Memo to site owners: Don’t let Facebook comments kill online anonymity
Posted January 31, 2011on:
Facebook is the biggest, broadest social communications platform the world has known to date. So when it makes a big play into a space, in this case, online comments, we can be certain the implications will be significant. Meaning unless those who implement Facebook’s new third-party commenting software give their users other options, they will cumulatively begin sounding the death knell for online anonymity.
I wrote on anonymity online a while ago on guardian.co.uk – so I won’t re-hash my entire argument again here. Instead I’d like to highlight, to any site owners considering Facebook’s commenting system, some lucid points from the subsequent discussion:
boulderboy: “Although i am fortunate enough not to worry about being fired for my opinions, anonymity ensures there is no way to confuse my opinion as being that of my employer. it allows me to speak my mind without people ‘putting 2 and 2 together’. I wouldn’t post here without anonymity, i’m sure i am not the only one.”
Brusselsexpats: “Women may be put off by the thought of stalkers. Imogen Black had problems I believe and was forced to close down one internet site. There is always the possibility that some obsessed maniac can find your address if you give out your real name or email address.”
crayon: “I find real identities tend to be asked for by people who regard the ad-hominem argument as the norm. This is as good a reason as any for pseudonymity.”
LittleRichardjohn: “To reveal your identity is to automatically censor yourself.”
TLockyer: “one of the more important benefits of anonymity [is]: that all posts are rendered equal, and it is their content, tone, style, usefulness, and appropriateness in context that determines how they are valued, rather than the name at the bottom.”
The new Facebook commenting platform makes sense. It will be valuable to enable comments all over the web to be connected to one another, and to their originator’s social network profile, a la disqus – so that reading and discussing may be shared seamlessly with one’s closest friends.
However site owners should not and need not implement Facebook alone for their commenting system – they can avoid such identity fascism by also providing the functionality for their users to comment anonymously and to build up pseudonymous personalities, where relevant.
Otherwise, make no mistake, we face a future of sterile commenting banality from savvy websters – who will be all too aware that everything they write is infinitely traceable.