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Online Anonymity

Online Anonymity

From Current Affairs Notes for UPSC » Editorials & In-depths » This topic

This topic of “Online Anonymity” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

What is Online Anonymity and Pseudonymity?

The anonymity in social media can be simply defined as ‘Not revealing one’s identity’. So, Anonymity means that the real author of a message or content is not shown.

The most common type of anonymity involves the use of a pseudonym (i.e., the use of a fake photo or the lack of one, and nothing specific in the bio). The Security researchers define anonymity as being unidentifiable within a set of subjects.

Pseudonymity is the state of using or being published under a pseudonym—a false or fictitious name, especially one used by an author.

What are the reasons for anonymity?

One of the prime reasons for one needs to be anonymous is to be able to speak the truth against vindictive governments/the policies of the government and express opinion without any fear. They want to express their opinion so, because the vindictive governments having enough resources may trace the person if he expresses his opinion against the policies of the government.

Another reason could be anonymity helps one to participate in conversations without being judged for past experiences such as victim of harassment, choosing non-heteronormative identities, documenting deeply personal experiences. For e.g., LGBTQIA+ communities have spoken about the importance of online anonymity as a way to negotiate discussions of sexuality safely.

The third reason could be to not let the views be associated with the real person being spoken about, in the offline world.

The fourth and fifth reasons include a more objective evaluation of the messages are possible, by not showing their real name and also people are more equal in anonymous discussions, factors like status, gender, etc., will not influence the evaluation of what they say.

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What are the challenges associated with Anonymity?

Some of the major challenges associated with anonymity include

  • It evades public judgements as anonymity gives the power to a person to evade judgment by public opinion because only a legal mandate can hold them accountable for spreading lies.
  • It promotes unruly behavior because when the anonymity-seeker knows that their real-world self will not get impacted, they seem less inhibited and bolder about what they share.
  • It promotes hate as it is evident that the most angry, abusive, abrasive, and obfuscatory conversations/replies seem to come from anonymous handles.
  • It can disrupt peace and harmony/social fabric of the society because anonymity-seekers exploit ‘freedom of expression’ rights and target specific persons or communities that disrupt peace and harmony/social fabric of the society.
  • It can promote Fake news.
  • It can lead to online bullying as recent events suggest that anonymity is used to promote hatred of persons or on certain communities.

How it is possible for one to be Anonym by norm?

The most common platforms like Reddit, Fishbowl, Glassdoor etc. know during the account creation or signing up to the platform who the real person is. But they hide any identifiable information when allowing such person to participate in online conversations.

For e.g., Platforms like Glassdoor promote anonymous reviews.

Way Forward

The privacy policy of every site which allows anonymity must clearly mention that in what cases they will break the anonymity.

Nations should bring laws for both protecting and forbidding anonymity. Because anonymity and pseudonymity can be used for good and bad purposes. Anonymity can in some cases be desirable for one person and not desirable for another person.

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