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Can Internet Pseudonymity Be Saved? 491

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 @12:19PM (#44873979)

    I have maintained a pseudonym online as much as possible, and will continue to do so. The guy out in Colorado or somewheresville who has the actual name probably is none too pleased

  • Re:All? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by therealkevinkretz ( 1585825 ) * on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:22PM (#44874023)

    Are you implying that you're sure one isn't? If it's necessary to err either on the side of protecting anonymity or the side of sacrificing privacy unnecessarily, it should be the former.

  • Web of trust? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mlts ( 1038732 ) * on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:24PM (#44874057)

    I've always wondered about some web of trust available for this. For example:

    I have a website, and want people to comment. Someone decides to authenticate with a keyID. My server checks what certificates are associated with the public key. One cert from a semi-trustworthy source shows the anon ID is actually associated with a live person. Another cert from a decently trustworthy source shows the person is a frequent poster at a website. Still another shows that the ID has been in use on sites on a daily basis without any site bans for a few years.

    With this info in mind, even though I have no clue whom the person is, I can reasonably assume that it will be either someone good at ID theft, or someone that likely won't be trolling/spamming.

    A reputation based system would be useful. The public key can be anonymous, but with CAs (of varying trust levels), I can find that the person has been proven to be not a bot, has a positive reputation on various sites, is known by friends and people I do trust, etc. Of course, on the other hand, I get a key that has absolutely zero certificates on it, I'd probably not bother to allow it on.

  • Re:All? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by epyT-R ( 613989 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:25PM (#44874071)

    Who are you to say what those reasons should be?

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:27PM (#44874105) Journal
    They're not doing it to improve civility or stop anonymous abuse. These can both be solved by other, less intrusive mechanisms. Even Slashdot manages it: penalise anonymous users a lot, penalise new members a little bit, and require users to establish a reputation to gain full participation. If they lose that reputation, their ability to participate drops off. The real reason that they want real names is because it makes the information that they harvest and sell to advertisers more valuable if it's tied to a real name and address.
  • by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:28PM (#44874113) Homepage

    If your pseudonym is persistent, reputation still matters. It does not matter whether your pseudonym can be connected to your meatspace identity; reputation is still reptuation.

    The real problem with online harrassment, trolling, etc is that people lend credence to transient identities. Not a problem here, because we have persistent pseudonyms and transient identities. Transient identities get treated with skepticism and ignored if they're being abusive. Persistent pseudonyms which have earned a reputation are granted wider latitude to make their case.

    The problem is not pseudonymity, or even transient identities and anonymity. It is that most public fora do not make it easy to distinguish between a member in good standing and a drive-by-troll.

  • Re:All? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by P-niiice ( 1703362 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:30PM (#44874135)
    If I choose to, that's reason enough. No need to go any further anto it.
  • Re:All? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:33PM (#44874173) Homepage

    Every single person doesn't need a solid defensible reason in order to be able to conclude there are, in fact, plenty of good reasons why you would like to have pseudonymous use of the internet.

    That there are people who will be doing it for shady purposes doesn't invalidate that not everything everybody does do they want tied to their real world names and published for the world to see.

    You can be not breaking any laws and still want some privacy.

  • Re:Identify it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:35PM (#44874205)

    This seems like an attempt to appease everyone without actually understanding the issue.

    To the extent "banning" pseudonyms pleases some people, it does so by letting them retaliate. After you say something that displeases anyone in a position of power---an employer, a bitchy parent of a child in school, a litigious person, a government spook---they can use your non-pseudonymous name to find you in another area and retaliate. It's possible to retaliate across time as well as forum: when you seek employment, your employer in the position of power can Google your name and look for distant past speech. And the proportion of retaliation is entirely up to the person in the position of power.

    If only we could enable this retaliation for things "everyone" agrees are bad, like "trolling," and not for being gay or having a political view that some people don't like.

    We can't do that. What we can do is have a class of people who's much less vulnerable to retaliation than everyone else. Surprise: these people think you're "hiding behind" your pseudonym. This is the chief effect at work here, and your plan makes it worse, not better.

    If you are going to make a prescription it should be the opposite one: revealing your "real name" should be forbidden on the forum because even when only some people do it, it increases the power imbalance. proposed rule: If you use a name intended to look real, or claim that something is your real name, or reveal your real name in the text of your comment, you're banned.

  • Many (Score:5, Insightful)

    by themushroom ( 197365 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:36PM (#44874213) Homepage

    I know quite a few people, myself included, who either have two profiles on Facebook -- the public one and the private one -- or go with a pseudonym because they want to preserve their privacy. And not for nefarious reasons, because they only want to be connected to people significant to them and not to everyone. Like for instance, a lawyer may have a professional presence but keep the family elsewhere, or a teacher keeps everything out of where students and adminstration could see it.

    It's been mentioned already that you can be shitcanned for what you put online, even if it's not a picture of your junk or a status update about a party you're at. It has been done for the weakest of reasons because somebody with some power doesn't agree with your private POV. Some people would like to be netizens like everyone else without having to deal with oversensitive vindictive dickheads snooping on them.

    I just tell people I don't trust I don't have a Facebook since my username doesn't involve my given name in any form and usually don't friend anyone I work with, and without a lot of work some HR spy isn't going to find how how much I love kittens and midget bowling.

  • Answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aaaaaaargh! ( 1150173 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:38PM (#44874245)

    How can pseudonymity — one of the key foundations of early internet communities — be saved?

    By not using services on the web that don't allow it.

  • Re:All? (Score:0, Insightful)

    by cold fjord ( 826450 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:39PM (#44874265)

    It's to protect the children and stop terrorism, citizen.

    Various governments can already figure out who is writing and doing what without accounts linked to real names. More likely companies are interested in it to combat fraud, defamation, and computer crime of various sorts. Various government also want to know who is saying what for many purposes, including repression.

    There are societal trade-offs to support anonymity on the internet, but I think having it is a good think overall even if there are some problematic aspects of it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:45PM (#44874361)

    They were having problems with fake reviews, and this solved a good chunk of them.

    I don't like it either, but I don't have any alternate suggestions, you know?

  • by seebs ( 15766 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:47PM (#44874395) Homepage

    Admit that the reasons are not "perfectly legitimate", but have no basis in reality. Real names don't make people civil. Communities that are willing to kick out people who are abusive make people civil -- or, at least, omit the people who aren't.

  • Re:Lie (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:48PM (#44874409)

    Your friend didn't handle it correctly.

    In the event that you have to pay, you do not need the payment information to match the account information. For example, if some child sets up an account on one of these systems his parents will ultimately pay for it through their credit card etc. Thus the payment information does not match the account name.

    So you say, "yes, my name is Bruce wayne... And this is the payment method"... there is no need for them to match.

  • by Radtastic ( 671622 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:48PM (#44874417)
    The problem of abuse on forums and online can be solved with good moderation. Unfortunately, most online sites don't bother to have someone ban users or delete posts based on users abusive behavior.

    A properly moderated site enforces civil behavior - psuedonym or not.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:52PM (#44874471)

    There have been numerous studies about the behavior of people with and without a means of positive identification. Unfortunately I can't find the references (at work, ya know...), but two distinct studies come to mind. The first was people in cars and the cognitive disassociation we have with other drivers, we don't often see faces or make eye contact, so other people just become cars, inanimate objects we cannot empathise with. As a result, we have no issues screaming at that mother of 3 who's trying to keep her kids calm, all because she switched lanes without using her signal. The other study had to do with online interactions, individuals who were able to use pseudonyms routinely did not feel any remorse or regret with their online interactions and forum posts, why? Because of the same sort of disassociation. Since our actions are not tied to ourselves and we do not get an immediate response from whomever complete with facial expressions, we have no problems acting like total assholes.

    Both cases have to do with the disassociation we have with others who we do not make eye contact with, we do not know, and we do not see what else they may be dealing with. Also in both cases, the problem is remedied by bringing the human social interaction back into play. There is a city in Europe (saw it on Discovery channel) that completely did away with stoplights, instead forcing people to look at other cars, make eye contact with other drivers, and invoke some communication. Accidents dropped significantly, gridlock was reduced, and the town overall was easier to navigate, even as a pedestrian or bicyclist.

    So yes, your newspaper may have killed the commenting system by using real identities, but they also did a service to their public image by annihalating the individuals that hide behind anonymity to pick fights and generally act like jerks because now there is an individual that fingers can be pointed at.

  • Re:All? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Score Whore ( 32328 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:56PM (#44874513)

    The assumed principle is that each of these people has the right to interact with others while hiding their real life identity. And to a certain extent I agree that one has the right to present oneself however one chooses.

    But, what about my right to only interact with people who are willing to put their real life identity behind their words and actions? Any right that assures fetishists, trannys and political radicals a sense of anonymity also assures the rest of society the option to require a lack of anonymity.

    If this means that we can't come to an agreement on how we will communicate, then that is the price to be paid for our mutual decisions.

    There has never been any society in which an individual got to have full participation while simultaneously defining their own norms. Social norms are defined by the group and if you can't abide by those norms then you will have to pay the price that comes from your choice. And that is not unfair or an injustice.

  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @12:58PM (#44874539)

    How can pseudonymity â" one of the key foundations of early internet communities â" be saved?"

    No it wasn't one of the key foundations of early internet communities. Quite the opposite in fact - it was seen as a great threat to Internet communities. Lemme cut and paste a post I made last year...

    Once upon a time, when I first got on the Internet (late 1980s), there was no anonymity. Sysadmins voluntarily adhered to a policy where each user's online identity and their real identity were linked []. If someone ever found a way to break this link, it was considered a bug [] which needed to be fixed. (Also notice that all the people in those old USENET posts are using their real names.) This system was staunchly enforced by admins who believed the net would devolve into chaos and rampant misbehavior if people were allowed to post anonymously.

    There were a few people running their own servers who bucked the trend, but it wasn't until AOL joined USENET [] that pseudonyms became a fact of life on the Internet. AOL allowed each account to have up to 5 usernames, ostensibly so family members sharing a single AOL account could each have their own ID. Obviously these extra usernames were quickly used to make pseudonyms by people wishing to post things online anonymously, which was good for free speech. But not surprisingly, spam was invented shortly thereafter.

    All that's happening now is that the pendulum is starting to swing the away from complete anonymity as netizens struggle to figure out the best balance between real names and pseudonyms. The people at the pro-anonymity extreme won't like it, just like the people at the pro-real-name extreme didn't like it in the early 1990s. But as with most things in life the best balance is probably somewhere in between.

  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @01:05PM (#44874637)
    Facebook = real identities? Don't tell my dog, she has an account.
  • Re:All? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @01:07PM (#44874661)

    Actually, its the real world that is dangerous. The Internet is pretty harmless until it leaks into my real life.

    A pseudonym is my way of being a member of a community without linking that membership to my real life. It differs from pure anonymity in that I can still damage my on-line reputation by being a jerk-wad.

  • Re:Lie (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @01:09PM (#44874709)
    The terms of service do not have the full force of civil or criminal law - despite the providing company wanting them to. You can break the ToS all you want and I promise the SWAT team won't come and break down your door. Unless of course you're breaking the law as well.
  • by orthancstone ( 665890 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @01:12PM (#44874763)

    The internet is a dangerous place. People have been lulled into believing that this is not the case.

    No lulling involved. Only a massive increase in user base that was not raised on the idea that the Internet is an unknown outside of your normal neighborhood.

    People who rode the rising tide of the Internet from early on learned where you could share your identity and where you needed to maintain anonymity. Those who jumped onto the bandwagon in the past decade have failed to recognize that such a distinction was even necessary.

  • Re:All? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @01:13PM (#44874771)

    But, what about my right to only interact with people who are willing to put their real life identity behind their words and actions? Any right that assures fetishists, trannys and political radicals a sense of anonymity also assures the rest of society the option to require a lack of anonymity.

    Is that a new right? I don't remember anyone ever saying that it was a right.

    Privacy has traditionally been held up as a right.
    Courage by someone with something to lose? Not so much.

  • by Deep Esophagus ( 686515 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @01:15PM (#44874811)


    TFS (and, if I were to read it, I suppose TFA) make it sound like there's a one-size-fits-all global identity model for all websites. If HuffPo or Facebook or even gmail decide to eliminate trolls by requiring proof of real identity, then it must follow that must also do the same.


    I actually agree that mainstream news sites have good reason for reducing anonymity for exactly the reasons stated -- to eliminate, or at least reduce to a manageable level, trolls. They could even argue that it is in their best interests to do so.

    Sites where just your presence on the site may cause irreparable damage to your personal life, your job, etc. -- not so much. It is in THEIR best interests to provide anonymity to the best of their ability.

    So, yeah. If you are willing to have your name associated with your inflammatory posts, give your real name to the sites that require it. If not, avoid those sites and stick with places that allow anonimity; they will always do so or they will go out of business (even if "business" is just selling ad space). Problem solved.

  • Re:Identify it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @01:20PM (#44874889)

    Give people the choice of creating a "Real Name" account with proof or a "Pseudonym" account, and make this choice visible to everyone else.

    One of the big reasons for anonymity is protection of free speech. If you haven't noticed, anyone can be silenced with a threat of a lawsuit for slander, libel, terroristic threats, trade secrets, and the list goes on. Giving a website "proof" just makes it that much easier to silence someone regardless of whether they're operating under a pseudonym or not; The website is the first thing targeted by the anti-free speech crowd's lawyers.

    The only way for free speech to survive is to rebalance the power imbalance between the people who have lots of money and can simply threaten someone and drag them into court, sucking their life savings away... and the poor people who want to express an opinion, but lack advanced technical tools to obscure their true identity. And the first step in doing that, is something like Tor where an IP address or e-mail address can't be matched to a realworld identity. mailinator and Tor are a powerful combination for normalizing those relationships to an equal footing.

    That's precisely why the wealthy are trying so hard to destroy them: It allows democratic discourse, the ability for people to organize anonymously against them and their corrupted interests and greed.

  • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @01:34PM (#44875077)

    I work with children in a different capacity, and in a country where the public perception is that every rock hides a pedophile. As someone who works with children, I need to be constantly on my guard and display all the sexuality of a banana. I also need to maintain the most perfect PC image, and never say anything that could insult any ethnic or religious minority. If it became public that the school hired someone who considers religion in general a dangerous delusion, it could expose them to legal action - and they'd fire me in a heartbeat to save themselves.

  • Re:All? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by poetmatt ( 793785 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @01:40PM (#44875149) Journal

    I don't understand how people call "improving civility" legitimate. It's literally the exact opposite. 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. Yet, we here we have craznar trolling. go figure.

  • Re:All? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @01:53PM (#44875345) Homepage Journal

    I don't understand how people call "improving civility" legitimate. It's literally the exact opposite. 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.

    Yep, pretty much by definition, the right to "free speech" negates the ability to have the right to "not be offended". It pretty much *has* to trump it.

    Sadly, with all the political correctness....which seems to now be being somewhat enforced by force of law, words are quickly becoming almost criminal.

    Unpleasant things must be said...or the world grows quickly silent.

  • Re:All? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by invid ( 163714 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @02:10PM (#44875559)
    How about if the elimination of anonymity also eliminates the possibility of individual liberty? If the government has sufficient knowledge of any individual, they will be able to control that individuals life to the point where they can find something to charge against them and arrest them at will. And don't tell me you won't have anything to worry about if you obey the law, if all of your actions are scrutinized they will find something. The lack of anonymity tips power so much into the government's hands that privacy is now necessary for freedom, and we need to find a way to guarantee it for ourselves or we are condemning humanity to perpetual servitude.
  • Re:Identify it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sqrt(2) ( 786011 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @02:12PM (#44875579) Journal

    A potential employer is in no more powerful a position as you are. They need workers, you need a job.

    Bull. Fucking. Shit. Please read section 2.5 [] for a succinct explanation of why this is patent nonsense. This argument has been closed. Your position is simply erroneous. You are deluded, or being intentionally misleading when you repeat this piffle.

  • Re:All? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Salgak1 ( 20136 ) <[salgak] [at] []> on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @02:16PM (#44875633) Homepage

    Actually, Censorship is about GOVERNMENT suppressing freedom of expression. Privately-owned sites are free to set their own terms. As you are in your own house.

    And when sites do restrict anonymity, it happens in the marketplace of ideas. So if people are accepting the non-anonymity policy on a given site, they're the ones at fault, not the site.

    Not that it's HARD to create a sock-puppet account. . .

  • Re:All? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by epyT-R ( 613989 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @02:53PM (#44876091)

    You're welcome to ignore anonymous posters, or ban them from your site, but this topic was about the wane of anonymity in a culture that used to hold it as one of its most important characteristics.

    But, what about my right to only interact with people who are willing to put their real life identity behind their words and actions?

    Conviction of one's beliefs is not proof of their veracity. So while you can accept/ignore on this basis, it's not a good way to determine truthfulness. My point was that identity is not important unless the goal is to hold the speaker to your personal ideals via implied threats (public shaming, legal action, character assassination etc) should he go where you don't want him to. Why is it so important that you know for sure who it is that you're communicating with? If the argument is sound, accept that you've learned something from someone you'll never know, alter your content to acknowledge it publicly if applicable, and move on. If it's garbage, refute it to strengthen your position in the eyes of your readership who haven't made up their minds yet. Without this discipline, it's too easy to flip the switch at posts you don't agree with for emotional reasons, creating a nice shiny beacon of false consensus for your opinions. Of course, the kind of people who build these beacons usually aren't in it for telling the truth about much of anything. They have political angles or products to sell you for their own emotional or fiscal benefit.

    Any right that assures fetishists, trannys and political radicals a sense of anonymity also assures the rest of society the option to require a lack of anonymity.

    That can't be true. The two positions are mutually exclusive. Demanding that others identify themselves so that you can 'feel safe' isn't compatible with respecting those others' rights to anonymity, whatever they may be.

    There has never been any society in which an individual got to have full participation while simultaneously defining their own norms. Social norms are defined by the group and if you can't abide by those norms then you will have to pay the price that comes from your choice. And that is not unfair or an injustice.

    Yes, and those consensus driven, emotionally justified rationales were the driving forces behind most of the negative events in our history. They are a part of human nature, yes, but they shouldn't be encouraged, or lauded as honorable, because consensus is a poor way of gaining wisdom. Allowing anonymity allows people to stir up the mud, but denying it allows those in control of communications outlets to lie without challenge. That is far worse for a free society.

  • Re:All? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @04:09PM (#44877067) Journal

    I'll never forget what my grandfather taught me about free speech, after he helped liberate one of the camps he spent nearly 2 years in a full body cast thanks to one of the rag tag "werewulf" squads at the end of WWII dropping a wall upon him so if there was ANYBODY that had the right to hate Nazis it was him...yet he supported the right of the Nazis to march in Illinois. He said "that is what made us better than them, we let anybody speak, even though we don't agree with them".

    I took his words to heart several years after he was gone when I was living in Dallas and saw skinheads recruiting, trying to feed on anti-Mexican sentiment. I just went to a store down the street and made up my own little sign, it said "ask me about the camps" and told those who stopped and asked what my grandfather had saw, the bodies piled up like cordwood, traincars overflowing with broken bodies, people so starved you couldn't tell male from female. needless to say the skinheads weren't too happy about that but one of the cops sent to keep an eye on the skinheads just parked his butt right next to me and said "he has as much right to speak as you do" and that ended that.

    This is why I have fought against so called "hate speech" and "hate crime" laws as they aren't only trying to make some speech verbotten but they also seem to be designed around the concept of "protected classes" such as how they say nothing if you burn a bible but will throw you in jail if you burn a Koran. in America you should not be able to EVER ban speech, if you don't like what they are saying? Make your own sign and come up with a legitimate counter-argument,freedom of speech is too important to allow the politically correct to decide what is and is not acceptable.

  • Re: Identify it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @05:48PM (#44878155)

    Your basic mistake is assuming employees are interchangeable. Likely rooted in your union indoctrination.

    I am. Everyone I know are. It's because, at the end of the day, I'm an average person. I have no inherent advantage over another average person. Now, there are schools of economic thought that say that I should thereby starve to death or at the very least live in horrible misery since, after all, I can be easily replaced. And once upon the time, these schools got us the Gilded Era and its robber barons, and people like me got just that. Then we joined together, recognized our common plight, and formed the unions to put a stop to that ruthless exploitation. And now I get paid a decent wage for putting in a reasonable effort.

    So I, for one, will continue supporting the unions. And you will undoubtedly continue looking down at them, never understanding that your own economic position depends not on your undoubtedly superhuman abilities but us average people being able to demand a decend wage, thus forcing the choice to be between your elite skills and elite pay and my mediocre skills and mediocre pay rather than my mediocre skills and starvation wage.

    But hey, disregard that, it's far more satisfying to keep having delusions of grandieur.

  • Re:Lie (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @06:08PM (#44878359)

    First thing any trained interrogator will tell you is, everyone lies. In fact, psychologists expect a certain degree of lying during a forensic psychiatric examination. People who show up as not lying a little, don't sweat a little, are very probably sociopaths. The fact is, some amount of lying is healthy. We lie to protect our egos, our worldview, or the people we love. We lie to protect ourselves. And this isn't a bad thing. Lying, by itself, is just a social behavior. It's the motivation behind it that makes it good or bad.

    We don't lie all the time. In fact, we lie very little as a society. But it is essential to our survival that we do. Sun Tzu wrote several thousand years ago that the best way to motivate your soldiers is to put them on what he termed "death ground". That is, intentionally leading them to a place where there can be no retreat from the enemy. They then fight harder and hold nothing back. Sun Tzu knew that all warfare is deception, even to one's own troops. But it saved lives; Those soldiers might have run themselves ragged retreating constantly. By forcing the conflict, choosing the time and place, at a time when the soldiers would have maximum effectiveness against the enemy, casualties on his side were minimized. But you better believe that he didn't tell the soldiers he knew he was setting them up for a situation with no escape. He lied to them. And because of that, they survived.

    People lie about their age so they can join the military early. Maybe they come from a broken home, are constantly physically and sexually abused, and it's the only way out. So they lie, and it means they survive, emotionally if not physically as well. Honesty is a virtue, but like any virtue you can take it to excesss -- you can get yourself killed, or hurt, or those you love.

    If there's one thing I've learned about morality, it's that it cannot be inflexible. Sometimes you have to sacrifice one ideal to protect an even bigger one. Sometimes, you have to sacrifice a short term set back to achieve a long term success. Lying is directly tied to morality -- you can't talk about one and not the other. So I'm not saying don't try to be honest, but remember it's a virtue... and virtues come before doing the right thing, at the right time, with the right words.

    If you lie because it protects a principle of yours, or perhaps if what you do goes beyond principles and into the realm of love, which is perhaps beyond right or wrong, then I will not judge you poorly for it. I only judge liars who are motivated wealth, power, privilege, or advantage over others... I judge them by their vices, not by their virtues. So I guess all I'm saying, if I'm saying anything at all, is not to overburden yourself with guilt if you find you have to lie to do right. But be careful; If you find yourself saying you have to lie to protect others, or are doing something for another's own good then be warned. In all my experience in life, I have yet to find someone who made such an utterance, and good came from it.

  • Re:All? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dunng808 ( 448849 ) <> on Tuesday September 17, 2013 @06:17PM (#44878481) Journal

    Also seen today on /.

    "As part of a broader, chilling Chinese crackdown on Internet dissent, Chinese blogger Charles Xue appeared on Chinese state television in handcuffs on Sunday, denouncing his blog and praising government censorship."

    Doubleclick Cofounder Responds to Patent Troll by Filing Extortion Lawsuit ... "The patent troll's attorney also made the claim that calling someone a 'patent troll' was actually a 'hate crime' under 'Ninth Circuit precedent' and threatened to file criminal charges"

    Freedom of speech is constantly under attack, especially by those who want their freedom at the expense of yours.

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay