Why outlawing anonymity will not halt online abuse

Excerpt from this article:

Over the past few years a growing number of social networks and online communities — the likes of Facebook and YouTube among them — have introduced, or in some cases have tried to introduce, a real name policy. The notion behind outlawing anonymity is that online harassment will cease. This, it turns out, is a myth, sociologist Katherine Cross tells The Conference in Malmo.

“People believe in the idea that anonymity is central to what motivates harassment, that it is the distinctive feature of the online world that makes it such a toxic place. But anonymity does not cause harassment — it does play a role, but it is much more complicated than most people make it out to be. If we continue down this path of blaming anonymity we will never tackle the causes of online harassment.”

The websites that have attempted to introduce real name policies in order to curb noxious comments have found in reality that it doesn’t work. It has changed the noxious comments, but it has only moved them around — it hasn’t got rid of them entirely. But it is not anonymity that encourages people to harass others, but the lack of accountability — as seen on online communities where people do use real names.

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