Just stopping by to respectfully disagree with most of your argument, although I am sympathetic to your position.

First, I don’t think that getting rid of anonymity on the web will change people’s behaviors as much as you think, especially when it comes to doxxing. And if our real names were attached to everything we say and do, I presume it would make it much easier for someone to dox you. With all the real-world political, racial and religious violence we’ve seen over the last few years, I’m not sure we should go down that road. I personally know a few writers on both the left and the right who use pseudonyms for precisely this reason.

Would doxxers continue posting your private information on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter if their real names were attached to those posts? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t use the information in other malicious ways (like in that horrible swatting case that recently happened). Anonymity certainly doesn’t guarantee that you won’t be doxxed, but it does provide an additional layer of defense, and I’m not sure if it’s such a good idea to give that up.

Secondly, the whole “outrage mob” thing is very real. Our society can be very unforgiving and vindictive (unless you’re a famous celeb or politician like Ted Kennedy or Mel Gibson), and social media reflects that. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think a young college girl who made some questionable remarks should have to pay as heavy of a price as Suey Park did over the whole “Cancel Colbert” controversy. The point is that it’s not just the doxxers and trolls you have to watch out for these days; it’s also the internet vigilantes who believe that a badly timed joke, misunderstood blog post or some other inane thing you said on the web when you were young and immature is grounds for the near-total annihilation of your reputation. We see that sort of stuff happen all the time, and, IMHO, the real-world consequences are almost always totally disproportionate to the alleged offense. I mean, you don’t think Keaton Jones deserved to be dragged down for the alleged sins of his parents, right?

So how do you combat that? Anonymity. It’s probably the most effective defense we have against those types of people. Of course, as the aforementioned examples prove, not everyone takes advantage of anonymity, and that’s fine. I think it should still be an option for people, though.

Lastly, you yourself seem to acknowledge that getting rid of anonymity would have a chilling effect on the people who you don’t like or think very highly of (in this case, Trump voters). But surely you recognize that this chilling effect would swing both ways, yes? What happens to the young gay man from rural Texas who goes looking for emotional support in LGBT forums but can’t post anything without revealing his real name? Will he risk putting that information out there and subsequently being found out by his family and friends, or will he hold back and refrain from reaching out for the support he needs?

Anyways, just to sort of sum things up, I definitely understand why you’d want to get rid of internet anonymity. There are plenty of drawbacks associated with it, some of which are going to have to be confronted in the very near future. But I don’t think getting rid of it entirely is the answer. Would less of it be a healthy thing? Probably. But it’s still a really important tool for a lot of people. That’s just my two cents, anyway.

Outer space enthusiast. Japanese history junkie. I write about politics, culture, and mental illness. Disagreement is a precursor to progress.

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