We've been discussing whether or not a policy of requiring people to use their real names
in online communications arenas really makes sense. We've argued repeatedly that there are tremendous benefits
to allowing anonymous and pseudonymous speech. One of the standard claims for why "real names" are better is that conversations on sites that require real names are "civil," since people aren't as rude when their identity is attached to their speech.
Yet, in practice, we've found that anonymous and pseudonymous commenters often add a lot more value than their "named" counterparts, and that people with names often can be just as likely to fan the flames with ridiculous comments. Putting an even finer point on this, Jonathan Zittrain points us
to a recent thread on Fox News' Facebook page, in which thousands of Facebook users with "real names"
issued death threats and other general nastiness
towards a spokesperson for American Athiests who appeared on the channel.
Now, of course, this isn't to claim that real names requirements never make sense. It's just to highlight that the claim that real names makes people not want to engage in online flamethrowing is not completely true across the board, apparently.