The subject of anonymous

Please note: The opinions expressed on this web site are mine and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, or Justice; the Coast Guard or any other office or agency of the U.S. Government; or any organization, corporation, company, or anyone else other than the author. Just reminding you.

The subject of anonymous bloggers and those who leave comments is not exactly a new controversy. Basically the moment you had a place where people could comment/speak without any major repercussions…here comes a whole lot of drama.

As much as I loathe the sociopathic, narcissistic personalities who think trolling is acceptable and flaming people worthy of wasting time on, the whole anon thing is a tough call for me…because while I see why it leaves the door open for idiots to be rude it is also the security that some people need to be honest or to protect their privacy.

First of all you have to ask yourself with all the IP tacking and other methods of analytics if you can you ever really remove anonymous anyway and if this is just a moot point? A person could use a name that looks legit, but how much effort are you willing to put in to find out if it is their real name. And when people are bickering about anonymous, do they mean just the word Anonymous when someone posts…or login names which are not real legal names but are a legitimate way to track a personality on a forum.

If you have been tracking social media stories you might have seen that recently a blogger in the UK who had his identity revealed even though he tried to file an injunction. Mind you that was in England but it is still an interesting case. He was a police officer blogging about his work, and from what I read writing about he was posting things that he shouldn’t have been revealing to the public (case information, etc). It is a pretty major case that could set some interesting precedent when it becomes an issue brought to court in other countries.

Recently the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard posted saying that his blog would no longer allow anonymous comments. “Unfortunately allowing anonymous posters has allowed trolls and bottom feeders to post without any accountability.”

I am sure there are a lot of people who are bent out of shape at his phrasing…but when you think about it, he has a point.

Let me define troll for you: a troll is a person who posts inflammatory, irrelevant, and off-topic messages in an online community with the main goal of provoking other users, usually done for the amusement of the troll. Read Write Web has an interesting piece on trolls you can find here, which discusses the problems with trolls online. (Side note, there are actual sites that teach you how to be a better troll. Really? Do we need to teach them how to be bigger jerks?)

Why do people troll, flame or other wise act like prats online when they wouldn’t in person? There are some who say there are psychological reasons for it. I would be inclined to agree…individuation is a major player in the troll and bottom feeder game. What is individuation? Basically it is losing the need to be socially acceptable because you no longer have an identity. In other words, wear a mask to go beat someone up with a group of your buddies because when no one can see your face you can’t be caught.

Since we become psychologically distanced from the people we are talking to, people are more inclined to mouth off and say/do things that would get them slapped in person, or fired, or arrested. Here is a rather pointed (and rude, so if foul language bothers you don’t click the link) comic on the theory.

The thing is, even knowing that being anonymous encourages some people to behave like social mongrels…I still kind of walk a middle line on the whole should anonymous be allowed or not. There are really times when people might have something important to say but be scared to do so…and I go back around in circles again. How much of a security blanket should people really be allowed?

Heck, like I said earlier does anyone know what we are defining anonymous when we argue if being anonymous should be allowed?

Is using a login name anonymous if I always use the same log in name every time I post on a forum? Doesn’t that mark me as an individual? I would argue that it establishes a personality that is no longer anonymous.

On the other side of the arguement, can I ever really be anonymous? Anyone who thinks that their IP isn’t tracked, or that people can’t tell that you are the same person posting from 100 different names on their blog or a site they visit to buy shoes or whatever else? Is spending a little too much time playing Atari and drinking Jolt and not enough time reading. Yes, I said Atari.

I don’t think I will ever fall into the whole idea that we need anonymous abilities to be able to have real free speech (yeah yeah I have heard the Deep Throat argument) I mean if you are going to stand up for something stand up. The sad fact is, because not everyone can behave like a grown up when it comes to posting and maintaining some decorum the priviledge of being anonymous often has to be removed from comment areas…and sometimes has to be peeled away from a blogger.

From the Coast Guard perspective I can see why they would not allow anonymous, I actually agree with them. They are trying to have a conversation with their public and being a government organization they are the target of some pretty ridiculous flamers and trolls. The thing is if you go to the Master Chief’s blog, you can still log in using Open ID…which means as long as you log in and have a consistent user name it looks like you can engage in the conversation even if you have something to say that might be controversial. Anyone who thinks the CG is asking people to not be anon to “track them down” needs to stop watching so many movies…the CG is WAY to busy to worry about tracking down trolls. Anyone who wants to be a troll? Should find somewhere else to do that.

Yesterday, I talked about how before you go believing something you read, either in a blog, on Twitter, or anywhere else you should check your source. Thing is, how can you know your source is reliable if they are pretending to be all cloak and dagger?


1 Comment

Filed under Coast Guard, Social Media

One response to “The subject of anonymous

  1. Fascinating analysis and discussion on this issue of anonymity, and you are so right. There are times when it is okay to be invisible while being visible with your opinion. And visible, if it is worth the risk. It’s a personal decision, and it’s great that you are secure with yours. Excellent.

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