End Anonymity

Anonymity is a plague in our lives, public and private.

The web is filled with anonymous material authored by anonymous creators. Facebook is filled with millions of anonymous fake people who are really, it frequently turns out,  paid actors for various political and economic actors. Our local web-based social platforms are filled with people saying all sorts of stuff, much interesting and much also annoying, lacking in factual content, and sometimes downright vicious.

Here in Hudson NY, on a prominent local blog, Gossips of Rivertown,  comments are signed with real peoples’ names many of whom I know.  Then there are those authored by “Good Grief”, “SlowArt”, “Jennifer”, “Cheviot Views”, “unknown”, “unheimlich”, “The Principal”, and on and on. If we required people to identify themselves it would enhance the discussion because people would undoubtedly be more careful in their attention to facts and language knowing that their neighbors would be reading what they have to say. It might also reduce the snarky slights that occasionally appear even in this well-written, well-researched site. Think of the impact on Facebook, Instagram and other mass social sights.

Criminals, politicians and governments use the anonymity of the web, dressed up as free speech, to spread noxious, frequently counter-factual ideas and conduct fraudulent acts. Police officers in the US operate in a semi-anonymous world where their history and complaints against them are substantially hidden from view. Rich people and corporations use a wide array of techniques to maintain their anonymity in all sorts of activities. The legal system is designed to shield them from taxation and accountability for their actions. Shell corporations hide a global industry of the rich and corporations avoiding responsibility. In the US our politics is overwhelmed with “dark money” which is enabled by campaign laws that provide a shield from public view of the identities of the funders. Again this is dressed up under the protections of “freedom of speech”. After all, according to the US Supreme Court money equals speech.

End Anonymity and Create More Transparency!