Randi Zuckerberg, Facebook's marketing director, thinks online anonymity must end.
“People behave a lot better when they have their real names down,” The Huffington Post quoted her. “….I think people hide behind anonymity and they feel like they can say whatever they want behind closed doors.”
Zuckerberg, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg's sister, was talking about cyberbullying. The Post said the way to nix it is to “stop people from doing anything online without their names attached.”
There’s a larger issue here. People hide behind pseudonyms all over the Internet.
Defenders of cyber anonymity say it protects privacy and promotes freewheeling, meaningful debate on a whole range of topics. I must prayerfully disagree.
In almost every case, online anonymity is a convenient cover for people who are afraid to put their names on their opinions.
Village Voice columnist Michael Musto recently teed off on “anonymous masses who vent their distorted views on a regular basis, just because their namelessness gives them a swelling sense of misguided power to go with their midsections.”
He even dropped the “f-bomb” on them.
Musto calls people use pseudonyms on the Internet “identity-free wusses.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m pretty close to an absolutist on First Amendment free speech guarantees. I wouldn’t for a second deny the right of “identity-free wusses” of any political, religious or other persuasion to go by pseudonyms.
But I think at the very least, news-oriented websites should require reader opinions – pro or con -- to be signed, like newspaper letters-to-the editor. I don’t see where making people sign letters-to-the editor dampens discourse about issues that matter.
Anyway, I don’t know why anybody would want to use a pseudonym. Readers may agree or disagree with what I write, but I’m proud to put my John Hancock on my musings.
My name and face go on what I write on LA Progressive. Musto’s mug and byline go on everything he writes for The Village Voice.
I’m a Musto fan. He’s a hoot in print, online and on TV.
Even so, he was off target with his f-bombs. “Identity-free wusses” crave validation. He gave it to them.
They worry that they are nobodies. But they dream of provoking a real somebody – like a big-time, Big Apple newspaper columnist with thousands of readers.
Yet few pundits – print or online -- pay any attention to “identity-free wusses.” They get ignored because no-name almost always equals no-credibility.
So Musto might try dropping “I-(as in ignore) bombs” next time. I-bombs are the best WMDs to use on “identity-free wusses.”
They hate it when the objects of their disaffection won’t acknowledge them. While they are scared to put their names with their opinions, “identity-free wusses” are even more fretful that they are irrelevant. Their former fear tempts one to suggest paranoia, or close to it. Their latter fear is well-founded.