Facebook Wants to End Anonymity on Internet

Contributing Writer

Randi Zuckerberg, the sister of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the site's current marketing director, believes that anonymity on the Internet has to "go away." She made this revelation during a recent panel discussion on social media and cyberbullying hosted by Marie Claire magazine.

"The use of real names online could help curb bullying and harassment on the web," she told the audience. "I think anonymity on the Internet has to go away. People behave a lot better when they have their real names down. I think people hide behind anonymity and they feel like they can say whatever they want behind closed doors."

"There's so much more we can do," she added. "We're actively tying to work with partners like Common Sense Media and our safety advisory committee."

Christopher Poole, founder of 4chan, disagrees with Zuckerberg's observation. "Where there's no risk of failure, experimentation flourishes," he said. "On websites that require you to login via Facebook, the cost of failure is really high because you’re contributing as yourself. As a result, mistakes are attributed to who you are. I believe real names should only be required in scenarios where your actions can hurt others; in other cases, anonymity is just fine."

Both Facebook and Google try to force members into using their real names and legitimate email addresses, and both actively disable user accounts based on questionable and false information. But are they within their right? After all, Facebook and Google+ are geared for connecting friends, family, co-workers and business associates together – there really isn't a need for hiding behind fake names. To some degree, they're PG-rated websites not meant for hiding fugitives or allowing defamatory comments.

But as Google senior vice-president Vic Gundotra admits, he doesn't even use his real legal name on Google+. That said, there's some degree of anonymity allowed for "commonly used" names like Lady Gaga, Madonna and so on. "It is about having common names and removing people who spell their names in weird ways, like using upside-down characters, or who are using obviously fake names, like "god" or worse," writes Robert Scoble after talking with Gundotra.

One has to admit that sometimes it's easier to voice an opinion – especially negative ones – while "hiding" behind a simple alias or a full, fake name. Forcing everyone to use their legal names could stifle free speech. As an example, one opinionated reader may be terrified to voice his thoughts thanks to fears that anyone could track his/her physical address by name and IP address which ultimately could lead to physical violence.

Should anonymity on the Internet go away? No it shouldn't. Not everyone acts irresponsibly when using fake names and aliases. In fact, children playing online games especially don't need their names and additional details out in the open.

Just recently hacker group Anonymous claimed that Facebook is actually selling member information to government agencies, and giving clandestine access to information security firms so that they can spy on people. With that unconfirmed scenario in mind, if everyone started using fake names on Facebook, then the social website wouldn't have anything to "sell" to said parties. No wonder Facebook wants to be rid of anonymity.

"Everything you do on Facebook stays on Facebook regardless of your 'privacy' settings, and deleting your account is impossible, even if you 'delete' your account, all your personal info stays on Facebook and can be recovered at any time," anonymous wrote earlier this month. "Changing the privacy settings to make your Facebook account more "private" is also a delusion. Facebook knows more about you than your family."

What's your take? Should anonymity be eradicated?