DIGITAL AMERICA

Anonymous = Weak

// Posted by on 04/02/2012 (5:55 PM)

Chris Poole, the inventor of 4chan, stated in a TED talk that anonymity allows people to “be themselves” online, but this is not at all what it actually does.  In actuality, it allows people to do whatever they want and to hide behind the wall of anonymity.  There are no repercussions, there are no limits, people can do whatever they want, but they are not actually themselves; they are anonymous.

Rather than being proud of themselves and owning up to their own opinions, they can hide behind the mask of anonymity.  Rather than standing up for themselves, they are weak and cannot put their name with their thoughts.  And this separation of their thoughts and their name, their identity, demonstrates that they are not themselves.

Mattathias Schwartz, a NY Times writer asked in an article, “Does free speech tend to move toward the truth or away from it?”  Of course free speech moves towards the truth; when people have the ability to say what they want, when they want, where they want, they are more likely to state what they believe to be true and pertinent.  Free speech moves towards the truth, until people have the mask of anonymity.   When there is no knowledge of the identity of the author, no authenticity of authorship; the writer can write whatever.  This ability is free speech, but it allows for the dissemination of lies without repercussions.

This topic was something I had thought about for a while, but it was not until learning about 4chan that I began to see what anonymity truly brings.  Maybe 4chan isn’t for me, maybe I should just stick with Facebook, which is all about identity and censorship, rather than the freedom to post anything anonymously.

Is there a benefit to anonymity or does it truly just give weak people a mask to hide behind?  Why don’t users of 4chan share their names with their posts?  I guess I would be ashamed of posting most of the things on that site too.


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Comments:


Renee said...

I don’t know. I agree with what your saying here but I still can’t help but think that there are some benefits to occasional anonymity on the internet. For example what about whistle blowers or people who contribute to wikileaks, who want to disseminate information but fear their job security if their name is attached to the information.
There have always been ways to be anonymous before. Such as giving an anonymous tip to a reporter. This is just like the next step forward in anonymity.
Yeah, I’m not a fan of some of the crazy stuff thats posted on 4chan but I don’t know if I disagree with the structure of the forum as a whole.

// 04/03/2012 at 10:03 am

Abbey said...

Cameron, your points about the negatives that anonymity brings along with it are compelling and very relevant to today’s cyber society– sites like 4chan and the recently discussed cyber warfare technique, trolling, all heavily rely on their base of anonymity. In my explorations of sites and phenomenons like this, I have often found myself wondering if people doing these things would behave the same way if they were not anonymous. My quick answer is no, they certainly would not. Anonymity provides the removal from one’s personal identity, taking along with it accountability for one’s actions, that allows people to speak and behave in ways they never normally would. This new side to the digital age has seemed to only provide negative repercussions for those on the internet, both vulnerable and not. Everyone becomes a target, and no one is safe. Even those who make the decision to end their own life aren’t safe, the ridicule either continues or, worse, begins. While I don’t believe ALL those who hide behind anonymity are necessarily weak, it does provide an easy outlet for those who are to express their frustrations and negativity towards the world.

// 04/03/2012 at 1:56 pm

Bridget said...

Within the last few weeks, I have become obsessed (probably an understatement) with the show “Weeds”. For those of you who have not seen it or heard of it before, the storyline is about a white, suburban mother living in California who, after her husband’s death, becomes a marijuana dealer in order to keep her family financially afloat. What does this have to do with anonymity? Well, throughout the show the audience is introduced to different drug dealers of different backgrounds. You learn that in order to truly succeed in this highly illegal and dangerous business, the concept of anonymity is essential. Nancy, the mother-turned-drug dealer, uses fake aliases when deciding to expand her business and become a serious dealer. She gets away with a lot of very illegal actions using a fictitious passport, driver’s license, and other falsified documents. As we’ve learned about hackers and the concept of anonymity, it seems that under this umbrella of “no-nameness”, one is able to do practically whatever they want. Like hackers who do not get caught, Nancy does the same, but with a fictious name. However, it appears using falsified information in her case falls into the broad category of identity theft. If she were to be caught, she would indeed be arrested for identity theft charges, in addition to the numerous others she racked up. This brings me to a question I have just been thinking about, if the true identity of a destructive hacker is revealed, could it be possible to consider their naming themselves anonymous a form of identity theft? While we’d like to think anonymity allows us to say, write, publish whatever we want, we also know serious consequences can result for those who are revealed. As we toy with the possibilities of incorporating digital crime into our current legal system, perhaps the once thought liberating, limitless sense of anonymity could provide the serious risk of identity theft to those who use it for malice. As we move forward, perhaps all of those anonymous hackers and 4chan users might think twice about their digital actions, at least if their intent is harmful.

// 04/03/2012 at 3:45 pm

Phylicia said...

While I agree with everything that has been said about anonymity online, I tend to think about it from a slightly different perspective. Some individuals may choose (if the choice is allowed) to post anonymously, not because they would not attach their names to their comments or beliefs, but because they might not usually choose to share their comments or beliefs. As mentioned in class, I would have preferred to not attach my name to a blog. I am definitely an individual who strongly believes that one should own up to their beliefs, but what about topics that you wouldn’t necessarily choose to have an opinion on. And even if you did develop an opinion, there is a vast different from sharing it in a classroom and online where anyone and everyone could read and comment. I guess you could argue that this particular instance does not have widespread application; however, I believe you can compare it to an individual who is still developing their beliefs posting or commenting on any site (social media, new site, blog, etc). If an individual is still in the developmental process, should we (society) expect their names to be attached to their not-so-solid beliefs? Or should we accept anonymity, because as we all know, with age comes maturity and usually new ideas and perspectives. Since we know that sites like 4chan are primarily populated by teens is it fair to suggest they attach a name? Should we call anonymity in this sense weak? Or perhaps smart in today’s world? After all, there are employers who ask what your Facebook password is. Perhaps these teens have the foresight to know that in their futures everything with their name will be part of how they are “evaluated” by society, and perhaps more importantly, employers.

Here’s the link for the article about employers asking for Facebook passwords:

// 04/03/2012 at 10:50 pm

Kelsey said...

Bridget- I think you make a very good argument about cutting people developing their identities and beliefs a little slack but I think the heart of the issue is whether or not people are willing to accept the consequences of their words. My beliefs mirror Cameron’s so I’m content to just say that if you are not comfortable putting your beliefs out there then there is nothing wrong with just collaborating among friends on another social network or with a printed article. Thoughts and beliefs are developed meanwhile everyone still feels safe.

// 04/04/2012 at 11:19 pm