ways the UK system or the US system are better or worse, but in this particular example I do not see any significant difference.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 31, 2014 @04:52PM (#47577261)

    That is the problem. If they want to end anonymity then they need to provide legal repercussions for ANYONE who would abuse the data being gathered on people. Even if its over a border and especially if it is our CORPORATE MASTERS. This would require something that governments the world over have proven themselves incapable of: saying no to billions or trillions of dollars in bribe/lobby/campaign contributions.

  • Re:House of Lords? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iserlohn (49556) on Thursday July 31, 2014 @05:22PM (#47577521) Homepage

    So who is whipping up the fevour? More likely than not it is people with money and connections.

    Democracy allows government to be directed by the mob. Who controls the mob controls the government. That's the whole problem with campaign finance and lobbying in the US. In such a system, the politicians in government are only puppets servings moneyed interests. These are the people funneling money into lobbying and the political machine (e.g. Koch brothers) or controls the press (think Murdoch and Fox news).

    It is blindingly obvious that it is not the people in government that calls the shots, it's the people that have the money to get the people in government.

  • by lgw (121541) on Thursday July 31, 2014 @06:26PM (#47577917) Journal

    For speech to result in physical attacks - a strong causal connection - that's no longer hate speech, that's "incitement to riot". We've had no problem keeping "hate speech" legal but "incitement to riot" illegal in America for centuries now.

    Speech should always be protected as speech. But telling your bodyguard to shoot someone is not illegal because of the words you use, but instead because of the immediate desired outcome of that speech. Running on a platform of killing all the Jews is political speech, and should be protected (and for goodness sake, please oh please let the candidate actually say that sort of thing on camera, not keep it as a secret agenda, so that democracy can happen properly there). Saying "hey, lets go attack that guy right there, right now!" has never been protected speech.

    "On a computer" changes nothing.

  • by infolation (840436) on Thursday July 31, 2014 @09:20PM (#47578767)
    There is a third possibility, taking into account the normal modus operandi of security-related law-creation in the UK

    1. lawmakers propose outrageous idea that no sane person could possibly agree to
    2. after outrage, lawmakers say they will redraft the law in consultation with the public
    3. lawmakers proudly present a 'watered down' version that any reasonable person would still say was kafta-esque, were it not for the previous suggestions of step 1
    4. the laws they wanted all along make it onto the statute book

    This simple process was used time and again by former home secretary David Blunkett, and the Conservative party have learned his methods well.
  • by O('_')O_Bush (1162487) on Friday August 01, 2014 @12:23AM (#47579329)
    You forgot the part, when regarding stripping rights, of a full on assault by the media and propaganda campaign to fuel a moral panic to push otherwise outrageous demands into law.

    That followed by many years of conditioning into modes of thinking that make those laws seem sane.

    Classic U.K. strategy.
  • by cowwoc2001 (976892) on Friday August 01, 2014 @12:51AM (#47579397)

    For speech to result in physical attacks - a strong causal connection - that's no longer hate speech, that's "incitement to riot". We've had no problem keeping "hate speech" legal but "incitement to riot" illegal in America for centuries now.

    Speech should always be protected as speech. But telling your bodyguard to shoot someone is not illegal because of the words you use, but instead because of the immediate desired outcome of that speech. Running on a platform of killing all the Jews is political speech, and should be protected (and for goodness sake, please oh please let the candidate actually say that sort of thing on camera, not keep it as a secret agenda, so that democracy can happen properly there). Saying "hey, lets go attack that guy right there, right now!" has never been protected speech.

    "On a computer" changes nothing.

    No one is that dumb. You will be hard pressed to find direct/immediate causality between repeated demonization against ethnic groups and the subsequent violence protests that ensue. But there is also no denying that when people post videos that incite hate against ethnic groups, coupled with a caption that says "Fucking Jews!" it tends to have a real effect. I just saw a video spread on Facebook that claimed to show Israeli soldiers burying Palestinian children alive with exactly that caption. Now, the soldiers in question were not Israeli (the Jordanian flag on the uniform kind of gave that away) but most of the viewers did not catch on. The video received over 1,500 shares with 1,200 comments to the effect of "Jewish bloodsuckers, we should end them". So sure, I can't count how many of the people who viewed this video went on to commit violence against Jews. But I can guess many of them were negatively affected and a sizable portion of them went out to protest, and a portion of them turned to violence.

    It's no coincidence that Hitler employed a strong propaganda campaign. If this kind of crap didn't work, he wouldn't have bothered. We need to admit that words, photos and videos make a difference and do lead to increased racism and eventually physical violence. We need to find a way to balance these concerns with Freedom of Speech.

  • by davester666 (731373) on Friday August 01, 2014 @02:31AM (#47579587) Journal

    "Every so often, people who don't really understand the importance of anonymity or how it enables free speech (especially among marginalized people), think they have a brilliant idea: "just end real anonymity online.""

    Oh, they completely understand the importance of anonymity and how it enables dissent. And that is exactly why they come up with "just end real anonymity" [no need to make it specifically mention online].

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