Facebook: "Anonymity on the Internet has to go away"

Facebook: "Anonymity on the Internet has to go away"

Summary: Facebook's marketing director Randi Zuckerberg wants to put an end to online anonymity, forcing Internet citizens to use their real names at all times.

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Facebook's marketing director Randi Zuckerberg, who also happens to be Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg's sister, wants to put an end to online anonymity. She believes that Internet users would act much more responsibly online if they were forced to use their real names at all times.

During a Marie Claire round table discussion on cyberbullying and social media, Randi explained how using real names online could help curb bullying and harassment on the web, according to Huffington Post:

I think anonymity on the Internet has to go away… People behave a lot better when they have their real names down. … I think people hide behind anonymity and they feel like they can say whatever they want behind closed doors.

Zuckerberg was asked several times to name what new features Facebook will offer to better safeguard security on the social networking site. Unsurprisingly, she refused to give specific examples of forthcoming initiatives:

There's so much more we can do. We're actively trying to work with partners like Common Sense Media and our safety advisory committee.

Five months ago, Facebook announced new safety resources and tools for reporting issues, in conjunction with a White House summit for preventing bullying. Four months ago, the company rolled them out.

Facebook requires all members to use their real names on the social network, but clearly the company knows that bullying continues to be a problem. It's thus unlikely that cyberbullying and harassment would stop if real names had to be used everywhere online. Would the number of issues really decrease if real names were a requirement?

Also five months ago, 4chan founder Christopher Poole (also known as "moot") tried to explain how important anonymity is on the Internet and that Mark Zuckerberg doesn't get this. When there is anonymity, users can employ what Poole calls "fluid identity," where there’s no risk of failure, so experimentation flourishes. Elsewhere on the Web, however, such as websites that require you to login via Facebook, the cost of failure is really high because you're contributing as yourself. As a result, mistakes are attributed to who you are, Poole argues.

In short, there are cases where you want your actions to be attributed to you, and others where you don't. I believe real names should only be required in scenarios where your actions can hurt others; in other cases, anonymity is just fine.

Topics: Browser, CXO, IT Employment, Social Enterprise

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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112 comments
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  • RE: Facebook: 'anonymity on the Internet has to go away'

    I agree that real identities are necessary to promote greater responsibility. But this only works in the context of highly robust protections around free speech, by which I don't mean a universal protection of all speech American style. Think about efforts in China to control on line speech through real-identity measures. Think about data vacuuming in the US. Think News of the World in the UK. I despise anonymous obnoxiousness, but this is a tough beast to conquer.
    lyochim
    • RE: Facebook: 'anonymity on the Internet has to go away'

      @lyochim
      Think about your next employer who, after reading your view on your social network page, elects to pass you over due to:

      1. How your behavior could reflect on the company
      2. Your political slant
      3. Dumb Spring Break stunt 15 years ago
      4. Something someone commented about you
      5. Something someone posted falsely
      6......

      I could go on and on and on and .......

      Not cool :(
      rhonin
      • RE: Facebook: 'anonymity on the Internet has to go away'

        @rhonin why would you want to make all this stuff public?
        pupkin_z
      • It is not Facebook user's decision only; comments are made by other people

        @pupkin_z: and with actual name system people will always be able to find every lie anyone wrote about you. Or truth, but which will not suit your supposed boss.

        Besides bullying problem, actual names do real harm. And even with the bullying, aliases is no problem since Facebook already committed to disclose identities of people who bully -- via IP identity/sessions. There is no problem for authorities to find out who the person-bully is with that information.
        DDERSSS
      • @pupkin

        Another advantage to real identities on the internet. A lot of the embarrassing exhibitionist stuff might actually go away when we can all collectively laugh at the real person involved.
        fr_gough
      • RE: Facebook: 'anonymity on the Internet has to go away'

        @pupkin_z Who said it was all public? There was that case where an employer was forcing their employees to either give up their FB passwords (likely because most profiles were set to "private or as private as FB gets") or face termination.
        athynz
      • RE: Facebook: 'anonymity on the Internet has to go away'

        @rhonin
        You beat me to it.
        Also, as a test, if you ever posted anything anywhere using your "real name" or "real email address", google it. You'll be amazed.
        I have a couple of letters to the local paper's editor which will NOT go away, after many years.
        radu.m
    • Message has been deleted.

      davidfrankk
    • RE: Facebook: 'anonymity on the Internet has to go away'

      @lyochim: It boils down to this - if people can get away with bad behavior, they'll do it. Online anonymity just makes it even easier, without fear of repercussions. It's human nature. Now I don't believe that if this were to come to pass that every single person you come across online were sporting their true names (you know some will find a way to spoof/conceal their real names), but will it really curb bad behavior? I doubt it. It's still part of human nature.
      tw1975
      • RE: Facebook: 'anonymity on the Internet has to go away'

        @tw1975
        Another issue to consider: How do you verify that the person claiming to Be John A Smithe is really John A Smithe? It would not be hard to sign up using someone else?s real name, and potentially cause them a lot of problems. What sort of positive Identification will be required? Credit Card, Drivers License, Social Security Number? It would require more than a simple email address.
        Rick_Kl
      • RE: Facebook: 'anonymity on the Internet has to go away'

        @tw1975 You're not considering that "bad behavior" is a variable, not a constant. Bad behavior could be writing in favor of free speech, against forced sterilization, in favor of equality, and all these have been and currently are under various governments around the world.
        dbrutus
    • RE: Facebook: 'anonymity on the Internet has to go away'

      @lyochim

      Intel got "run out of Dodge" a few years ago for putting a unique ID in some new processors. They dropped it after a public backlash.

      One day soon ALL CHIPS will have unique IDs due to some flagrant cyber hacking of some major defense contractor or the Pentagon etc. brought about by a chip manufactured to allow the backdoor. At that time all anonymity will be irrelevant.
      James-SantaBarbara
  • RE: Facebook: 'anonymity on the Internet has to go away'

    One more reason to ditch facebook.
    Jean-Pierre-
    • RE: Facebook: 'anonymity on the Internet has to go away'

      @Jean-Pierre-

      As if Google is any better?
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • RE: Facebook: 'anonymity on the Internet has to go away'

        @Cylon Centurion
        It's not, so far :(
        rhonin
      • That sentence -

        @Cylon Centurion
        [i]anonymity on the Internet has to go away[/i] sounds like it was lifted straight from the Google handbook.

        I wonder how Zuckerberg got his hands on one - it's not like they would ever let each other in their respective offices. :)
        William Farrell
      • It isn't

        @Cylon Centurion

        That's why I don't use either.
        Joe_Raby
      • RE: Facebook: 'anonymity on the Internet has to go away'

        [i]As if Google is any better? [/i]

        What does that have to do with anything. Ditch them, too.
        blind obedience
      • RE: Facebook: 'anonymity on the Internet has to go away'

        @Cylon Centurion who said anything about google??
        Jean-Pierre-
      • RE: Facebook: 'anonymity on the Internet has to go away'

        @Cylon Centurion You mean Google+ cause google is not tracking me, not that they dont try but still.
        Tommy S.