Although a South Korean experiment of forcing people online to use real name appears to have failed to clean up behaviour such as trolling, it is my opinion that forcing online commenters to use their real name would change the face of the internet.
When you study the South Korean experiment you see that the government required people to disclose too much. It required disclosure of credit card numbers. It applied to sites with over 100k members. This made people vulnerable to hackers and is against current privacy considerations.
What I’d propose is legislation which simply replicated what happens in day to day conversation between people ‘on the ground’. You see each other and converse. In terms of your appearance and usually your name, the default status is that your identity is known to the person with whom you are speaking. This automatically regulates behaviour.
As soon as people can hide behind aliases and false email addresses they feel free to misbehave and troll. They feel free from society’s norms of decency and let their inner demons loose.
On this site, there are some cat loving commenters who use their real names. I use my real name. The trolls who dislike cats and in turn people who like cats invariably use aliases. And when I ban them because they insult people or promote cat cruelty they invariably create new aliases and continue by starting off with reasoned arguments and them degenerating into abuse whereupon they are banned anew.
When I ask them to disclose their names and upload photos of themselves they refuse to comply. This is partly because they advocate killing any outside cat which they know is a crime despite the fact that the law is infrequently enforced.
Anonymity fosters bad behaviour online. It shows us how badly behaved people can be when freed from society’s norms. There is a lot of anger and ‘crap’ frankly inside people. Their true character is released via anonymity.
The behaviour of trolls online is similar to the behaviour of people who get drunk when taking a flight on holiday. They feel released from the pressures of having to behave themselves because they have become semi-anonymous. They are leaving their normal environment and let go.
These inner demons are ever present. They should be kept boxed up under lock and key and the way to do that is by ensuring that online commenters use their real name and photo.
The only potential difficulty is checking that the names are real. I think this can be overcome partly because the internet’s big boys: Google and Facebook know your real name. They could be used to verify it. And most people nowadays have some internet presence so you can cross-reference real names.
There is a general trend and consensus building that the internet needs to clean itself up and if the big boys won’t do it for themselves which seems to be the case then governments will have to step in and legislate. Online comments on websites like Facebook can become unjustifiably hostile. It is like playground bullying. Adults reverting to kids. The Lord of the Flies syndrome. It is time it stopped.
Although Google and FB will complain. They see any restrictions of any kind as having a ‘chilling effect’. What they mean is it will affect their profit margin negatively. Well I say sod off to them.
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