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Topic Title: E&T magazine - Debate - Should web users have the right to anonymity?
Topic Summary: Should web users have the right to remain anonymous in cyberspace?
Created On: 18 September 2013 10:35 AM
Status: Read Only
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 18 September 2013 10:35 AM
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Posts: 76
Joined: 16 May 2007

Web uers should have the right to remain anonymous in cyberspace.

Web uers should not have the right to remain anonymous in cyberspace.

The argument for:
I am broadly in favour of all forms of anonymity and this is because I happen to believe that it is, or at least should be, a human right. Further to that, I believe that it is closely allied to privacy, which is one of the great privileges we have come to expect from being a part of society. It allows for nuances of truth, clarity and communication that would not otherwise exist. I admit the veil of anonymity has its drawbacks and nobody can reasonably make the case for cyber-bullying, which seems to thrive under the condition of anonymity. Digital stalking is quite ugly and can be fed by the idea that people's real identities can't be associated with it. This is creepy. But it's not the argument against anonymity. Productive, polite people who want to behave in very much the way of an anonymous donor to a charity, lose their right to do so. You can't legislate for idiots. It's the good guys who suffer.

The argument against:
I'm not in favour of this division between the virtual and the real worlds. They're both on planet Earth and you don't have a different life just because you're on the Internet. It's still you typing or putting your YouTube videos up and these things have consequences. It seems to me to be a slightly odd assumption that when it is practically impossible in most instances to be anonymous in real life that there should be an entitlement to anonymity in cyberspace. Of course, there are times in real life when you can be anonymous: if you telephone the Samaritans no one will expect you to reveal your name. And there have to be these exceptions in cyberspace, too. But they should be no more extraordinary than they are in any other form of existence. It comes down to this. If you ask most people the simple question 'should you be accountable for your actions?' - particularly if you are harming or hurting somebody - I imagine they will take the view that there must be some form of comeback somewhere. Unless there is a legitimate confidentiality exemption you probably ought to be traceable somehow, without the right to anonymity.
 01 October 2013 02:11 PM
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I agree whole-heartedly with your statements. There is another, more fundamental and physiological reason why anonymity, however good it sounds in theory, does not work in practice on the internet.

In the end, we are all biological creatures who have chemical impulses and desires. The society we live in inhibits us from doing whatever we want to do because of the consequences of those actions. We have all seen what happens when governments and societies break down; total chaos erupts where ordinary people become monsters because of new-found freedom and no accountability for their actions.

This is what we are seeing on the internet. Because of anonymity, people are not held accountable for what they say or do. Whether those people feel that they have the right to ultimate power or whether they just do it because of the lack of accountability, this means too much power to too many people who do not have the discipline to use it with caution. It is the equivalent to giving everyone in the street a shotgun and saying 'use this how you see fit'.

The internet is not a place where you can blow off some steam and say things you would not say to your friends, family and colleagues. It has the power to ruin and end lives. Society needs to guide individuals down the right road by giving people freedom but holding them accountable if they abuse those freedoms.

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