What's In A Name: The Importance Of Pseudonymity & The Dangers Of Requiring 'Real Names'

from the civilized-conversation dept

It feels like we’ve been having this debate for a long, long time. I still remember back in 2003 when Friendster users were up in arms over that site’s sudden decision to delete “Fakester” profiles that did not use a person’s real names. Four years later, Facebook started doing the same thing and now, four years after that, people are up in arms about the Google+ policy of requiring real names. Frankly, I’ve never understood why these sites are so against letting people use a pseudonym. What actual harm does it do?

There’s a false belief out there that by somehow requiring “real names” it beefs up the quality of conversation. I think that’s a myth. We see valuable contributions from anonymous and pseudonymous commenters all the time, and they’ve made it clear, many times over, that they would not contribute otherwise. And yet, the myth persists. The EFF recently noted that (former) Facebook marketing director (and sister of founder Mark), Randi Zuckerberg announced that anonymity “should go away.”

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.

And yet, there are times when being able to say whatever they want to say, but can’t when associated with their real names, is incredibly important. Kirrily “Skud” Robert has started putting together a list of reasons why people prefer to use pseudonyms — and there are numerous legitimate reasons that go way, way beyond “I want to be a jackass online.”

  • ?I am a high school teacher, privacy is of the utmost importance.?
  • ?I publish under my nom de plume, it?s printed on my business cards, and all of the thousands of people I know through my social networks know me by my online name.?
  • ?I have used this name/account in a work context, my entire family know this name and my friends know this name. It enables me to participate online without being subject to harassment that at one point in time lead to my employer having to change their number so that calls could get through.?
  • ?I do not feel safe using my real name online as I have had people track me down from my online presence and had coworkers invade my private life.?
  • ?I?ve been stalked. I?m a rape survivor. I am a government employee that is prohibited from using my IRL.?
  • ?I work for a private club. I have to carry a card around which states I will not share any element of the club with any sort of media. So, If I want to talk about work (and I do) on the net, I have to use an alias.?
  • ?I?ve been using this name for over 10 years in the ?hacking? community. There are a nontrivial amount of people who know me *only* by that name.?
  • ?As a former victim of stalking that impacted my family I?ve used [my nickname] online for about 7 years.?
  • ?Under [this name] I am active in a number of areas of sexual difference for which it would not be wise for me to use my flesh legal name.?
  • ?My actual real name is utterly non-identifying, as 1) it is the name of a character in a movie (Girl, Interrupted), and that overwhelms google search results 2) it?s not unique at ALL.?
  • ?[this name] is a pseudonym I use to protect myself. My web site can be rather controversial and it has been used against me once.?
  • ?I started using [this name] to have at least a little layer of anonymity between me and people who act inappropriately/criminally. I think the ?real names? policy hurts women in particular.
  • ?I use the pseudonym to maintain my online anonymity because I am polyamorous and have no desire for professional acquaintances to discover this.?
  • ?I enjoy being part of a global and open conversation, but I don?t wish for my opinions to offend conservative and religious people I know or am related to. Also I don?t want my husband?s Govt career impacted by his opinionated wife, or for his staff to feel in any way uncomfortable because of my views.?
  • ?I have privacy concerns for being stalked in the past. I?m not going to change my name for a google+ page. The price I might pay isn?t worth it.?
  • ?We get death threats at the blog, so while I?m not all that concerned with, you know, sane people finding me. I just don?t overly share information and use a pen name.?
  • ?This identity was used to protect my real identity as I am gay and my family live in a small village where if it were openly known that their son was gay they would have problems.?
  • ?I go by pseudonym for safety reasons. Being female, I am wary of internet harassment.?

Danah Boyd, in typically insightful fashion, has also explained how a real names policy is actually an “abuse of power,” and often harmful to the most marginalized people in society.

The people who most heavily rely on pseudonyms in online spaces are those who are most marginalized by systems of power. ?Real names? policies aren?t empowering; they?re an authoritarian assertion of power over vulnerable people. These ideas and issues aren?t new (and I?ve even talked about this before), but what is new is that marginalized people are banding together and speaking out loudly. And thank goodness.

What?s funny to me is that people also don?t seem to understand the history of Facebook?s ?real names? culture. When early adopters (first the elite college students?) embraced Facebook, it was a trusted community. They gave the name that they used in the context of college or high school or the corporation that they were a part of. They used the name that fit into the network that they joined Facebook with. The names they used weren?t necessarily their legal names; plenty of people chose Bill instead of William. But they were, for all intents and purposes, ?real.? As the site grew larger, people had to grapple with new crowds being present and discomfort emerged over the norms. But the norms were set and people kept signing up and giving the name that they were most commonly known by. By the time celebrities kicked in, Facebook wasn?t demanding that Lady Gaga call herself Stefani Germanotta, but of course, she had a ?fan page? and was separate in the eyes of the crowd. Meanwhile, what many folks failed to notice is that countless black and Latino youth signed up to Facebook using handles. Most people don?t notice what black and Latino youth do online. Likewise, people from outside of the US started signing up to Facebook and using alternate names. Again, no one noticed because names transliterated from Arabic or Malaysian or containing phrases in Portuguese weren?t particularly visible to the real name enforcers. Real names are by no means universal on Facebook, but it?s the importance of real names is a myth that Facebook likes to shill out. And, for the most part, privileged white Americans use their real name on Facebook. So it ?looks? right.

[….]

What?s at stake is people?s right to protect themselves, their right to actually maintain a form of control that gives them safety. If companies like Facebook and Google are actually committed to the safety of its users, they need to take these complaints seriously. Not everyone is safer by giving out their real name. Quite the opposite; many people are far LESS safe when they are identifiable. And those who are least safe are often those who are most vulnerable.

The whole thing is worth reading. This is a big issue, and those who insist, simplistically, that forcing everyone to use “real names” all the time is better, are not paying attention to the problems that can cause. To be honest, I’m consistently surprised at how the various social networking companies have dealt with this. Pseudonyms have been a huge part of online culture from the early days, and the community has ways of dealing with bad actors. But assuming, automatically, that anyone using a pseudonym is a bad actor has tremendous collateral damage for those who have extremely compelling reasons not to use their real names.

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: facebook, google

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “What's In A Name: The Importance Of Pseudonymity & The Dangers Of Requiring 'Real Names'”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
117 Comments
ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: I sympathize with this author, but...

Google didn’t start it, but they’re more vigilant than FB about enforcing it.

I don’t know about Google+ (still waiting for an invite to join the party,) but I have two accounts with Google/GMail, one which is my real name and which is a name of a character I have on a popular (but not that popular) MMORPG. I have yet to have that one removed from their server…and it is a single name. I suspect if he had a Google+ account, they might be a little more concerned, but he does have a ton of Docs on GoogleDocs and is quite active communicating with others in his Corporation.

Scote (profile) says:

It's not like Facebook has a vested interest in tracking you by your real name :-p

/sarcasm

Zuckerberg fails to note that he and Facebook have a financial interest in tracking people by their real names. It makes Facebook’s data more attractive to advertisers who want to target market. That isn’t for the good of the internet, it is for the good of Zuckerberg’s wallet.

Increasingly companies check the web to see what potential and current employees say. And the US Border patrol does so, too. Even denying people entry because of things they have said, like admitting drug use decades ago or noting that they will be speaking at a conference (which, technically, requires a work visa). So for anyone who wants a new job or to keep the one they have, anonymity is important if they want to speak out on any issues that might be remotely controversial, including their political and religious views.

I’ve used my real name on Facebook, but I’ve stopped posting to it because I have to speak so generically on it. So sorry Facebook, your real names policy has had the opposite effect on me. It makes me less valuable to you.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: It's not like Facebook has a vested interest in tracking you by your real name :-p

> US Border patrol does so, too. Even denying people entry
> because of things they have said, like admitting drug
> use decades ago or noting that they will be speaking at a
> conference

The Border Patrol doesn’t do this at all. Customs might, but the Border Patrol just patrols the border.

Manabi (profile) says:

Re: Re:

There’s nothing stopping people from trolling from an account that has an apparently real name. And there’s tons and tons of people with real names that look insanely generic. Like John Smith, James Brown, Jane Brown, etc. Instead of trying to play the magic “is this the person’s real name” guessing game (that you’re always going to lose a non-insignificant percentage of the time) how about focusing on behavior, not names?

For example I use a psueduonym, but I don’t troll, I don’t post hateful comments, etc. I have very good reasons for not using my real name, but I don’t use my pseudonomity to misbehave. I just use it to contribute to conversations online in a way that protects my real self. There’s no reason to exclude me from a conversation. Trying to lump me in with trolls is disingenuous at best. And there are a LOT of people like me out there.

As a side note, my psuedonym is a legitimate Japanese name. So trying to guess if it’s real or not becomes problematic anyway. This could be a person’s real name. Would you want to be the one making the choice to delete or not delete an account based on it without any proof of misbehavior? Google/Facebook/etc. are wanting to place themselves in that position, and it’s stupid. Every mistake will cause lots of bad press, and the benefits are mostly non-existent.

Much better to just delete accounts for misbehavior. Who gets upset when they hear a company kicked a troll or spammer off their network?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Perhaps so, but have the prosecutions been successful?

I mean in cases that didn’t actually involve fraud as defined by the criminal statutes. Using an alias for fraudulent purposes is, of course, illegal both online and off (regardless of any TOS) and I could easily see a prosecution for doing that when using an online alias just as much as a real life one.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Oh, I totally agree!

It’s also true that prosecutors all-too-often bring up charges for all kinds of things that they shouldn’t, and it would be surprising if this weren’t one of their abuses. But I’ve not heard of anyone getting convicted for this one.

We are all at the mercy of a criminal justice system that is criminal and brings precious little justice. People want to know why there’s no respect for the law? The RIAA & MPAA aren’t the only reasons.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

That’s an interesting use of the term “fail,” considering that I was simply asking for information (i.e., trying to reduce my ignorance a bit.) Since when can someone fail for asking for information?

I was questioning whether anyone was convicted for simply using an alias or engaging in TOS violation, and what the charge actually was, not whether anyone was taken to court. And nobody has pointed me to a case where they have been.

So, no fail. Twice.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

I was questioning whether anyone was convicted…

Oh yeah? Let’s see…

Commenter: Maybe you should tell that to the people who have been arrested and prosecuted for it.

You: Such as who? Citation?

nasch: (povides link to several such examples)

You: That wasn’t a conviction.

And now that citations were provided, you’re trying to claim that they don’t apply because they weren’t for convictions? Ha. They weren’t claimed to be.

I’m glad Techdirt doesn’t let people go back and edit their comments so that everyone can look right up above and see exactly what was and wasn’t said. Your sad attempt to rewrite history is yet another fail. Keep it up, you’re on a roll.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Re:

I still have a phone book from a few years ago in which there actually IS a listing for a “Hugh Jass”.

That reminds me of the Simpsons episode where Bart calls Moe’s Tavern and asks for “Hugh Jass” and a guy takes the call stating that he’s Hugh Jass. Bart is surprised and confesses that it was a prank call that backfired on him. After he hangs up, HJ chuckles and makes a comment about how Bart is a nice young man.

Anonymous Coward says:

I am like Rekrul. Forget ever seeing my real name. Ain’t gonna happen.

I have no desire to join Facebook nor Google+. I’ve turned down more suggestions than I can count over going there or being part of it.

With today’s hiring policies and checking up on you in these social circles, they will find nothing there for me. While that might not be a plus it sure isn’t a negative.

Add to it that all the legal sides seem to want to know what you are up to on those same social sites. Again, I have no desire to feed them info, good, bad, or indifferent.

Several sites I go to have changed their methods of commenting. Many I guess going to Discus to prevent spammers. It has resulted in I read the articles but not the comments being as you have to sign up to Discus to read them. Needless to say, I make no contribution to those articles since the change.

This is the same reason I come to read and do on occasion comment here. I can do so without revealing my real life identity.

Manabi (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Several sites I go to have changed their methods of commenting. Many I guess going to Discus to prevent spammers. It has resulted in I read the articles but not the comments being as you have to sign up to Discus to read them. Needless to say, I make no contribution to those articles since the change.

There’s a couple of webcomics I read that use Disqus and the comments are visible without logging in. I don’t know if it’s a setting a site owner can pick or not, but it is apparently optional. I know one of them even allows you to post pseudonymously as a guest, just having to fill in an E-mail address (which most blogs require, but don’t use, so you can always use a fake one). I’ve actually posted to the comments there occasionally as a guest with no problems, and never created a Disqus account or logged in via any other method.

Aerilus says:

Lets see

Heres how internet flame wars go now

Guy1: @#$#% you are a #$## i will #$%% your mom then *&(*& your dog you are a @#$$ who *&*&* on a $^%$^ the m16 always beats the AK-47

GUY2: oh yeah well you can #$#$$ a donkey then @#@# if i knew who you really were I would come to your house and @##@# you m16 up your #$#$$ while ##$%% you sister.

heres how internet flame wars would go using real names

GUY1: @#$#% you are a #$## i will #$%% your mom then *&(*& your dog you are a @#$$ who *&*&* on a $^%$^ the m16 always beats the AK-47

*knock knock knock

Guy2: BANG

Brendan (profile) says:

Multiple Aliases, applying names to friends

I had this discussion with my friend earlier this week when the wave of news about account closures was cresting.

I was not yet decided on the policy. I wanted to have an experience with clean names (no wacky chracters), but I understand the desire/very real need for anonymity for some people or at some times. his was difficult to reconcile, because it forces Google (or whomever) to draw a line on a large field of gray zones to determine what is acceptable. How can we allow a stalking victim to go by Jane or John Smith, but not let the hacker go by Agent Smith? Or worse — 4g3n7 5m17h. I wanted both, but it is very tricky.

The real answer is it can’t be done. Not in any meaningful way — it would almost by definition be arbitrary, and it would certainly upset some users and clash with ther use-case needs. Reasonable efforts should be taken to avoid this.

The only real choice then is whether to not care about names at all, or care about names to some degree — the particular degree isn’t that important.

It became clear to me that the right choice was to take a hands-off approach, letting users use any name they wish, much as Google has with gmail for many years. But how to deal with the problem of non-standard names?

I think it’s quite easy and is in fact some Google has already solved once in the standalone Google Talk client: allow users to rename their friends/contacts to whatever name they want to use for them. If my friend wants to go by Fartface McGee, that’s his choice, but I will be renaming his to Firstname Lastname to simplify my life. Nobody else will see the names I apply to my friends.

Conveniently, this also solves a second problem with aliases: you don’t use the same one everywhere. I may use Goorpy here, but another name thorugh another website, and yt another name at work. I would like to be able to present a different alias to different connected users based on some context. How do I know this person? What name do they know me by? I want to connect with people from different parts of the internet, but I don’t want to give my real (or even the same!) name to all of them. I have many faces, and many names. Let me use them.

Cliffs:
– Hands off (get your own sandwich)
– Let me rename my friends from my viewpoint only
– Let me present different aliases to different groups

Ed C. says:

In general, I think the idea of even associating an actual person with any name online, real or not, is on shaky ground at best. People have falsely registered with another person’s name to do all kinds of things on websites. Facebook is absolutely no exception. Also, I did a websearch on my own name once, and found out that someone else with the same name has an arrest warrant in another state! It makes me wonder how many HR personnel have put my job application in the circular file after seeing that? (Yes, that would be incredibly stupid, but I’ve seen that the average intelligence of HR personnel is really that low.)

Nicedoggy says:

Forced real names policies are just horrible.

I don’t care what others could do to me, that is not a real problem, but I do mind if others get in trouble because of me.

Since I’m a foul mouthed, hard headed stubborn class A a-hole that can be a real problem and I’m not going to expose my family and friends to harassment because I like to debate or be a jerk.

The greatest thing about using pseudonyms is that one can learn without having to risk their reputation, you debate, you interact with others and see what works and what doesn’t and you end up being a better person hopefully.

It also gives a real sense of what is happening, not the appearance of something but a real thermometer for the issues.

Basically anonymity is the First Amendment plan B.
Without it there would be no real democracies possible.

Anonymous Coward says:

“This is a big issue, and those who insist, simplistically, that forcing everyone to use “real names” all the time is better, are not paying attention to the problems that can cause.”

A bit of a strawman here, don’t you think? There are plenty of places where people don’t really care how you identify yourself, or are aggressive in supporting anonymous posting (Techdirt is in the middle, allowing anonymous posting but then the admins check IPs and stuff).

Even on Techdirt, there are rules, having commenters posting stories means that they should normally used their real names (although I doubt Marcus’s name). The “Tims” are a good example of this.

I do think though that there is a growing number of people who think that behind your anonymous cloak should be a proven account, a name. There are plenty of people tired of the wild acts of the anonymous world.

Sevenof9fl (profile) says:

Re: BS

If there were a “Bull$hit” button up there beside the “insightful,” “Funny” and “report,” you’d better believe that’d be the one I’d be clickin, and then just walking on.

You’d be the guy that would try to use his real name, but after he got the crap kicked out of him about 100 times, would change his name back to Anonymous Coward.

Jest sayin . . . .

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: BS

Not really. The only reason I won’t use a trackable name on this site is that there are enough yahoos and idiots on here that there would be people trying to hack into my stuff, trying to discredit me, and trying to cause me problems. Sadly, when you are dealing with children, what can you expect?

Seriously. Anon is a bunch of tweens, teens, and socially awkward college kids thinking that they can wag the dog. They are more dangerous than you can imagine, because they think the rules just don’t apply to them. They can f–k your life up solid if they put their minds to it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: BS

Not really. The only reason I won’t use a trackable name on this site is that there are enough yahoos and idiots on here that there would be people trying to hack into my stuff, trying to discredit me, and trying to cause me problems. Sadly, when you are dealing with children, what can you expect?

Oh, I see, real names are for other people, just not you, because you’re so special. Typical.

AnonymousFor25Yrs says:

Re: Re: Re: BS

d00d, you are so ignorant of internet history and culture it is laughable. You smell like a Johnny-Come-Lately who doesn’t understand what the internet really is; some boho tourist who comes to town, gets ugly-drunk in a bar and pisses on the local’s lawns. Go work for a bank or something.

A name is not a reputation or a guarantee of responsible conduct. Try wrapping your monetized head around that one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 BS

Oh yoy, how you are so wrong. DO you remember what came before the internet? Do you remember what came before that? And before that? Go look up 45.45 Baudot and see if you can remember.

No, actually I have seen things come and go a couple of times, and there isn’t much here that is new, just the volume of it. A name isn’t a stamp of approval, but if enforced properly, it is a way to stop people from using the system to hide out.

As for the other anonymous, well, you posted the same anonymous as me. This site permits it and encourages it, so why not? Why not post up your full name and info, and see what happens. Enjoy.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 BS

A name isn’t a stamp of approval, but if enforced properly, it is a way to stop people from using the system to hide out.

This couldn’t be more mistaken. Trolls and abusive people will continue in their abusive ways regardless of any real name requirement. Most won’t care about using their real names for that behavior. The ones who do care will simply make up a plausible fake name.

I have only heard one halfway cogent argument in favor for a real name policy: it makes it possible for your friends to find you on social media sites. Even with that, though, there’s a huge oversight: A large number of my friends know me a “John Fenderson,” although that isn’t my “real” name. My close friends, who know my real name, also know me as John Fenderson. So if I want to be easily found by the largest number of my friends and acquaintances, my real name would not be the best choice.

This is why real names policies are idiotic: they don’t solve any problems whatsoever and they cause unnecessary new problems, including getting in the way of people knowing who you are.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I do think though that there is a growing number of people who think that behind your anonymous cloak should be a proven account, a name. There are plenty of people tired of the wild acts of the anonymous world.

And this is coming from an anonymous commenter. The hypocrisy stench is high, as it usually it is.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I do think though that there is a growing number of people who think that behind your anonymous cloak should be a proven account, a name. There are plenty of people tired of the wild acts of the anonymous world.

So those wild acts are more tolerable if some random third party has an email address or actual identity of the person? They’re more tolerable if you know who the person is yourself?

Personally, I think that those who are sick of wild acts, whatever those are, would be more interested in finding a way to get people to refrain from doing them. Removing anonymity won’t accomplish that.

Anonymous Coward says:

I helped a friend of mine sign up for Facebook a while back. We ended up having to actually mangle her real, legal name, because Facebook decided (on some ground) that it was fake.

Granted, the mangling didn’t amount to much, but it definitely goes to show that when you have automated systems that will turn down a person’s name based on some sort of dictionary (most likely in this particular case) or heuristic, it will sometimes turn down perfectly legitimate names. If my friend had wanted to only use her birth name, it probably would not have been possible to mangle into something recognizable that Facebook would have accepted.

I use pseudonyms myself in multiple places, even a few different ‘nyms. I know lots of people who do. I have got comments many times about how insightful contributions I have made to discussions, pseudonomously. There are things that I say and discussion boards I participate on which, while they certainly are not illegal, I don’t want to be easy to find by googling for my (relatively unique) real name.

Chris-Mouse (profile) says:

I have a Google+ account, and it’s in my real name. My name isn’t all that common, but I do share the same first and last names with at least three moderately famous people. A search for my full name on Google brings the first entry for me at least ten pages down in the results.
Now, how does Google arbitrate between the bunch of us to get tge use of the name? I appear to have gotten it first, but would I be allowed to keep it if someone with a commercial interest in the name accused me of ‘namesquatting’?
The fact is that legal names are not unique, but usernames on an online system must be unique. Either Google allows aliases, or a significant percentage of the world will be locked out of the system one way or another. This same choice will have to be faced by all online systems.

garm (profile) says:

Luckily I'm not american.

Garm (the original form for Garmr)

Now Garm howls loud | before Gnipahellir,
The fetters will burst, | and the wolf run free;
Much do I know, | and more can see
Of the fate of the gods, | the mighty in fight.

In Norse mythology, Garmr or Garm (Old Norse “rag”) is a dog associated with Ragnar?k, and described as a blood-stained watchdog that guarded Hel’s gate.

Since I’m of Norwegian descent how can they claim that I am not named after the wolf that guards the entrance to hel [sic]. I prefer to post anonymously, since I don’t want everyone to know what I am doing at any one time. This does not make me evil, nor does it make me a criminal. It would be any hypothetical action from me that could do that.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m all for anonymity on the internet. However, your list of ‘legitimate reasons’ for it has a bunch of repeated reasons. Saying the same thing 10 different ways is not 10 different things. While fear is a really good reason for be anonymous, fear is only one thing for example. You can have a list of things to be afraid of but the reason is fear.

Bengie says:

ummm

?I am a high school teacher, privacy is of the utmost importance.? – Use privacy settings

?I publish under my nom de plume, it?s printed on my business cards, and all of the thousands of people I know through my social networks know me by my online name.? – Google allows “other names” so long as other people in real life know it

?I have used this name/account in a work context, my entire family know this name and my friends know this name. It enables me to participate online without being subject to harassment that at one point in time lead to my employer having to change their number so that calls could get through.? – Google allows “other names” so long as other people in real life know it

?I do not feel safe using my real name online as I have had people track me down from my online presence and had coworkers invade my private life.? – Use privacy settings

I can keep going on. These are all strawmen.

Anonymously Brave says:

Re: ummm

– Use privacy settings

Even with all available privacy settings locked up tight, Facebook still allows searches by your real name and reveals some data in those searches that it does not allow you to lock up. It’s also been shown that Facebook allows access to even privatized data to some of its partners. Since just about every entity is now partners with Facebook, that means potentially all of your data is available via some means. Therefore, the “use privacy settings” advice is disingenuous at best.

The fact remains that there are many who do not feel comfortable with expressing their full, unedited thoughts without the ability to cloak their identity for fear of reprisals both legal and illegal. Forcing everyone to post only under their real names will deprive the online world of a great amount of valid input and discussion.

Asking an individual to take responsibility for what they say online by providing their real name may seem reasonable, but in doing so we are also asking that individual to trust that the entire rest of the world will behave themselves with that information…which is not reasonable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: ummm

We ALL know that social networks will NEVER change their privacy settings to suddenly publish all their users private information in public ways… Right?

I mean My Spade and Fadebook never did this to their users, right? So why would Google, I mean if there is a privacy setting that covers everything.

I think Chris Farley’s take on ‘guarantees’ covers this:

“But why do they put a guarantee on the box then?

‘Cause they know all they sold you was a guaranteed piece of shit.

That’s all it is, isn’t it? Hey, if you want me to take a dump in a box and mark it “guaranteed”, i will. I got spare time.”

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Graduated sharing.

I’ve had this discussion with people on Google+ and I think there is easy middle ground. (for once)

Google wants to know your real name. It’s their party, they can ask for whatever they want and if you don’t like it, go elsewhere. That being said, the big “privacy” feature of G+ is the ability to pick who sees what about you. I can share a post to just my friends circle, or to only the people I’ve found from Techdirt on it, or to everyone in my circles, or the whole damn world. I can do the same to who can see where I live, went to school, my pictures, etc. They also have a “nickname” field. It seems only logical to allow this type of fine tuning with your real name– and in the absence of real name privileges, a user would see the user’s nickname. (Colored or otherwise designated as a not-real name) Bringing it a step further, you could pick different pseudonyms for different circles– so if your world of warcraft (or whatever) friends know you by Lord Owthathurts, they’ll see that, but your coworkers will see you by your long-standing nickname “sparky”. You get the idea.

That seems like a good middle ground, to me.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Graduated sharing.

Google wants to know your real name. It’s their party, they can ask for whatever they want and if you don’t like it, go elsewhere.

Umm, so, who’s saying otherwise? And people are free to discuss what they’re doing and even, *gasp*, criticize them for it too. Anyone who doesn’t like that is free to go elsewhere as well.

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Graduated sharing.

Did you read past the sentence you quoted?

I put the sentence you quoted to point out that those people who are against Google knowing their real names aren’t going to be pleased with my proposal. No where did I say that people shouldn’t discuss, gasp, or criticize google’s policy. In fact, if you had read past the sentence you quoted, you would see me discussing said policy.

It’s people like you who fly off the handle with a keyboard-courage fueled tirade at a misunderstanding that give anonymity a bad name. Relax.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Graduated sharing.

Did you read past the sentence you quoted?

Of course. What did you what me to do, repost your entire comment in order to reply to any point in it? Sorry, not gonna happen. Anyone who wants to can look right up above to see it.

I put the sentence you quoted to point out that those people who are against Google knowing their real names aren’t going to be pleased with my proposal.

Or to pretend that someone is arguing otherwise so that you can them proceed to bravely knock down a strawman.

No where did I say that people shouldn’t discuss, gasp, or criticize google’s policy. In fact, if you had read past the sentence you quoted, you would see me discussing said policy.

No said that you came right out and said that, either (another strawman). But you were clearly telling people who disagree with Google to “go elsewhere” if they don’t like it.

It’s people like you who fly off the handle with a keyboard-courage fueled tirade at a misunderstanding that give anonymity a bad name. Relax.

Heh, says the anonymous commenter on a “keyboard-courage fueled tirade”. Hey Joe, what’s your real name and address?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

nasch (profile) says:

Private club

This one caught my eye: ?I work for a private club. I have to carry a card around which states I will not share any element of the club with any sort of media. So, If I want to talk about work (and I do) on the net, I have to use an alias.?

In other words, I want to violate the contract I signed with my employer without getting caught. Not a compelling reason for anonymity (unless it’s for whistleblowing type purposes).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Private club

In other words, I want to violate the contract I signed with my employer without getting caught.

Sounds like an unconscionable “contract” to me. Unconscionable agreements, like agreeing to to sit in the back of the bus in exchange for being allowed on or giving up free speech rights in exchange for employment, deserve to be violated.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Private club

As I said, if it’s for whistleblowing or protest purposes, fine. But I don’t think “don’t discuss your employment in public” is necessarily unconscionable. And if it is, the employee who objects should also find a way to anonymously report this to the attorney general or some such, as well as discussing it publicly.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Private club

I’m not an expert on contract law, but is there no one with authority to investigate contracts reported as unconscionable (and therefore void)? Is the only recourse to sue? That would kind of suck.

In any case, is it ethical to sign a contract knowing you plan to break it, or to willfully and clandestinely break a contract after signing it? If either side can unilaterally decide certain aspects of a contract should not be followed, what good is a contract?

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Private club

Not lately. ๐Ÿ™‚ Is it wrong to break those? Are they really a contract? I don’t personally have a problem with it since it totally lacks the negotiation aspect that is supposed to go with a real contract. It’s also often questionable whether the user gives any consideration. I don’t think agreeing not to commit copyright infringement and the like really counts.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Private club

Yeah, you found a case where it is appropriate. Do you want a cookie? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Seriously though, I don’t see anyone defending the idea that it’s no problem to break a contract for no particular reason, so I’m pleased about that. I don’t know if the original example was a hypothetical or an actual quote from someone. In either case, it doesn’t mention why this person wants to violate his or her employment contract, so there’s no way to judge, but it’s an interesting question.

A Guy says:

Well, Google and Facebook get the same answer from me… Your service does not suit me and I will not be participating. I really think the best alternative here is competition. Google and Facebook can have whatever asinine policies they want. I will simply not participate. Market forces will sort out who is willing to give up their privacy rights for… what again?

Meanwhile, the rest of the internet will (hopefully) move onto something better soon.

sefu (profile) says:

Real vaFake name

I have used this (fake) internet name since I’ve been on the net. Sometimes I have strong opinions and have been called on the carpet for even comments that are under my fake name by folks who know it is me. But because it is my fake name I can deny it. But using my real name William Smith is not a problem, cause at 6′ 230lbs if you think I’m wrong then in my chest is where you belong. But alot of people can’t stand that tough, but I feel I can, remember you gotta bring some to get some. But some of these cowards (govt) will use things against you and still not step to you. So I use a fake name and still speak my mind.

David (profile) says:

Pseudonyms are often better

I am a G+ member (using my real name) and I love the service. However, there are times when I want to post things that may cause problems. I have a blog (yes, a Google one!) which allows me a level of anonymity – I can be outspoken at times, and the ability to say what is really on my mind is important.

I agree with most, if not all, of the bullets in the main article, and I really think that G+ needs to revisit this policy. They do tend to listen to their customers, so hopefully this will happen. I am certainly going to speak to them about this, and I urge others who feel the same way to speak their mind as well!

I love Google – I’ve been one of their customers since the outset – and hopefully this won’t sour my opinion.

– D

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Pseudonyms are often better

“I can be outspoken at times, and the ability to say what is really on my mind is important.”

Important to whom? Yourself? No, in an orderly society people should keep outspoken ideas to themselves in order to avoid upsetting social and economic stability. In America you get to make an anonymous (and outspoken) statement when you vote. That’s the proper avenue. You freetards just don’t get it.

TimothyAWiseman (profile) says:

There is some irony here in the fact George Orwell was a pen name.

Also, I think there is a lot of ambiguity in how you definie a real name. Some people who come to the USA from non-western countries occassionally adopt a Western name or a westernized version of their name for use here. Even when they keep the same pronounciation, there are sometimes wide varieties of proper ways to transliterate it into Roman letters. Some people go by their middle names, and others are known by a non-standard shortening of their first name. Would those cases be considered a real name or a pseudonym in violation of these policies?

jcluma (profile) says:

USING REAL NAMES VS SOODOHNHYMNS...

Unless you’re a child molester, escapee from prison or a radical believer in violence, there are few reasons not to use your real name on the web other than you live with too many fears. If you can’t be courageous in the public forum, your point of view is meaningless. Stand up for yourself. Be brave. It’s a requirement for living free.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: USING REAL NAMES VS SOODOHNHYMNS...

Unless you’re a child molester, escapee from prison or a radical believer in violence, or some of the United States’ founding fathers, there are few reasons not to use your real name on the web other than you live with too many fears.

FTFY

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federalist_Papers

Then again those guys are widely regarded as first class pussies, right?

jcluma (profile) says:

USING REAL NAMES VS SOODOHNHYMNS...

Yes, reprisals are always a possibility. Legal, digital, physical and financial. So what? If you live in hiding because the world is angry and unfair and aggressive, you also live in a world that can TRY to destroy you in so many other ways. The only way we strengthen our personal and democratic way of life is to live transparently, unafraid of the public forum. Most people keep demanding greater transparency in Government. That is a pipe dream unless we understand the only way to achieve that is to have a citizenry who demonstrate transparency in their own beliefs and opinions.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: USING REAL NAMES VS SOODOHNHYMNS...

Yes, reprisals are always a possibility. Legal, digital, physical and financial. So what?

So… prohibiting anonymous speech will result in less speech, or even worse less honest speech. You can say we need to say what we think and face the consequences, but if you think that’s how it’s going to go I think you’re deluding yourself.

Most people keep demanding greater transparency in Government. That is a pipe dream unless we understand the only way to achieve that is to have a citizenry who demonstrate transparency in their own beliefs and opinions.

That reads to me like “the only way to achieve transparency and accountability of government is to give up our privacy.” Which I would say is hogwash. They are not at all the same, nor even related to one another. We can absolutely have anonymity and privacy for citizens, and transparency and accountability for government. In fact, the former may be one of the only effective means of achieving the latter.

jayne says:

they selll your information

It’s because fb sells your information, namely to the government. If they have fake names then they cannot sell accurate information. So, use whatever name you want, but make sure it’s not your own.

I’ve tried both ways. In olden days of pre-FB I used a pseudonym and was happy, retaining full rights of my free will — whom to friend and whom to avoid. Fb egregiously disregards our privacy because they sell our information and are simply being bullies by insisting that people use their real names. Find another outlet for self expression, just avoid that place and google at all costs.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop ยป

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...