Friday, October 16, 2009

Internet Anonymity

There has been a case in Illinois about a local (very local!) politician who was involved in a particularly vicious campaign. In the heat of the moment, someone posted a "deeply disturbing" comment about this politician's 15-year-old son. The culprit (the court described the poster as "he") has remained anonymous and is sending his attorney to the courts. So far the judge knows the identity of the poster, and on November 9th will decide whether to give it to the complainant.

Clearly I don't support that kind of thing, nor do I support or even care about the poster. However, should people be able to be anonymous on the Internet? I think so. Yes, there are kooks. We all know that. So, who cares? One can choose to, or not to, read those kinds of discussion boards. Besides, there are idiots every walk of life. You show me a discipline or occupation where jerks don't exist. I have always said there are fairly equal percentages of miscreants in every walk of life. Lawyers are not more crooked than nurses, for example. Nor are teachers any more or less trustworthy than car salespeople. And so on. We're all created equal when it comes to professions and jobs.

The problem with people identifying themselves online is that the kooks can take advantage of them. They can find out contact information and harrass...or stalk...or worse. That would limit the good (but scared) people from participating on good discussion boards or Web sites. For example, it would compromise our Wordcraft, OEDILF, and other good online sites.

Yet, I think, eventually, there will be no anonymity on the Internet, and then things will change. A lot, I fear. Why is it that the few ruin it for the rest of us?

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