Google Plus's "Real Name" policy is abusive; Facebook is not a "Real Name" success story

Here's danah boyd in very good form, explaining why "Real Name" policies like the one Google has rammed down Google Plus users' throats (and like the insanely naive one that Randi Zuckerberg would like to foist on the entire Internet) are an abuse of power:
Over and over again, people keep pointing to Facebook as an example where “real names” policies work. This makes me laugh hysterically. One of the things that became patently clear to me in my fieldwork is that countless teens who signed up to Facebook late into the game chose to use pseudonyms or nicknames. What’s even more noticeable in my data is that an extremely high percentage of people of color used pseudonyms as compared to the white teens that I interviewed. Of course, this would make sense…

The people who most heavily rely on pseudonyms in online spaces are those who are most marginalized by systems of power. “Real names” policies aren’t empowering; they’re an authoritarian assertion of power over vulnerable people. These ideas and issues aren’t new (and I’ve even talked about this before), but what is new is that marginalized people are banding together and speaking out loudly. And thank goodness.

What’s funny to me is that people also don’t seem to understand the history of Facebook’s “real names” culture. When early adopters (first the elite college students…) embraced Facebook, it was a trusted community. They gave the name that they used in the context of college or high school or the corporation that they were a part of. They used the name that fit into the network that they joined Facebook with. The names they used weren’t necessarily their legal names; plenty of people chose Bill instead of William. But they were, for all intents and purposes, “real.” As the site grew larger, people had to grapple with new crowds being present and discomfort emerged over the norms. But the norms were set and people kept signing up and giving the name that they were most commonly known by. By the time celebrities kicked in, Facebook wasn’t demanding that Lady Gaga call herself Stefani Germanotta, but of course, she had a “fan page” and was separate in the eyes of the crowd. Meanwhile, what many folks failed to notice is that countless black and Latino youth signed up to Facebook using handles. Most people don’t notice what black and Latino youth do online. Likewise, people from outside of the US started signing up to Facebook and using alternate names. Again, no one noticed because names transliterated from Arabic or Malaysian or containing phrases in Portuguese weren’t particularly visible to the real name enforcers. Real names are by no means universal on Facebook, but it’s the importance of real names is a myth that Facebook likes to shill out. And, for the most part, privileged white Americans use their real name on Facebook. So it “looks” right.

“Real Names” Policies Are an Abuse of Power


  1. Sorry, I don’t buy into her arguments, which appear to be very combatitive.  Real names keep people from acting out in ways that would be damaging to their reputations in real life.  It also avoids a Lord of the Flies anything goes mentality.

    Oddly, I think that the people with the most to lose in this situation are the people in power, not the powerless people on the fringes of society.  I sincerely doubt that McDonalds is going to check on the facebook page of their employees, while a white collar job is much more likely to check.

    Unfortunately much of her screed reads like the usual down-with-the-establishment rage ranting I’m used to from the far left, clumsily tacted onto the “real names” tempest in a teapot.

    1. GreenJello, 

      do you have evidence of this.  I don’t think real names foster more community than pseudos do.

      1. Netdiva, in my experience within a climbing related bulletin board, people who are readily identifiable tend to behave more like they would in face to face interactions, and disagreements can actually be resolved. Anonymous folks sometimes behave in manners they never would if they thought anyone knew who they were.

          1. Agreed. “Off White” is a pseudonym. It’s what friends, family, employees, and clients call me. I get mail and cash checks in that name, but its not what is on my driver’s license. I’m pretty sure its in my FBI file. I’ve already given out plenty of clues in this one thread for anyone to hone in to who I am and get pretty close to where I live.

            To be Anonymous, really truly anonymous, is pretty difficult to pull off. Casual anonymity on the internet is a lower bar and more easily achieved, unless someone official has a need to find you.

          1. “So what’s the problem? You don’t like it when people speak their minds?” — no, I just spoke my mind, QED. I prefer it when people speak their minds in person. When they know (or — to admit to the technological impossibility of this) take it upon themselves to ensure that their oinions are associated with their real names rather than all these, I’m sorry, childish-sounding pseudonyms, they are less likely to behave in hateful and damaging ways. At times the internets can seem like a darkened room in which schoolboys are shouting obscenities and giggling. It is a pity that people don’t feel that they can speak their minds as themselves but instead adopt a shell self to do so.

            I will now raise a very valid counterargent to mine. Anonymous voting. But — I believe these cases are more clearly defined than we give them credit for.

            John Hancock write his name big and bold, knowing that he might have been signing his own death warrant. That act was thereby lent tremendous authority. That took some balls.

          2. Hancock signed the Declaration with his own name because he had to in order to lend it his authority as a member of the Continental Congress. Even if he hadn’t signed it, the king knew who was in the Congress, or could easily find out. 

            A decade later, Hamilton, Madison, and Jay adopted pseudonyms when they published The Federalist Papers. Ben Franklin did a lot of his writing under pseudonyms as well.

          3. “He wrote mainly under the pen name ‘Vindex’–after the Roman Senator first to revolt against the emperor Nero.  But he used more than a dozen other monikers… Each was a window into a different aspect of Adams’ personality and role in the Revolution.”
            — Ira Stoll, in Samuel Adams: a Life, New York: Free Press, 2008  [my emphasis]

            “Who the Author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to the Public, as the Object for Attention is the Doctrine itself, not the Man.”
            — Thomas Paine, writing as “An Englishman,” in Common Sense, 1776

          4. I’m not John Hancock, and there’s no requirement that I emulate him.  If I want to speak an unpopular opinion without putting my life on the line, I have a right to do so.  If you want to name-drop founding fathers, why not Publius?

            I couldn’t care less that people are giggling or shouting obscenities behind screen names.  How does that harm you?  If you don’t like what they’re saying, why are you reading it?  Most people arguing against anonymity bring up child porn or planning terrorist plots, but you’re bringing up… rudeness?  Childishness?  That’s it?  That is not a valid rationale for clamping down on free public discourse.  Develop some thicker skin, for fuck’s sake.

            Anonymous speech is important for the exact same reason that anonymous voting is important.  Not sure how you can understand one but not the other.

          5. “but you’re bringing up… rudeness? Childishness? That’s it? That is not a valid rationale for clamping down on free public discourse.”

            This is not the rational I am bringing up. Slander is the rational. How is anyone supposed to fight anonymous slander when the defendent(s) cannot be identified?

          6. So like, the fact that President Obama aborts white babies and eats them to give him strength?  Who gives any credence to anonymous slander in the first place?  Judge claims based on their merits, not on the supposed identity or credentials of the person making them. Again, trolling is important because it reminds people not to believe every stupid thing they read without evidence. The more ridiculous claims people make, the less likely others are to blindly trust them, and the more likely they are to develop critical thinking skills.

          7. All the association of the name with an online poster allows is the possibility that such a claim, that meets the legal defintions as per normative law, may have a chance to see its day in court. That is it. Is asking for the POSSIBILITY of legal recourse too much to ask?

          8. I don’t have an opinion on the legitimacy of libel laws, but I’ll try to form one.  Can you give some examples of why this would be necessary?

          9. The book, The Offensive Internet lays out this case better then I ever could. One of the cases cited in the book revolves around a few female law school grads who were unable to find work with anybody because they were slandered online by some of the male students in their class. They were unable to file Libel/Slander case aginst their attackers since they were anonymous. I admit libel/slander isn’t a large legal field to work with, however I feel closing the door completely is just not the most intelligent way to go about addressing this.  

          10. Yeah, I’m not convinced.  They were fighting in public with trolls, using their real names, and inflamed the argument to the point of ending up on the first page of a Google search for their real names.  Maybe they should have posted anonymously.

            ‘”Women named Jill and Hillary should be raped.”  Those are the words of “AK-47” — a poster to the college-admissions web forum AK-47 was one of a handful of students heaping misogynist scorn on women attending the nations’ top law schools in 2007, in posts so vile they spurred a national debate on the limits of online anonymity, and an unprecedented federal lawsuit aimed at unmasking and punishing the posters.’ 

            Maybe the HR departments are more concerned with their fighting with trolls in public under their real names, and not with what “Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey” and “HitlerHitlerHitler” actually said about them?

          11. Still you have to ask yourself just because there is a “Streisand Effect” does that in fact make it “right”? Seems awful cruel to condemn them outright just becuase they weren’t as savvy an internet player as yourself. Kinda like shameimg someone repeatedly (persistant as the internet is) after they were accidently caught on someone’s video camera.

            I could stomach a smaller shameing but google bombing? Persistant and eternal shame is something else entirely.

          12. I’m not condemning the girls, and wouldn’t discriminate against them on this point if I were hiring, but if I were a lawyer, hiring people and seeing what kind of things they did in public on the Internet under their real names, it might factor into my decision that they were engaging in these public arguments with trolls.  I wouldn’t want employees of my firm making those kinds of public associations.  If they did it anonymously, I couldn’t care less.

            And what the trolls did is bad.  I don’t like the cruel life-destroying things that they do.  But that’s not enough to justify forcing everyone on the internet to post under their real names.

            Also, they identified the trolls and sued them and settled with them, so it doesn’t sound like anonymity is so dangerous after all.

          13. Lawsuits get filed against “anonymous” message board posters all the time.  Do you really think that having a real-looking “name” would help at all in court, other than possibly adding a slight amount of weight to all the other evidence you’d have to have that the physical person really did what you’re accusing them of?

          14. I personally could care less if someone uses a “handle” or not. I’m using one now. I just feel that these handles should in some way be traceable to a real person (indeed most message boards do require a real email, albiet for different reasons). Up until the message board switch here a BB my name used to link to my blog which in turn linked to my e-mail, where in I used my actual name. In the end, the name by itself is only part of the issue. Physically being able to find someone is what is important in legal proceedings.

            Heck if you want to use a pen name (ie like the Federalist) but still provide proper contact info I think thats fair too. Its not like that is without precident either. Phonebooks have existed for ages, and so has the idea of “unlisted” numbers. All I am saying is there are ways to stay anonymous without being above the reach of existing laws .      

            I am not aware of any of these case you speak, can you point me towards one or more of them?

          15. For reasons that should be obvious, an IP address and timestamp is much more solid evidence than a name provided in a sign-up form.  Anyone can provide a name, but an IP address is generally tied to a specific locale (unless you’re talking about rare network setups or specific types of DoS attacks).

            Now, there was a case recently where a court finally caught on to the fact that an IP address doesn’t necessarily correspond to a person.  But, quite frankly, unless your hypothetical guilty person was stupid enough to provide their actual name on whatever account they used, having a “real name” isn’t much better for the exact same reasons.  If someone was able to use an open wifi access point to post something, they could just as easily use an account registered with the name of the owner of that access point.

            “I am not aware of any of these case you speak, can you point me towards one or more of them?”

            I’ve never been involved in any of them aside from handling subpoenas related to that kind of case (which I obviously can’t talk much about).  But here’s a few links I pulled using some obvious search terms on google:

            You’ll notice that I’ve included examples where the anonymous person was allowed to stay anonymous.  That’s usually due to legal protections that many people happen to feel have a very good reason for existing.  You may disagree, but trying to make an end-run around those protections by forcing people to provide their information isn’t likely to work very well.

          16. How is anyone supposed to fight anonymous slander when the defendent(s) cannot be identified?

            Slander is, for the most part, a legal and ethical dinosaur. People will say what they want about you, and there’s not much that you can do about it. You can refute it or you can ignore it. Pursuing it only publicizes it and frequently makes you look more guilty.

          17. Engaging in hypotheticals and wishful thinking doesn’t change the law. To be frank I think the laws in America regarding slander are fair. It takes a LOT of substantiation, as it should, to prove an actual slander. Yet the sad truth is it still exists within the professional context. Either way I don’t like the idea of closing off legal recourse if there is indeed a need for it.

            I’m not going to knock your principle If the concept of slander is dead to you then it’s dead to you. But just because you have no experiance of it doesn’t mean that the concept doesn’t exist.   

          18. Easy there, killer. And please don’t put words in the mouths of those who disagree with you. Yeah, I don’t like people being rude to me. I did not propose that as a rationale for imposing a real names policy. Such a notion is, as it has been pointed out, impossible anyway.

            I did not employ the child pornography example; it’s too easy. How about incitement to violence? (cf. Live flesh search engines).  

            You’re right, it is easy to ignore the anonymous web (unles you’re a bullied highschooler).  *That’s the whole thing* — alm if these faceless arguments are easy to ignore; their currency us devalued because there is no standard of personality to attach to them.

            And, now, I will ignore the rest of this thread, which is becoming more irksome than informative. Enjoy your anonymity!

          19. Whoops sorry somebody ELSE was putting the child porn chestnut in my mouth.
            Best, chris Weitz. PS publius was a pussy.

          20. I’ll enjoy it while it lasts…

            Enjoy turning the Internet into a totalitarian panopticon police state in order to protect people from the vicious threat of words.

          21. Yeah, that’s EXACTLY what I meant when I was pointing out that anonymity lets people talk like dickheads. A panopticon state. Un hunh. I do so enjoy depriving people if their liberties with my WORDS. Thanks for so honestly and fairly summing up my point of view!

          22. And now, to support his claim that the use of real names online promotes civil discourse, the real name poster is calling the pseudonymous poster a dickhead…

            How is it not what you meant?  You want every statement made by everyone to be published under their real name, so that everything anyone says is available for public surveillance.  A panopticon is a state in which everyone’s actions can be watched at all times, without their knowledge.  I perceive these as the same thing.  How does your perception differ? 

            Explain yourself and your beliefs.  Childish insults aren’t going to help make your case.

      2. Yes, numerous personal experiences where RL & online names overlapped.  In some cases the ability to hide behind a handle caused the people involved to act much more abusively than they would have done in person.  Online, they were rude, in person polite, often in the same day.

        1. I am not sure actual research (setting aside anecdotal data) bears this out.  Most of the stuff I’ve read about this is that civility isn’t determined by whether or not someone uses his or her real name (or real-sounding) but how a community is moderated and how interaction is encouraged.

          1. Moderation is often an external enforcement, civility is usually internally derived. As a moderator on a different board, I assure you that civility is much less labor intensive.

          2. I am not sure I agree.  I moderate a board myself – and have done so for years – since before WWW was readily available.  Yes, I go back to Compuserve.  And I believe that community standards and interaction help promote positive (and negative) behaviors.  Go to Red State if you think I’m wrong.  Compare them to here.

          3. I agree.  I used ot run old BBS’s (mine ran WWIV, not sure if I miss it or not.. ) and both can make a much bigger standard then forcing real names.

          4. Hah, I had a twinge of nostalgia for the old dial-up bbs universe just the other day! I think you’re right that setting standards on a board and how they’re enforced will influence behavior, but too much circumspection can stifle the spontaneity that makes boards enjoyable. Of course, that’s a whole other topic, isn’t it?

            I’m unfamiliar with Red State, but name doesn’t make me want to seek them out. Our local Olympia, WA newspaper comment section is rife with the sort of discord that makes life better when you avoid some of that stuff.

          5. Metafilter – ALL  pseudonyms – has been a fine service for over 12 years for just this very reason.

          6. Metafilter also works because it costs to join and has a culture of mindful self-moderation, and not because of real names or pseudonyms.

        2. Rudeness?  That’s the worst you can come up with?  You want to take away our right to anonymity because you can’t handle people being rude?

    2. I’m sure the governments of Iran, North Korea, Libya, Syria etc appreciate your attempts to keep people from “acting out” and going with their pesky “anything goes” mentality.

    3. Sorry but I don’t buy into your arguments, which are very combative. You call her reasoning “screed” (a hackneyed put-down by the way), and use the pyschobabble word “acting out”. Oh wait, you call yourself “GreenJello”, which is cheap crap that always moves contrary to the intended movement.

    4. What is a real name though?

      The name I have used for the last ten years is not the one on my birth certificate and I doubt I would respond if someone were to shout it in the street. I’m more likely to answer to my pseudonym here than my birth name. I don’t use the old name after I had to leave the town I grew up in after unpleasantness from some other locals.

      I may not like what some people do behind pseudonyms on the internet, but I would sooner have it that way than be able to be found by people from my past.

    5. The usual “use a police state to shut up people I don’t agree with” rage I’m used to from far right cowards.

  2. I had no idea Facebook had a “real name policy”.  In fact, this surprises me greatly, since I was recently able to set up a Facebook account with a fake name quite easily.

    More seriously, it’s dangerous to suggest to your users that you have a “real name” policy when in fact you don’t (and when, in fact, such a thing would be technically impossible to implement anyway!) 

    If your users believe there’s a real name policy, then surely that “Bob Abracadabra Jones” who just sent you a friend request is really your real uncle Bob Abracadabra Jones.  And, oh no!, Uncle Bob’s been traveling abroad, and he’s lost his wallet, and needs some money wired to him right away…


  3. It is definitely true that in my circle of “friends” people of color (of all ages) are more likely to have either pseudonyms or variations of their names. I never associated that with their societal marginalization. I thought it was a meme in the black community and didn’t think about it again.

    Maybe we can get some analysis on the trend of listing friends as “family” members on Facebook (common among many teenagers I know), and putting profile pictures of kids instead of the individual (common among parents I know). Is that a function of marginalization?


  4. Still a simple answer to this “problem”

    If you don’t like the policies, don’t use the service that is being provided for free.

    1. It’s not so simple when said service becomes a central part of your culture and in some cases becomes a requisite work tool.

      1. No, it really is that simple.   There is zero compelling reason for you to have to use G+  – if your employer is forcing you to use it they should be providing a corporate account – oh wait, that goes againg G+’s guidelines as well (currently they are stating that companies should wait until they have their structure in place for that sort of activity) – sorry, gotta go with you don’t like it, don’t use it.

    2. If you don’t like the policies, don’t use the service that is being provided for free.

      This presumes that the full extent/impact of the policies can be known at the time of signup. For example, Skud’s experience from when the Google-ban-fan first started spinning. There’s other examples in pieces by BB pal Violet Blue, and…well, just Google for more.

  5. I have a hard time seeing how real names are a danger on Facebook, Google+, or other social networks – as long as you’re using privacy controls as they’re designed. Sure, if you’re saying anything and everything and have it marked as public, your real name may get you in trouble. Same thing as if you do it in a crowded public place.

    However, if you’re only talking with people you know on Facebook and aren’t broadcasting to the world, then your real name is what you should go by. Fake names don’t provide any anonymity at that point, and all they do is make it hard for your legitimate friends to locate you.

    And forgive me if I have a hard time linking *any* of this to racial or ethnic groups. I really fail to see the connection between a particular group and anonymity on Facebook, and the article above did not enlighten me. I know of exactly one person on Facebook who has a pseudonym, and that’s my white, Irish neighbor. Go figure.

    The problem isn’t real names, the problem is people who naively broadcast everything to the public at large with no brain to keyboard filter.

    1. Sure, if you’re saying anything and everything and have it marked as
      public, your real name may get you in trouble. Same thing as if you do
      it in a crowded public place.

      However, if you’re only talking
      with people you know on Facebook and aren’t broadcasting to the world,
      then your real name is what you should go by.

      The problem here is that these personal conversations among close friends only have the illusion of privacy.

      Actually, you are sharing these conversations with your close friends and family, AND with Facebook’s advertisers, AND with any of the add-on services you’ve clicked through agreements with, AND with anyone those third parties decides to share that information with…

      There’s a huge difference between a “private” conversation on Facebook and an actual private conversation.

      1. Interesting – does this apply even though I don’t “like” anything or use any apps? As far as I can tell, between the privacy settings and my lack of interaction with any commercial entities, I should be fine.

        If not, please enlighten me – you’re right that an illusion of privacy can be worse than no privacy at all.

        1. You might not play Farmville or whatever, but if any of the people you are conversing with do, your information will get out that way.  

          Facebook makes no secret that they share profile and “wall” information with advertisers–that’s how you get targeted advertising on their pages.

          There’s also a long history of not-above-board information sharing and facebook.  For examle, here and here.

          But common sense will tell you this anyway.  Facebook is a very profitable company.  How did Mark Zuckerberg become a billionaire?  None of this profit comes from giving away a free service to people to allow them to connect with friends.  All of this profit comes from aggregating information about their users and selling it.  In facebook’s business model, you (your information) is the product, and the advertisers are facebook’s customers.  And the information they’ve aggregated and sold already is worth billions of dollars.

      2. Well of course.  Everyone knows that what you put on the internet is readily available to everyone else on the internet.  We got a whole generation now who grew up knowing this from birth.  I’m pretty sure everyone is savvy enough to not mention they just discovered they have an STD (or something equally embarrassing)  on FB or twitter.

    2. I don’t go by my real name with most of my friends either,  They all call me “Happ”  or “Happler”.  

    3. “I have a hard time seeing how real names are a danger…”
      Ok.  Google your name.  What do you get?  You know what I get when I google MY name?  Crickets.  I have NO online presence.  If you know me in real life, you know what I allow you to know.  And that’s it.  

      1. Actually a Google on you reveals quite a bit. That you have a penchant for low-cut black dresses in the “Morticia Addams” style and an obvious weakness for private investigators who favor wide lapels and horrible hats.
        Garrett P.I.

      2. I know what I get; about 25 pages of results pointing to the very famous porn star who happens to have the same name as me. The only way a person can find me via google is to search under one of the internet handles I’ve used regularly through the last almost 2 decades. For that reason I kind of find the “real name”  world to be more anonymous than handles, for good and bad reasons.

    4. Joshua, are likely a white guy who grew up in Tennessee, moved to Chicago to go to a prestigious college, and now have a cushy job at IBM. If so, I can’t expect you to have a great grasp of why people who are marginalized would want to hide their identity in a public forum. You want your name out there.

      But if this isn’t you, if you’re not that Joshua Ochs, then it’s just as much proving the point. You’re just one Josh in a sea of Joshes who run for city council in California, or are from Connecticut and have an attractive girlfriend who dressed up as a super-hero last Halloween, or maybe you just really like networking marketing professionals. Any way you look at it, you’re pretty likely to be white and doing well for yourself. Or are you claiming to be the Joshua Ochs from CA, but you’re really the one from CT? Your real name is less a useful moniker than a unique pseudonym might be.

      The only way to know would be to know you in real life. But a lot of people make very real friends with internet pseudonyms. Friends that they couldn’t be sure would discriminate against them in some fashion at first glance as I have here with you.  You’re white and well-off, you’re part of the privileged class.

      And I do have a pretty good idea that you’re white and well off because you say at the end that “The problem isn’t real names, the problem is people who naively
      broadcast everything to the public at large with no brain to keyboard
      filter.” Which only a person of privilege like yourself, who has never been discriminated against just for something biological about you, is likely to say.

      1. Hey, are you the same Timothy J who beat up my sister’s best friend’s cousin’s cat when I was in 3rd grade in Norwalk?

      2. Although so far, everything you’ve posted is from Google. I’ve also noticed the “other Josh” (although I’m not saying which Joshua Ochs I am – I am one of them). What I don’t see is how this has anything to do with real names on Facebook. You found all of that because I’ve chosen to publish that information. I don’t mind you knowing where I live or what I do – it’s part of how friends and potential jobs find me. But that’s the thing – this is *my* choice, and still has little to nothing to do with Facebook, which is also where I *want* friends to find me.

        As for being white, since both Josh’s above are, I suppose there’s no point in denying it. However, I don’t believe that it factors into the discussion of real names on Facebook. Real names do give certain clues for stereotypes. Certain mental images are probably filtering in if I say “Hans Reiser”, “LeBron James”, or “Sean Penn”, even if you don’t know any of them. So yes, a real name may connect you to certain prejudices. If I show up as something that’s blatantly a pseudonym, that will *also* immediately start forming impressions, even if that’s just that I don’t want to be known. As for your assumptions of “well-off” and “privileged”, that’s very debatable. But now who is making ill-founded assumptions?

        Still not seeing the connection between real names *on social networks* and any harm in the real world.

  6. Using real names is a good thing.   People realizing the internet “you” is the same as the real life “you” is a good thing.  For too long people have made a fiction of themselves online, and thats just stupid.  If everyone online was linked with real life, we could cut down on “cybercrime” overnight

    1. People creating fictional personas and online anonymity isn’t necessarily a bad thing. They may want to live out aspects of their lives that their friends, family, and community may object to, or they may be protesting and voicing unpopular opinions. Not every society is as forgiving of this.

      However, it makes little sense on a social network, where the whole point is to be social with people you know.

      1. And I do agree with you, there are some places online were its perfectly valid to be annon, but a “social networking” site is not the place to do that.  I believe that you should not use social networking for anything you would not talk about in a public place with random public people around you, because that is what it is.  Demanding privacy in a public place is just unreasonable.  

        1. Its not just unreasonable, it’s a mistaken assumption people make all the time. What you say online has a longevity and reach that vastly exceeds any party chatter. I’ve known of a few legal complications and lost jobs that came from folks making that mistake.

        2. there are some places online were its perfectly valid to be annon, but a “social networking” site is not the place to do that.  I believe that you should not use social networking for anything you would not talk about in a public place with random public people around you, because that is what it is.

          And I believe you should have to post your SSN to leave a comment on Boing-Boing — but that don’t make it so.

    2. ‘People realizing the internet “you” is the same as the real life “you” is a good thing.’
      Why?  Please support your supposition.

      1. Nothing on the internet is anonymous.  Thats something everyone needs to realize, you can do everything you want to try to be anonymous, but there is a record that links the machine your on and the web.  And linking a person to a machine is a fairly easy thing to do.  The general population has this mistaken idea that what they say and do is not traceable to themselves.  The more people that realize this falsehood the better.

        1. Nothing on the internet is anonymous. 

          That sentence not terribly meaningful.  Little in the world is anonymous if the full force of a nation-state is mobilized to identify its source.  

          But can you identify who I am?  


          And that has value.

          1. If you attempted to stalk, harass, or do any of the other illegal actions that the author talked about i could.  Takes a simple court order to boing boing for your ip, and then another to your isp for you real name.  

    3. except that a “real names” policy won’t do that.  it just means everyone who wants a pseudonym (for any number of reasons, good and evil) will just wind up with fake names that sound like everyone else’s.

    4. For too long people have made a fiction of themselves online, and thats just stupid.

      But not as stupid as being constrained to the work of fiction that is your “real” character.

  7. Rumor has it that a number of Google Employees resigned because they were so outraged at this choice.  These fine folks have now have the right to say “told ya so”. 

  8. If I was anonymous I could tell you to eat a bag of dicks, elaborate on what your mother just did with me, and threaten to track you down and stomp you until you’re spitting up bloody Chiclets. Real name policies deprive me of my basic rights and limit my entertainment.

    Of course, as a privileged white American you can feel free to discount my opinion.

  9. So, which of the 100+ Jason Reagans found by on-line white pages are you?

    Unless you are willing to part with more info, you are still hiding behind a facad. Just a thinner one.

    1. The one in KY…  Really not hard to find… You wont reach me at either number though since both of those are about 4 years out of date…

    1. Because many of the people who use pseudonyms have very good reasons for doing so. If you want to read them, go read the list at the link she gave for “Skud”.

      1. None of those reasons make it abusive for a private company to choose how people that choose to use said service are identified.  Its no more abusive than Boing Boing requiring me to sign in to comment.

        1. This is not and won’t be the last time a company or at some point government preys this policy. It is a trend that’s being weighed out, not just FB’s and G+’s policy.

  10. The main problem with this argument is that pseudonyms aren’t an effective protection mechanism from any of the problems cited as reasons to use pseudonyms. If you’re sharing anything publicly online a stalker, employer or anyone else with half a brain will still be able to find it. If you have appropriate privacy filters in place they won’t be able to see it even if it is attached to your real name or a pseudonym.

  11. Facebook actually subverted its own “real name” policy when it refused to develop the type of “circles” employed by Google+… I know many people who have multiple facebook profiles, one for friends, one for family, one for work… all this in addition to fan pages and the like. To Facebook’s credit it seems to have turned a blind eye to bogus profile names (unless someone complains). I myself have enough Facebook profiles to prop up Newt Gingrich, and I think Google will find itself a second-stringer if it sticks to its guns. (along with it’s copyright policy and user agreement, its far from its biggest problem, but google needs to learn that having an account and USING that account with current restrictions are two different things!)

  12. There are reasons to have a real name policy and there are reasons why such a policy would be undesirable.  While Danah Boyd articulated some of the reasons to prefer a more flexible approach she did not argue in good faith.  She made absolutely no effort to address any of the actual reasons why Google might want a real name policy.  Instead portraying them as power mad white guys who were either maliciously suppressing marginalized groups or simply too blinded by their privilege to see what they were doing.  Come on.  Right or wrong Google and some Google+ users have real and legitimate reasons to want a real name policy.  Arguing at straw men never solved anything.

  13. Um, I’ve been on FB since 2009 and I have never once used my real name.  Actually, I have never used my real name ANYWHERE on the internet.  What kind of a Gomer would do that?  DUH!

  14. What an individual call himself, and what he is called by others, the very concept of an identity, CHANGES OVER TIME.

    The concept of identity as a fixed an immutable objective truth is a delusion, a fiction, an English white man’s ignorant oppressive conceit.

    In Canada, Amerind natives are known to the Federal Government by their band number and their individual number since a child can be depended upon to grow and change into several personas over the course of his life, each of which will cause his name to change, (in the way a wolf changes from a kit, to a cub, to an adolescent, into a mature individual and then, if s/he’s lucky, into an elder. [and his/her scent will change at the same time.])

    It doesn’t exist in nature. Even your DNA changes over time. (That’s the science behind epigenetics.)

    The best we humans can arrive at a gross agreement over some features which are reasonably stable, like fingerprints, unless your finger get scarred or chopped off, or some other more stable biometric markers.

    What is happening is the same ignorant conceit (that originally led to EBCDIC and ASCII’s limited character codes,) of assuming that everybody’s just like us and that we are always the same…

    That’s just wrong.

  15.  Pseudonymity is not the same thing as anonymity. It is possible to build a reputation based on what you have said or done in a particular forum, without connecting it to an identity backed by government issued ID. I refuse to join google+ with the name the tax man calls me.

    1. It is possible to build a reputation based on what you have said or done in a particular forum, without connecting it to an identity backed by government issued ID.

      Damn right, e.g.

  16. I had to login to add a comment.  Does anyone else appreciate the irony?  

    But seriously, all of this Real ID stuff reminds me of the Chinese “100 Flowers Campaign”.  Where communist leaders asked for critical feedback.  Then they cracked down on the people who were critical.  If political shit ever hits the fan in our “democracy” our own comments wil be used against us.  (like this one, hahaha)

  17. I just changed my name on Facebook to a “fake” one (actually my maternal great grandfather’s name) and did so pretty easily. It’s going to confuse the shit out of my friends, but I’ll let it ride for a day or two, mostly because I think it’s kind of funny actually. I don’t have a google+ account because I can’t really be bothered. I’m a proud late adopter. But if google+ doesn’t let me use a fake name so i can fuck with my friends, than what’s the fun of that? I won’t sign up if that’s the case.

  18. Tons of problems here.
    – There’s an assumption that minorities are more likely to use pseudonyms in a social networking context. In my experience, this is something linked more to age than ethnicity. Even if it were true…

    – There’s also an assumption that there is some sort of major benefit to these people using pseudonyms in a social networking context, in part based on a fantasy that they’re doing so based on some sort of “struggle” by “marginalized” people against an “authoritarian” power structure (aka. The Man™). I find this unlikely – like most teens, they’re almost certainly doing it because they think it looks cool or makes them more original/creative to their peers.

    – Of those who are using pseudonyms to hide their identities, how many are doing so because they’re bravely fighting The Man™ – versus those who are just trolls, committing crimes, etc. I suspect it weighs heavily toward the latter.

    – A pseudonym isn’t going to protect you if they can trace your origin via IP address. If someone thinks a fake name alone is going to protect them, they’re wrong.- Most of these sites’ users are from places that aren’t Libya or Iran. While I don’t deny that there is value in allowing people in (truly) oppressive regimes to communicate anonymously – and think there should always be places for that – 99.9% of the people affected by this policy are people who aren’t fighting anything at all except the sad reality that real names are rather boring.

    – Facebook, Google Plus, etc. are not public services. If those companies feel that allowing anonymized use will detract from the stated intent of those services – and I agree, it probably would – it’s their right to set policies that benefit the plurality of their users. Those whose needs don’t fit that should feel free to find another service more appropriate for it.

    1. So, because it isn’t possible to perfectly decouple IRL identity from online identity in all circumstances, it shouldn’t be permitted?

    2. I use a pseudonym on the internet for two reasons — because I don’t want every remark I make on the internet to be gathered and parsed by a couple of stalkers who never seem to go away for good, no matter how many DECADES go by, and because I dread the thought of every person I went to school with getting in touch with me so we can reminisce about the horrorshow they apparently believe was a grand old time. I am one of only two people in the world with my name… it’s just too damn easy to find me. 

      1. I dread the thought of every person I went to school with getting in touch with me so we can reminisce about the horrorshow they apparently believe was a grand old time.

        That sounds fairly pleasant compared to being contacted by people whom you haven’t heard from in thirty years so that they can tell you about their three divorces and how they can’t get over their dog dying.

  19. “What’s even more noticeable in my data is that an extremely high percentage of people of color used pseudonyms as compared to the white teens that I interviewed. Of course, this would make sense…The people who most heavily rely on pseudonyms in online spaces are those who are most marginalized by systems of power. “Real names” policies aren’t empowering; they’re an authoritarian assertion of power over vulnerable people. These ideas and issues aren’t new (and I’ve even talked about this before), but what is new is that marginalized people are banding together and speaking out loudly. And thank goodness.”
    The only ounce of truth in that quote is that Blacks and Latinos tend to use pseudonyms and nicknames more often than others, but the reasoning is wrong. It’s not that they are rebelling against “The Man” and consciously banding together. Do you know how funny that sounds coming from an old(er) White woman? Blacks and Latinos were one of the last “groups” to jump on the Facebook ship as they tended to prefer MySpace and its ability to give yourself a nickname and customize your page. As the result, Facebook was another, secondary site for them to join and they didn’t want to take it seriously enough to use real names and plus, they still liked MySpace’s idea of using your nickname and customization.  In addition to that, it’s more common in the urban community to have a nickname that others give you or you give yourself. Also, there’s the whole thing about rappers using nicknames so kids in the urban community like to have their own.That’s why you’ll see a lot of “Darrell “swagjuice” Bryant names or just simply, “SwagJuice247365”.  (24/7, 365days) if that escaped you.
    For me, I joined in Spring 2006 after I got my .edu address. So, for me, Facebook was serious because I was going to meet a lot of people in college and they needed my real name to find me. This was before Facebook would suggest every person on earth that you might know. With Google+, you’re seeing (or, I am seeing), a lot of people use fake names or pseudonyms. My friends who have real names on Facebook are using fake ones on Google+ just because they don’t see the need otherwise and want to humor themselves.

  20. inb4 shitstorm… whoops to late.

    I’m perplexed why you would want to use a “handle” on an online social site unless that name translates into something in the real world.  The like article said Lady Gaga.  Sure that works, but like 5 people might know one of my online names.

    I thought the whole idea of FB was for people who knew you to find you and talk or catch up or something.  Seems like of pointless if you go by some BS handle cause it sounds cool or because you are marginalized…. wtf does that even mean.

    1. I thought the whole idea of FB was for people who knew you to find you and talk or catch up or something.  Seems like of pointless if you go by some BS handle cause it sounds cool or because you are marginalized…. wtf does that even mean.

      i.e., “I don’t understand it, so it’s illegitimate”

      1. I’m sorry let me re-parse that for you:

        I was under the impression of facebook was for people to reconnect with lost friends, family, and to stay in touch.  It seems rather odd to use a fake name on a service that depends on people who haven’t had contact with you in years to find you.  I can understand your current friends might call you a cool nickname, but that doesn’t mean someone from work/college/a friend from highschool is going to find you based on that new nickname they never have heard of.

        And I agree with others that have said it seems that most nicknames given to others are for a reason, or chosen by your peer group.  Being “marginalized” seems to be a little relevant issue with it.  To me, marginalized seems to be used in an ill fitting form here.

        1. Your impression may be a little skewed on what some people use FB or any social medium for. It’s all good to put it all out there if that is your intent but we should still have the option of not doing so in the case that our intentions are to avoid people we no longer wish to associate with but still wish to be social in a limited capacity or with new people.

        2. I was under the impression of facebook was for people to reconnect with lost friends, family, and to stay in touch.

          I believe you have mistaken a use of Facebook for the use of Facebook.

    2. “I’m perplexed why you would want to use a “handle” on an online social site”

      Because *you* don’t know me.  And the people who *do* know me, know what handle I use. 

      Just because I’m on a social site doesn’t mean you get to pretend you know me.  As people seem to be keen to point out, you don’t have to be social with the world on a social site.  So why do I need to give the world my real name?  If you get to know me, you’ll become one of the people who knows who that handle refers to.. and, chances are, by that time my real name really won’t matter to you.  I’m not a public figure, I’m not trying to sell you anything, and if I’m being abusive you have plenty of other ways to deal with me that don’t require you to have enough information to hunt me down in real life.

      If I’m at a party and I want to know what someone’s name is, I ask them (or someone who knows them).  I usually don’t hang around at parties where everyone’s forced to wear “Hi!  My name is…” tags.

  21. Holy crap.

    The person who wrote this pile of false arguments works for Microsoft.

    Now it all makes sense.

    Welcome to the Fear stage of the FUD machine.

  22. If I google my real name I get a bunch of more successful people who are completely unrelated to me. And if I google “Arp” I get synths and network protocol….. oh and auto racing. Not gonna find much of anything about me either way. So bonus points for having a super generic real name and a fairly common acronym nickname.

    Though I think if you have a very unique nickname which you consistently use around the web, that would actually be easier to track than say Bill Cooper or Ann Jones.

  23. Lots of people signed up to Facebook using fake names (I find it odd that Boyd cites only minorities), Facebook’s admonition during the sign-up process that we use our real name was meaningless to a lot of us who signed up as a lark, and didn’t care about their damn rules.   Use my real name?  What for?  So you can direct your marketing better?  No thanks.  So long lost friends can find me?  Well, it sounds tempting, but it also means the annoying non-friends from my past will come looking, so no thanks again.  Anybody I want to be in touch with I am already communicating with.  Facebook is a occasionally handy, but mostly a waste of time.

  24. First, I have to point out how…funny it is seeing people commenting here that real name requirements are fine while using fake names. 

    Second, the only way using real names will ‘keep people inline’ or ‘civil’ is though fear of real life consequences which could range from fear of losing or not getting a job to stalkers to you name it. One gamer tracked another gamer down and stabbed him in the back over something said online. I do not believe a system to keep people civil online should rely on anything more than account banning. Personally, I don’t think serious real life consequences are very likely for the type of things I post, I guess I’m fairly boring. However, there are people out there with psycho exes and various other issues which makes using their real names problematic. 

    This all just reminds me of Blizzard/Activision’s Real ID BS back when I used to play WoW. They wanted to make the game forums more civil by making everyone post under their real names. That plan was quickly dropped when, after players legitimate concerns over privacy and safety were ignored, Blizzard employees’ real names started showing up on the forums and people were quickly able to dig up and post their addresses and phone numbers among other personal information.

    Third, and most importantly, anything they say about community or civility or what have you is complete crap. Real name requirements at G+, just like at FB and the failure that was the Real ID idea, is 100% about marketing. It’s all about advertisers, ad tailoring and profits. 

    1. People on here are not on a social networking site that requires real names, so your straw man is invalid.  If someone wishes to go on a social networking site, they should expect to be socially networked, not with just a few select people they pick and choose.  They should expect anything online to be traced back to them.

      1. If someone wishes to go on a social networking site, they should expect to be socially networked, not with just a few select people they pick and choose. 

        You do realize that “everyone should expect things to work like I expect them to work” is not a terribly persuasive argument?

        1. That is the way the internet works.  I am sorry to break that news to you.  Facebook doesn’t make money off you being Jabberwok583, they make money off knowing your a Male age X that does Y.  I am not saying that you cannot and should not use alternate id’s on other places, but social networking sites it defeats the purpose.  

          1. For a user on a social networking site, what other purpose is there besides to socially network with other users?  

          2. The dozens of people with whom I interact on FaceBook, using an obvious pseudonym, certainly seem to find utility in “socially networking” with a pseudonymous person.  

            Are you going to tell them they’re wrong?

          3. Not everybody uses the name on their birth certificate for social purposes, even in meatspace. Who would know who The Lady Bunny or Coco Peru were if they used their birth names on Facebook?

          4. Or Joey Ramone. Or Hulk Hogan. Or Jackie Chan.  Or Muddy Waters.  Or Stalin (okay… bad example) Or Pee Wee Herman. Or Harry Houdini.  Etc.

          5. If I were to leave the Tower of Moderation and meet you at a convention, I’d be wearing a name tag that read Antinous. Yet, only one person that I know in meatspace knows that identity. Although that has more to do with knowing a lot of people who rarely use the internet.

          6. so why do they need to know that you are Bob Smith male age x who does y? Marketing plans are not built on I have this product and I want to sell it to all the guys name Bob Smith, it’s really tested well against Bob Smiths in the 18-24 video game fan market, but make sure you ignore all Tim Ericsons’ they might be 18-24 and video game fans as well, but we’ve just seen poor numbers fromt he Tim’s.  Using a psuedonym doesn’t stop you from letting Facebook know your age and religion and interests and the other marketing demographics. They don’t stop the specific user cookie tracking that attaches your habits to marketers and marketing engines which tie your online demographics to your email and really even your real name, (those engines are quite sophisticated in partial bit data collection to assemble a full identity, so unless you are also doing all of your buying and shipping under psuedonyms or completely optiong out of this with private browsing, I guarantee they know your real name.)

      2. So, the privacy settings on your facebook account are set to full open?  Or do you restrict who can see what you post?

        1. I don’t post on facebook.  I don’t think the world really cares about me enough for the need of a social networking page.  The few posts that are there are open to the public though.   Good try though…

          1. Was just curious.  You choose to be anon by simply not really posting on FB or other social networking sites. (since you stated that this is not a social networking site, and thus real names are not needed here).

            My main point is that I do not use an alias due to trying to hide.  Just the opposite in fact.  I use a name that most people I know, know me by.  If I was to use my real name, some people would catch it, but most people would assume that it is some other person.  Since I rarely post under my real name.

  25. Hmm. There are 23,000 people with my first and last name in the US. Possibly as many as 1,000 with my middle name, as well.  And yet, I use a different pseudonym for every place that I comment.  But then, I don’t do social networking.

    Anyone who thinks that using real names makes people more civil probably isn’t a moderator.  Or maybe BB exists in an alternate behavior universe, because it’s certainly not true here.

    I do get mail periodically from commenters who want me to eradicate all evidence of them on BB, because they’re job-hunting or getting a divorce and don’t want anyone to find their comments about drug use or petty crime or hot sex.  I then have to explain to them that I can take them and all their comments out of the system, but it will still be archived and available for anyone searching.

    Based on that, I would say that using your real name encourages you to lie about yourself and pretend that you’re a model of creepy, non-existent virtue.  Just in case.  What could be more appealing than social networking with a bunch of cyber-social climbers who never admit to any of the interesting details of their real lives?

    1. Hmm. There are 23,000 people with my first and last name in the US. Possibly as many as 1,000 with my middle name, as well.

      Then you are lucky in this regard.  I am the only person with my first and last name (at least that I know of, and my Google-fu is pretty strong).  Also, almost all of the first-page results for a Google search of just my last name point to me.  Also, Google auto-suggests my last name after a relatively small number of characters.  (All of this on a clean machine, not logged in to anything, etc).

      As you might expect, the whole “real names” thing matters a whole lot more to someone like me, whereas “John Smith” might not see any problem with it.

      1. Then you are lucky in this regard.

        Yes and no. Collection agencies will call everyone with the same name to try to find someone.

    2. Based on that, I would say that using your real name encourages you to
      lie about yourself and pretend that you’re a model of creepy,
      non-existent virtue.  Just in case.  What could be more appealing than
      social networking with a bunch of cyber-social climbers who never admit
      to any of the interesting details of their real lives?

      My thinking is that if you’d be ashamed (not afraid, but actually ashamed) to say it in “real life”, why say it online? Sure I could set up a sock puppet using a proxy and post something horrible, and no one might ever be the wiser. But I would know that I added that bit of sewage to the drinking water.

      So the question is, do you treat others with respect and civility only because and when they can hold you to account, or do you comport yourself that way because it’s who you want you to be.

      Note that I’m not bashing pseudonymity. I don’t doubt that many marginalized persons who cannot be themsleves in meatspace without facing unjust retribution find acceptance in online communities. I’m questioning why people would use avatars to interact in a way that they (not just others) know to lack integrity. Why bother with ethics at all if it means nothing to you in and of itself?

      1. My thinking is that if you’d be ashamed (not afraid, but actually ashamed) to say it in “real life”, why say it online?

        What happens at Perv-A-Go-Go stays at Perv-A-Go-Go. There’s no written record. Just some stains on the ceiling. What happens online is there for all to see for the foreseeable future. Personally, I don’t care, but I can certainly understand that someone might want to let their friends know about their first time at the fisting club, but not make that information available to a potential employer.

        1. Personally, I don’t care, but I can certainly understand that someone
          might want to let their friends know about their first time at the
          fisting club, but not make that information available to a potential

          Okay, but if you’re at the fisting club, you’re probably not ashamed of it. Surely fisting clubs have rules of decorum too. Like I said, I can see the value of a pseudonym in shielding one from retribution by intolerant people in meatspace. If you work at the Faithful Book Burning Supply Shop, you probably don’t want your boss to find out about your Potter-mania. But that’s not necessarily shame; it’s well-founded fear of becoming unemployed. Online, though, you still have vested interest in not lowering the bar. I want BB to be a forum of rational discussion. If I incite a flame war, I’m working against my own goal, even if I do it under a sock puppet handle. Frequenters of the fisting club or Harry Potter forums have the same incentive not to trash the commons.

          1. Okay, but if you’re at the fisting club, you’re probably not ashamed of it.

            That does not follow.  Even if you totally and completely approve of fisting club memberships for all and sundry, you’d be aware that a great number of employers (to say nothing of in-laws and grandmothers and members of the clergy) do not share that enthusiasm.  Why court negative judgment when it comes to one’s private enthusiasms?

            Everyone poops, but most of us do so in private.  And there are many facets of one’s life which are rightfully kept private, for many reasons. And the point is that many people habitually share a great deal of information through their social networks, and some people might choose to clamp down their privacy more than others, perhaps in some part due to the “Mrs Grundy” types in their social and professional circles.

      2. There’s a difference between saying something in real life to 3 friends and saying something in real life on a stage in front of thousands of TV cameras.

    3. I use my real name on-line and where possible a link to my home page (which doesn’t seem possible with the current boingboing software), so people can know which Jonathan Badger (there are at least three with active web presences) I am.

      I don’t understand the argument that using my real name encourages me to lie about myself. Quite the opposite because it is trivial to verify the truth of who I am. It’s the pseudonyms that let people pretend to be oppressed bloggers in Libya.

      1. I don’t understand the argument that using my real name encourages me to lie about myself.

        Have you ever done one single transgressive thing in your life? Or are you a straight, white male who has absolutely no personal information that could ever be used against him?

        1. Well, I’m a vocal atheist, which could conceivably be considered “transgressive” or be used against me by some people, but being open about it is exactly why atheism is becoming acceptable in the US (as it has been so for over a century in most of Europe).

          1. But it could stop you from being hired by a company with a Mormon CEO. Or a fundamentalist one. Or a devout Catholic one. And any of those CEOs might also move the resumes of Jews and Muslims to the bottom of the pile. There are many professions where you don’t have a chance in hell of being hired if you don’t fit the demographic profile of your interviewer. You might not care, but many people would.

          2. But it could stop you from being hired by a company with a Mormon CEO. Or a fundamentalist one. Or a devout Catholic one

            No doubt. But I value honesty about my atheism even if it is inconvenient to me. The funny thing is that if more people acted similarly, the inconvenience would be greatly reduced. Marginalized groups are marginalized precisely because they are silent and people don’t realize their true numbers and that people they admire belong to them.

          3. +1 to this. As I said in my previous comment, I only post positive, civil things on the internet (whether using my real name or not). But, I do not shy away from expressing any unpopular opinions I may have, or admitting anything that places myself in a marginalized group (I’m a strong atheist as well). This is because none of my opinions etc. are inherently evil, wrong, or douchey/dickish – I’m just a nice guy.

            I’m idealistic and if some asshole Mormon CEO tosses out my resume, fuck that – why would I want to work there anyway?

            (and for the record, I’ve been unemployed for the past year and a half or so, though I don’t think it’s because Mormon CEOs have been tossing my resume ;)

    4. “Anyone who thinks that using real names makes people more civil probably
      isn’t a moderator.  Or maybe BB exists in an alternate behavior
      universe, because it’s certainly not true here.”

      The thing that baffles me about the people who think this is that there is absolutely nothing in Google+ that actually forces people to use their real name.  All it requires is that you use a name, any name, that appears real.  So if I were to create an account as “John Hancock” or “Albert Einstein” (or something more ordinary to make it less likely to draw a report), how does that do anything at all to make me more civil than if my account were “Nonentity”?  Arguably, the latter does *more* to make me civil, because I actually have some stake in the identity of my handle.

      Meanwhile, you have people who are using their real names, but are getting their accounts blocked because someone else’s preconceptions lead them to believe those names are faked.  In what universe does that lead to a more civil community?

      1. All it requires is that you use a name, any name, that appears real.

        Do you think that I could get away with Roger Fapworthy?

        1. “Do you think that I could get away with Roger Fapworthy?”

          Possibly.  Do “you” have a brother named Richard?

  26. Luther Blisset had a lot to say on the subject of real names being an authoritarian imposition on the oppressed; that is why they were called Luther Blisset. They saw identity as the very core of the culture of coercion that manufactured the state, and thus did not settle for pseudonyms.

  27. I always operate on the principle that what I write can be determined by someone to have be written by me. I feel it keeps me honest, and sometimes reins me in. 

    I only use a pseudonym because my given name is so very common, and also blurs gender lines to double the population within which it may occur. For example, in second grade I took my proficiency tests. The male student sharing a similar first name and matching last name was absent that day. He got my scores. Since then I’ve never attended a school where there wasn’t a student who had a direct or near-match name, and I’ve worked at several places where multiple people shared my first name. “Cat” became my nickname in high school and now it is ridiculously common as well. 

    For me, the only way to be found on the internet is through a known pseudonym. Forcing me to use an ultra-common name seems to be missing the point of “finding your friends on the internet” which is a large part of what social networking is all about.

  28. I never, ever use my meat name on the internet.  I almost always use the same handle – ‘shadowfirebird’. So if I used my meat name on Google+ I would actually be *less* accountable than if I used my handle. 

    Plus, what would knowing the name I was born with get anyone, unless you know me personally?  In which case (if I trust you) you know my handle too.

  29. It’s a real good essay. I don’t think Google is doing this because they want to monetize real names, I think they’re doing this because Google’s corporate culture places a huge premium on real associations (i.e. Ivy League schools): 

  30. Geez Corey, Google isn’t ramming anything down anyone’s throat.  Are they MAKING people use Google+ are they cutting off your internet unless you comply? No.  

    It’s just a stupid social network.  They don’t want profiles for people pretending to be Chuck Norris or a coffee machine.  They are trying to be facebook without the circus. 

  31. I agree with what David Brin has to say on the subject:

    “Google and Facebook have legitimate counter-points of their own.  First, anonymity and unaccountable pseudonymity are proved to foster some very unpleasant types of online behavior, ranging from predatory to deliberately harmful to just plain nasty. Second, anonymity can open the door to automated personas that sift and collect data for hidden masters, or that might replicate endlessly, clogging the system with multiple, non-real  entities. 

    “Google and Facebook have legitimate counter-points of their own.  First, anonymity and unaccountable pseudonymity are proved to foster some very unpleasant types of online behavior, ranging from predatory to deliberately harmful to just plain nasty. Second, anonymity can open the door to automated personas that sift and collect data for hidden masters, or that might replicate endlessly, clogging the system with multiple, non-real  entities…

    “There are other problems too, described in my book The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom.
    The perennial key question: Must we make an either-or choice? Our civilization made most of its real strides by looking for the win-win, thepositive sum game. I have been consulting for some folks who believe they see a terrific business offering two items desperately needed online, both reputation management and portable but accountablepseudonyms… 

    …pseudonyms that come certified and therefore offer some defense  against abuse, with “follow me” reputations that ensure accountability for specific misbehaviors… but still provide safety from retribution for political or other views.  In fact, the outline for such a system seems remarkably clear, with some surprising added benefits! 

    Somebody is going to make a lot of money, providing a win-win-win solution to this problem.” ~David Brin,

  32. There are actually some folks who are more well known for their handle than their real name. A little test, who are, Eric Corley, John Draper, Joe Engressia, Steve Wozniak (ok that one is sort of a gimme).

    In any case I have to say that the use of real names or fake names should still be up to the individual. I choose not to use my real name here and for the vast majority of the time I am civil and do my best to not bring dishonor to myself. And as far as that goes D-bags are going to be D-bags no matter what name they go by. Forcing users to use their real names (as if that was even possible to enforce) won’t limit people from doing stupid things but it will frustrate and alienate folks like myself who choose not to use a ‘real’ name. FWIW in my case it’s not like my real name is Tom, Dick, Harry, or any other super common name that millions of other people have. Given it’s uniqueness it would be a lot easier for people to find me if I had to use it on public forums. I should also mention that using one’s real name, even in places like BB, FB, G+ or whatever, surely opens you up to a whole lot of other blowback such as identity fraud/theft, harassment, nefarious people impersonating you and hijacking your good name or dragging it through the mud. It’s just too hard to avoid jerks on the internet, so why furnish them with a real name to do bad/stupid/mean/ actions with? I can also see situations where using one’s real name has definite benefits as in networking, promotion, marketing, branding, or other situations where you would want your name out there. Again it should be a personal choice.

    At the same time nobody is forcing you to use these services so really they can (and will) do whatever they please anyway. Either way, in this case, there is a choice. And as I’ve stated before, being defensive about your privacy on the net is a job best taken seriously and is an issue of utmost personal interest to the individual. In other words, privacy on the net is what you make of it and trusting others to not abuse whatever information you deem worthy to divulge is foolhardy at best.

  33. Antinous said: “Anyone who thinks that using real names makes people more civil probably
    isn’t a moderator.  Or maybe BB exists in an alternate behavior
    universe, because it’s certainly not true here.”

    Well, you’re an uber-moderator on an international bbs, which gives you a different perspective. Most people here will never stand much chance of encountering each other in meatspace and be held accountable for their behavior. I’m a moderator on a regional climbing board where people who post routinely run into each other out climbing in the real world. People there who use their real names do tend to be much more civil. I’ll agree though since that using your real name is a personal choice, not a board requirement, causality can’t be assumed: just because someone voluntarily using their own name is inclined to engage in more civil internet interaction doesn’t mean that forcing a jerk to use their own name would affect their behavior. An old physical altercation involving a baseball bat, two posters on rec.skiing in the Seattle area, and some court actions prove that.

  34. I joined Facebook when my not-quite-elite university (unless you think all universities are elite) signed on,  before they opened it up to high schoolers and unaffiliated folk. I was aware of the real name policy (I seem to remember real avatar photos were encouraged too, but I could be wrong about that.) This seemed like a great idea to me. That, and the fact that page customization was prohibited, were great advantages over myspace. I like to know who I am talking to. I still prefer ‘real identity’, but then again I don’t use facebook for any serious political or religious activities, and my personal life was already at the ‘stable, and not that interesting’ stage by the time I joined. I’m thankful few online records exist from my younger days.

    I wonder how much of this is related to facebook’s trend toward greater self expression in general. Remember, when it started, it was the ‘anti-myspace’ in this respect. No crappy backgrounds, music, or apps. Farmville is self expression. Fake names are self expression. It’s a different sort of tool than it was originally.

  35. This whole thread of comments is almost purely ridiculous and misses the point. Google+ does not have a ‘real names’ policy. What they have is a ‘real looking’ names policy. There is absolutely nothing preventing anyone from choosing a pseudonym as long as it doesn’t look like one. Therefore this policy does zero to promote any kind of different social environment. All it does it regularise names and stifle creativity. It also does zero to stop spammers because they simply don’t care about their online identity. They will choose John Smith, and then Jack Bolton, and then Sue Summers, and keep spamming the whole damn time.

    Think with the brain. Nobody can stop pseudonymous activity online. Everyone who thinks this policy will have any positive effect on anything is buying into a fiction.

    EDIT: Beaten by two minutes by a Nonentity.

  36. Are there seriously still people who are using the “if you’re not doing anything wrong, you don’t need privacy” argument? Not everyone who uses a pseudonym is a criminal or an internet troll. Here’s a few reasons people might not want to give out their real names:

    -The people they want to network with know them better by their pseudonym. Maybe they’ve been using the same name online for years already, or maybe they just have a crazy nickname that their friends call them. If they use their
    real name, they will be harder to find and recognize. Why should
    strangers and advertisers have an easier time finding them than the very friends they want to connect with?

    -Same thing applies to celebrities and anyone who uses a stage name.

    -They’re political activists who wish to avoid government harrassment and discrimination from potential employers. Or, in some cases, violent reprisals.

    -They are a victim of domestic abuse or stalking and don’t feel comfortable giving out their real name any longer.

    -They’re a transgendered person who hasn’t yet legally changed their name.

    -They don’t really have a problem using their real name if the privacy functions work as intended, but would prefer to minimize the damage if Google+ has a leak of personal infomation to third parties, as Facebook has in the past.

    And those are just a few examples. Sure, all of them could use a different social networking site- nobody is forcing them to use Google+. But why are you defending Google+ for arbitrarily discriminating against perfectly innocent people?

  37. It strikes me that the statement about the reason for blacks and Latinos not using their real names is fallacious, as some have said above.  I would add to this that the fact that the use of real names by black and Latinos would be detrimental to their standing is deeply depressing, more a cause for our introspection than celebration.

    I have always used my real name in fora like this and on social network websites because I know that it will make me think twice about posting something hateful and vile.  I don;t think that having to take responsibility for my statements is “abusive”; that argument is bizarre.

    Anonymity is best fostered in governments that actively persecute dissidents,and no, that does not include the US in my mind, FBI files be damned. Not when you compare it to Syria, Iran, etc.   If you’re a member of Anonymous, fine, go for it.  But otherwise?   Grow up and take responsibility.

    1. “Anonymity is best fostered in governments that actively persecute
      dissidents,and no, that does not include the US in my mind, FBI files be

      Then obviously you don’t remember this:
      And that’s just what they do to vegans.

      And yes, it’s still not much compared to “Syria, Iran, etc.”. That hardly makes it insignificant.

    2. “The fact that the use of real names by black and Latinos would be detrimental to their standing is deeply depressing, more a cause for our introspection than celebration.”

      Maybe so, but I prefer that we design tools for the world that exists, rather than the one we would wish exists. If you pretend discrimination doesn’t happen and don’t design tools that allow the victims to protect themselves, then you are enabling the discrimination and corralling disadvantaged users into a trap and then telling them that if they don’t like it, well… they can just opt out of social life online, or fix the world.

      All assuming of course that real names policy were enforced, which it isn’t. The way it is enforced is that they look at your name if it looks funky, you’re out.

    3. It strikes me that the statement about the reason for blacks and Latinos
      not using their real names is fallacious, as some have said above.  I
      would add to this that the fact that the use of real names by black and
      Latinos would be detrimental to their standing is deeply depressing,
      more a cause for our introspection than celebration.

      I have always used my real name in fora like this…

      I expect it’s as simple as this:

      If you are in a marginalized group, you might know very well how easily it is to get screwed over in dozens of unfair and creative ways by strangers.  It gives you an insight that used to be called “street smarts”, and it makes you generally a more cautious person.

      If you are not in a marginalized group, your are much more likely to believe that the world is basically a fair place, and that strangers will treat you in a fair manner so long as you are up-front and honest and responsible, etc.

      If that’s the case, it’s no mystery why marginalized people are more likely to choose to protect their identity.  It has nothing to do with shame.

  38. Yeah, I don’t rank keystone cops infiltrating Vegans up there with Iranians torturing dissidents.  Though I do fear for myself at the Burn now.  Better think of a Playa name, quick, if only for my own safety.

    1. One more thing: You say you have no problem using your real name, but your real name is so common as to be practically anonymous anyway, without additional information. When I google your name, I get 2,940,000 results. When I google MY name, I get 58 results. Somehow I think I have a little more to worry about.

        1. Yeah, whether or not he’s that Chris Weitz, there is a Chris Weitz that bogarts the Google hits.  ;^)

          Luckily, my famous namesake is pushing 85, and appears to have a minimal internet impact.  If any.

          But I do like Fords, and once tried to join Mensa.  (They lost my qualifying paperwork, so I decided they weren’t so smart after all.)  But he’s not me.

        2. I had no idea. But yeah, using your real name in a forum becomes a lot more meaningful gesture if everyone (except me) actually knows who you are! Sorry, Chris.

          Edit: OR, if it’s not THE Chris Weitz, I still messed up by googling a name that’s uncommonly, er, common, invalidating my argument. In which case, sorry, other Chris.

          1. I always love it when people who are public figures talk about how everyone should use their real names on the internet.  If you’re a public figure, you’re trying to sell something.  And your name (or “brand”) is part of that.

            Some of us, however, really don’t have any need or desire to sell ourselves to complete strangers.  We’d prefer to be part of the crowd, not up on stage… or, we like to be picky about who we sell ourselves to.  I guess some people just can’t understand that.

            Of course, even better is when a public figure posts a lecture, on google+, about how there are absolutely no reasonable reasons for anyone to not use their real name on G+.  It’s amazing how many of these I’ve seen lately, from people who are supposed to be smart about the internet and freedom of speech.  I’m am just so amazed, shocked, and surprised that most of the public responses they get seem to agree with them.

          2. Dear Nonentity, or perhaps I should say Passiveagressivenonentity, I have a feeling your comment, while not specific, had something to do with me.  This may be my inherent solipsism.  Or, the fact that it came immediately after mine.  Anyhow.I would ask you to consider that “public figures” (and I hardly feel I qualify — sounds like you are referring to people who have statues of them in public squares) might have private opinions that they would still post under their own names.  Why? Because having been subjected to occasional but awful bouts of anonymous vitriol on comment boards, I took a decision only to post under my name.  Seemed fair and consistent with my beliefs.I would also ask you to really think about whether my name actually could sell anything.  I WISH!  Let’s be honest, there are not people dying to see the Next Chris Weitz Movie.  I am not trying to sell anything, including myself, other than my ideas, which I expect will get support inasmuch as they make logical sense.  I would reconsider your “amazement” at that.You have a rather heirarchical way of viewing the world.  I, too, like to stay in the crowd, and I do, because basically nobody gives a shit who I am, which is fine and dandy.  Consider that I may just be stating what I feel (as opposed to “lecturing” — it seems to me my opinion is taking the same outward form as anybody else on this thread) under the name that my parents gave me so that I am accountable for what I say.While I have the mic I would like to call attention to your REAAAAALLLY passive aggressive locutions.  “I guess some people just don’t understand” [X] is a way of saying “Anybody is an asshole who doesn’t understand” [X] and everybody knows it.  Grow a pair and say what you mean.  Also, you don’t “Love it” when people say something you disagree with, unless you also love various other annoyances.  Is suppose in one way you may love what you object to, inasmuch as it gives you more opportunities for passive-aggressive sniping.  Personally, your post hurt my feelings (boo hoo) and then made me feel pretty mad, and I’ve wasted much of the morning writing this response.  I am shocked and amazed at how shocked and amazed you are when people hold opinions different from yours.On the other hand, I have learned from some of the other posts, for instance the one from the lady (?) who was harassed online.  I have to reconsider based upon the actual contributions people have made to this debate, and I must say my opinion has shifted somewhat.  It strikes me this is a double-edged light sabre, and that anonymity provides cover both to oppressors and victims.  Anyway, the genie is out of the bottle, and we are pushing back and forth over the ethics of self-presentation.  Bullies will now always be able to hide; but at least the bullied can too, so long as they are willing to render themselves as faceless as the bullies.

            Anyway, I have to go now and do Public Figure kind of things, like play with my kid and skype somebody.

          3. “I have a feeling your comment, while not specific, had something to do with me.”

            That’s interesting that you feel that way.  Perhaps you should consider why you feel you are referred to by the generic class of people I was talking about.  Perhaps you should also consider the term “public figure”, which has some very specific definitions, and not write your own definition for the term in order to try to make it something you can dismiss?

            To clarify, since I have no evidence of which Chris Weitz you are (and no real desire to have any), I would only include you in that class inasmuch as you claim to be part of it.  Feel better now?

            You also seem to have taken offense to the term “lecturing”, which is strange since it was specifically talking about posts on G+.  So, unless you’ve been posting this kind of thing on G+ lately and are generally considered to be smart about the internet and freedom of speech, it’s clear your reading comprehension needs a little bit of work.

            And if you *have* been posting this kind of thing on G+, the reason for my extreme sarcasm (or “passive aggressive sniping”, in your terms) is because simply doing such a thing is incredibly stupid.  Why on earth do people post statements about the lack of reasons for using pseudonyms on a platform where anyone who has a reason for using a pseudonym is actively prevented from responding?

          4. Actually, your writing needs a bit of work. “on” google+ can also mean “on the subject of google+”.  Qv “writing on zoology”.  As this thread deals with social networks in general, your statement could easily be taken to mean “on the subject of google+”; your vagueness is the issue, not mine. As for the earlier thing you said, again, your poor writing style makes it difficult to understand. I doubt that I was exempt from your incredulity. And, I think people argue in the subject of the “real name” because they are gesturing towards, albeit hopelessly, a particular state of responsibility.  Just like one might talk, generally, about justice.

            By the way, “That’s interesting that” is poor grammar, not to mention redundant. I think you meant “it’s interesting that”.

            Sarcasm involves stating the opposite of what you mean, not feigning astonishment at a valid point, which is a cheap rhetorical trick used to pretend that you ate not responsible for the emotional charge of your own statements.

            I don’t care if you are THE nonentity either. Perish the thought that we should address the real interlocutors in this debate! (that, by the way, was an example of sarcasm).

          5. “”on” google+ can also mean “on the subject of google+””

            Granted.  Now, if that were the entirety of the sentence, you’d have a point.  It wasn’t, and in the context of the full sentence it wouldn’t make any sense to assign that meaning to that phrase.  Since this isn’t the forum to critique the writing of others, I won’t go into your definitions of “redundant” or “sarcasm”, aside from mentioning that they’re as inaccurate as your definition of “public figure”.  How about we stop making this about you and me, and get back to the subject?

            Back on topic… your lack of a real name of your opponents doesn’t mean you’re somehow not “addressing the real interlocutors”.  For all I know, you’re a highly intelligent dog who has taken on the persona of “Chris Weitz” for the purposes of this conversation.

            That’s the biggest problem with the whole “real names” thing on G+: it’s *supposedly* about people taking on responsibility, but in reality it doesn’t force that any more than handles do.  In order to *actually* make people take responsibility, you would have to somehow associate the name with the real person (perhaps with a credit card charge?), and if you’re going to do that, you might as well allow people to use handles.

            “Keeping the honest people honest” is not a valid reason for insisting that honest people hand over their identities to the world.

          6. “if you’re going to do that, you might as well allow people to use handles.”

            To expand on that… a “real name” is, in reality, no different from a handle.  In fact, in some locales, all it takes to legally change your name is to insist that people call you by a different name.  Being given a name by your parents, or having the government write it on a card, doesn’t somehow make it “real” – it’s the act of *associating* that name with the *physical person* that makes it “real”.

            If G+ associated a handle with the real person, it would make the person just as responsible for their words as associating their real name with the real person would.  And *not* associating the name (real or handle) with a real person makes the whole “real names” thing absolutely pointless for the purpose of “making things more civil”.

  39. Personally, I use my real name online these days to serve as a reminder to myself to not say the same dumbassed, cloaked-in-fake-anonymity crap I used to say the first few years I was online.  Not that I was a troll or an abusive prick (no more so than I am now, at any rate), but back then I habitually engaged in political and philosophical discussions that sometimes skated over the edge of what I feel in retrospect may have been the boundaries of societal respectability.  Nothing criminal, but you guys here know just from recent discussions about prostitution, pedophilia, and candy preferences that I sometimes try to offer perspectives from the unpopular side of the argument… and when I’d think about the crap that Bill Clinton went through regarding whether or not he inhaled marijuana smoke back in nineteen sixtywhatever, I knew I’d probably sunk any potential political career I might have been envisioning for myself before 1996, simply by what I’d posted on Usenet.

    My thinking is no less transgressive today, but I keep my self-editor engaged full-time these days, just as if I were speaking aloud in the town square.  I don’t kid myself that Big Brother is interested in everything I say and do, but I know he’s recording it all, and won’t hesitate to use it all against me if it serves his purposes to do so.  This post alone fattens my file a tad more, but my goal is to avoid having an entire drawer (or, God help me, cabinet) all to myself.

    1. That’s fine, and I’m glad it works for you, but it doesn’t necessarily work for everyone else.

      1. That’s fine, and I’m glad it works for you, but it doesn’t necessarily work for everyone else.

        Yes, I believe my subsequent posts make clear that I’m perfectly aware of that.  To wit:

        I’m incredibly lucky to be able to get away with using my real name.  Those who dare not risk it should not be penalized.

        I agree with you to a large degree about the value of completely unfettered speech.  Obviously, some of the speech is going to be less valuable than others, but that valuation is completely subjective, and therefore we are obliged to protect all of it.  By the fact of its unpopularity, unpopular speech is going to require more protection than speech which generally aligns with the more popular mindsets.

        I use my name because I can, and because for me it’s sort of an aspirational reminder that it’d be great to live in a world wherein everyone could feel free to express themselves fully and unabashedly, without fear of backlash and repercussion for the difference of their opinions.  But since we don’t live in that world, since some opinions cannot be safely expressed openly even though they might be great ideas which will enhance the quality of life for everyone on the planet, there is still a great value placed on anonymity, despite its abuses by those who use it as a cover to project bilious hatred and abuse.

        I’m on the pro-anonymity side, in short.

  40. Google’s ‘Real Name’ policy is as abusive as Netflix ‘you gotta pay us money’ policy.

    It’s the terms of service. Don’t like the terms? Don’t use the service.

  41. Wow. Tonnes of comments here, and almost none of them show any understanding what it’s like to be marginalized. 

    To all the people who said “if you don’t like the terms don’t use the service” – do you people have any idea what the word “marginalized” even means? Talk about completely missing the point.

    1. To all the people who said “if you don’t like the terms don’t use the service” – do you people have any idea what the word “marginalized” even means? Talk about completely missing the point.

      Like greebo said.

      I use my real name, and one of the reasons I can do so is because I’m not marginalized in any real way.  Okay, I’m not a churchgoer, and I didn’t go to a good school, and I grew up in a trailer park, but come on… I’m otherwise as privileged as can be, and the only thing that has kept me down in life is my own damnable laziness and insecurity.

      I completely understand why people would want to be anonymous, even when their every motivation is completely laudable, and I do not begrudge them their desire for anonymity.  And when it comes to people who were not born with the unjustifiable advantage of being a white male American, I feel Boyd is right on the money.

      I’m incredibly lucky to be able to get away with using my real name.  Those who dare not risk it should not be penalized.

      1. To all the people who said “if you don’t like the terms don’t use the service” – do you people have any idea what the word “marginalized” even means?

        They’re still on the Bs in the dictionary. They’ll get to ‘compassion’ in a couple of years and ’empathy’ in ~ 2025. It’ll take life extension technology for them to make it to ‘marginalized’.

    2. You do not have an inalienable human right to social networking software. Full stop.

      It is not a requirement for life or dignity.

    3. I know what ‘marginalized’ means- and, I totally get it. That’s because I am not in a position of privilege. Not even close.

  42. As you can probably tell by my nym, I don’t have a horse in this race, but I’m not buying this poutrage. So Google+ requires a real name, and it’s “an authoritarian assertion of power over vulnerable people”? Lady — excuse me, Danah — if social networking sites have any power over you at all, you’re the one who allowed them to. Facebook and Google+ are not necessities of life, not even close.

    You write, “what’s at stake is people’s right to protect themselves, their right to actually maintain a form of control that gives them safety. If companies like Facebook and Google are actually committed to the safety of its users, they need to take these complaints seriously.” First, people don’t have a “right” to use Facebook or Google+ or any other social networking site. Believe it or not, people don’t even have a “right” to use the Internet. Second, and more importantly, if you’ve got a reason to be that worried about your safety, there’s a really easy solution: don’t use Facebook or Google+.

  43. Real life’s real name policy is abusive. I shouldn’t have to tell the IRS, police, my employer, my creditors, etc, my real name if I don’t want to. I can think of plenty of ways that benefits me.

    1. And you don’t have to either. First don’t have a record (DNA, fingerprints, etc.), second, don’t carry ID and lastly, don’t do anything that requires you to produce any of those things. Lots of people do this every day. Granted they generally fall into two categories, homeless or highly placed gov’t spooks. While what I say is true it is admittedly a little contrarian, but I just couldn’t resist.

      My anonymity made me do it. And I do appreciate the irony of your comment.

  44. To Hanglyman: Ok, NOW it’s getting kooky.  Well, a lot of people are THE Chris Weitz, or at least I imagine they consider themselves to be.  There’s a kickboxer and there’s a very nice financial analyst who kindly forwards me the occasional stray email.  But there ain’t so many of us.  If you were a Termionator bot going through the phone book — I mean through Google+ — It wouldn;t take long to track me down like the dog I am.  I don’t think I’m all that, but ves, because I’ve made some movies and done lots of press… because of what I do for a living, yeah, I kind of ring the cherries on Google, which amount to the opposite of your theory.  No need to apologize except for googling me when you are so exercised about privacy!  I kid.  I don’t care if anybody googles me.  Except if they say I look fat in photos.

    I do love boing boing, I do, where people worry about this stuff, it’s important.  But BB often takes sides.  And I do sort of miss a time when, in theory, if you threw a rock, somebody was gonna know who did it.  Except if you were a SECRET GOVERNMENT HIT SQUAD, rapelling from BLACK HELICOPTERS.

    I know, Lumumba, Arbenz, etc.  

  45. Google’s policy on names is an abuse of power.  There is a petition with over 1,500 signatures, I would love it if you would please sign it below.

    I also have it on by blog post here with references to other articles on the matter including someone in my circle who
    just had their google+ account deleted:


  46. It took me years to sign up for Facebook, and even now I keep things very restricted (as much as is possible given their tendency to ‘share’ information.  I really don’t want to ‘catch up’ with someone I haven’t seen since grade 3 and didn’t like then.

    For a few weeks I was playing one of those silly facebook games that wants you to invite all your friends etc.  I created a false id for that game – guido porksandwich has literally thousands of friends.  An amazing number of people are willing to share an amazing amount about their lives online.

    There are people I would rather not see nor hear from again.  For that reason I see no reason to buy into the ‘real names only’ silliness. 

  47. The real names policy is precisely why I never signed up for Google+.

    Here is a short story:

    I moderate a very busy community. It sometimes attracts trolls, which I have to ban. 

    A while ago I banned a group of trolls from my community. This group already had a long history of acting out in incredibly immature ways. They were caught up in their own image of themselves as internet badasses, and would frequently cross the line while trying to prove it. For example, they once posted a woman’s photo and private information to a chan, trying to encourage other users to harass her in real life. They used racial slurs against her baby.

    This is the kind of person I’m talking about.

    When I banned them, they turned on me. They found a photo I had uploaded to my photobucket account that included my face; they photoshopped it onto a porn image and posted it around. When that didn’t get the response they wanted, they made fake screenshots of supposed private blog posts, to try to prove that I was targeting them. 

    I keep my internet presence compartmentalized. I used a pseudonym and so I believe that they never learned my real name. I believe that if they had known my real name, they would have gladly tried to send a chan after me, or sent those porn images to people I know, etc. They would have had no qualms about sharing the controversial opinions I posted in my forum with my boss, most likely embellished past truth.

    Here’s the punch line: 

    I knew the real names of these three all along. They weren’t a secret. People knowing their “real” identities never stopped them. They were proud of their behavior.

    I know plenty of women who choose gender-neutral names on certain forums because being obviously female inspires abuse. I know several women who uses pseudonyms online because they  don’t want their abusive ex to be able to google them. I know at least two women who, when Blizzard announced that it would require real names on their forums, decided that they actually could not use those forums anymore, for their own safety.

    There is no such thing as total protection, but that doesn’t make pseudonyms useless.

  48. I have also read about problems within native communities, particularly Australian Aborigines, who often use a single name (without a surname), and if they wish to use social networking communities that enforce a “real name” policy, they’re often forced to use either a made-up surname or an Anglicized version of their name.

  49. I suspect my views on intellectual property law in the U.S. (plundering the commons for the benefit of the few, sacrificing free speech for profits, stifling innovation in favor of rent-seeking, concentrating wealth, strengthening the grip of corporate power on American politics, and insane overreach in general – but OK other than that) would get me DQ’d from a lot of positions, if they were known to potential employers. 

    I’d like to be able to argue my views in public forums without having them attached to my Permanent Record.

    My name is close to unique in the U.S., maybe is unique with middle name included, although I got some lucky cover by having it being the same as a common phrase in another language.

  50. So, to sum up-

    -Discriminates against activists, people with nicknames, transgendered people, abuse victims, people with kinky sex habits, people who have real names that don’t sound real, anyone who is concerned about identity theft, Aborigines, the list goes on…

    -Getting caught violating the policy (or having a name that LOOKS like it might be violating the policy) results in a ban of your Google account. Not Google+. The whole account. No more gmail, etc. for you, even though those allowed you to be anonymous.

    -Using real names doesn’t necessarily stop people from acting like assholes.

    -Can be easily circumvented by using real-sounding names, thus becoming nothing more than a useless “no names that sound unusual” policy that stifles creativity and self-expression and produces nothing in return.

    -Is currently the only competitive alternative to Facebook, which has an abysmal record on internet privacy and also requires real names.

    -It’s free.

    -You don’t HAVE to use it.

  51. I really don’t see the racial angle here at all. Even if certain races or ethnicities tend to use pseudonyms online, that doesn’t mean Google’s “real name” policy (for any definition of “real”) is purposely discriminating against them. It’s simply Google’s attempt to prevent their service from becoming a wild west. A misguided attempt, perhaps, but one no more racially charged than any other. There are plenty of white people who like to use nicknames online, too.

    Here’s a link that explains in greater depth exactly what is forbidden and the consequences. I’m glad I read this, as I often use my last name hyphenated with that of my partner’s. While it isn’t my legal name, it is a name I use frequently (and the name I use on facebook). It looks like hyphens trigger the auto-mod function to suspend the account until it can be reviewed. So much for that idea.

  53. Can you see the real me without knowing my real name?   Pseudonyms are practical…

    “Strange people who know me

    Peeping from behind every window pane.

    The girl I used to love

    Lives in this yellow house.

    Yesterday she passed me by,

    She doesn’t want to know me now.

    Can you see the real me, can you?”
    (Apologies to Dr. Jimmy aka:”Mr. Jim”)

  54. It seems sort of ironic that posting on this thread required me to integrate my BoingBoing identity with a multi-venu Disqus identity.

  55. Surely, its better to fight to resolve hypocrisy and discrimination in society, rather than trying to hide it from view with anonymity and multiple identities?

    Granted, the past few centuries (because, really, there was little scope for privacy when most people in the world never left the village they were born in) provided lots of good reasons for presenting different ‘faces’ in different settings, but this was mostly due to the dominance of a human-unfriendly social code. It’s this that we should be trying to reform as rapidly as possible!

    1. It’s a bit hard to reform things when you can’t break into your profession because of discrimination.

      1. And its impossible to reform things when both the perpetrator and the victim can be hidden from view. Privacy cuts both ways – it helps the marginalised avoid attempts to discriminate against them, but it also aids those looking to discriminate to get away with their plans.

  56. I’m a white male with a relatively privileged background. My last name is “Hacker” (really) and if you look at my username (which is the same one I use most places I’m active on the internet) you can figure out my first name. You’d think my name being “Hacker” would help me be hard to find on the internet, of all places, but it isn’t if you include my first name (although there are a couple other people with an active internet presence with the same name).

    So instead of trying to stay anonymous, I’ve embraced it in an effort to provide a positive image of myself if someone googles me. Here’s the thing – even when I use a pseudonym (and yes I know that my pseudonym is easily tracked back to my real name since I use it everywhere) I’m a civil and polite person. Unlike a lot of people on the internet, who would have problems in real life if they revealed their true personality – the one they let loose under the veil of anonymity on the internet.

    I joined facebook in 2004… if you saw the movie, I went to one of the first 100 schools (or whatever it was) it was available for – an elite private university. Everyone used their real name because its purpose was very different at the time – it was for social networking with people you met in real life at school. Everyone put their class schedule in so you could find other people in your classes, etc.

    So, not that only white or non-marginalized people go to elite universities, but it stands to reason that once facebook opened to everyone else, the equation changed. People treated it as the cool new myspace. Those who were friends with the people who were there originally (or those who joined to look for their old high school friends or whatever) used their real names because that’s what the people they knew were doing. Others treated it like myspace and used their nicknames or whatever.

    Well, it’s a theory, anyway.

    I have no problem using my real name on Google + because again, I only post positive things because I’m a positive guy and I don’t care (in fact I would be happy) if people in real life looked me up and saw the things I say online.

    I do not endorse their current policy, however. As I said in the beginning, I’m a white male from a privileged background and I fully recognize that literally any other demographic is 100x more likely to have problems arise from using their real name online, whether they’re internet assholes or not.

  57. And somehow, no-one even thinks that the government might have something to do with this policy. I am more and more convinced that it does. It’s incredibly unpopular, and runs against many other Google policies and Google’s corporate culture as well.

    Big Brother is watching you. Have a nice day.


  58. People should refuse to work for companies that do social snooping just as they should refuse to work for companies that do drug testing.

    I have nothing to hide on either issue, but I’ll stand up for others’ privacy because I realize that I want a diverse workforce with various interests and perspectives.

    Don’t work for bullshit companies unless you are a no-talent clown who can’t do any better!

  59. I use a pseudonym anywhere on the internet, because I’m a bit paranoid. My on-line pseudonym lives an independent life, my friends know it and I’m using it since my first email in 1997.
    My own little Richard Bachman.
    It’s so associated with my persona, that it could be printed as an alias in my passport. Except it isn’t. There is no official connection to my real self and I’d like to keep it that way. If google+, facebook or any other start effectively enforcing a real name policy, I stop existing on these sites. As an active participant in whatever they are doing or testing, I think they lose more than i will.

  60. Personally, I use my real name on social networking sites for the reasons Jason Reagan and others gave above – they reflect my meatspace relationships and activities, so I want people to be able to find me under my (extremely rare) real name.  Then, on blogs and YouTube and Xbox Live, I use a variety of other usernames, depending on the site, because I don’t want people on those sites to be able to track me down in meatspace or on FB or G+.

    However, Hanglyman’s summary is just about perfect.  While I’m not quite 100% convinced about all the downsides of a real-name policy, I am certain that there are no upsides; in particular, the unenforceability and overcautiousness of it will destroy it.

    G+ should allow pseudonyms, because Google can’t stop them, and because real names are still an option for people like me.

  61. Gay kids might want to use a different name so as to avoid their parents wanting to follow/friend them. On Facebook, all of my family is networked. This is not a problem now as I’ve been openly gay for 18 years. No one’s going to be surprised that I “Like” PFLAG or that I’m an alum of an LGBT youth group. 

    But if I were 17 again and HAD to use my real name on social networking sites, that might take away from the benefit of there even being an Internet. When I first came out, of course the first thing I did was go to lesbian chat rooms and forums to find community. Now much of that community has moved to social networking sites, or has incorporated Facebook logins. I wouldn’t want my Mom or the rest of my family to be able to poke through all my gay friends and groups. So, I probably would make a second account with a pseudonym.

    Plus, there was this awkward period for a couple years after I came out where certain friends and family accepted me, and yet didn’t want me to talk about the gay too much. So, I’d go online and talk about it without having to worry about censoring myself. It played a big role in forming my identity and I think it would’ve been stifled if I had to use my real name.

    I realize that pseudonyms can still be tracked. The point is if they do track your other name down, they can’t fault you if they stumble on something they didn’t want to see. So, it’s sort of like setting personal boundaries.

  62. It isn’t “the man” (the government) that people are afraid of. It is the local gang leaders who terrorise their communities – drug gangs, or here in Northern Ireland, paramilitaries. People have been shot for insulting local hoods. Degrees of anonymity are needed to save lives, not just reputations.

  63. Okay, some observations:

    1. I live in Germany, most of my friends on Facebook use their real names. So, it’s not only a white American thing.

    2. Usage of real names was one of the main reasons for me switching to Facebook. Why?
    2a) When I want to contact someone (just send him a message) I don’t want to browse through a list of hundreds of names. I want to use the search bar and enter his name. And no, I don’t know hundreds of pseudonyms – I know their names. On StudiVZ many people used weird characters and strange pseudonyms which made more than 20-30 contacts nearly impossible to handle (without spending hours of my life coping with memorizing alternate spellings or complete fantasy names).
    2b) When I want to add someone on Facebook I can just add him. I don’t have to ask him to write down the exact spelling of whatever up-side-down variant of the reverse arabic translation of his last name he uses.

    Of course, for some people anonymity is vital. But it’s like life: There are places where noone knows who you are and you can even use a different name. And that’s cool. That’s important. But it’s important to have places too where you know who you are dealing with. Where you are yourself. It’s not like those two are mutual exclusive.

  64. It must be nice having a single pseudonym that your friends, family, and coworkers all know you by, but the government, your employer, and your enemies don’t.

    You let one person play pretend on Google+, then you have to let everyone, including the spammers, the harassers, the revenge seekers, and the policing spies. Can’t there be one place on the Internet where people can’t lie about who they are?

    1. No there can’t — it’s technologically impossible. You are going to have to send goons to people’s doors to check papers against faces before you will achieve anything like this. And even then, it’s questionable whether you will succeed in preventing people from ‘lying’ about who they are. (A name isn’t ‘who you are’, BTW.)

      Can we please have a reality-based debate instead of reality on one side and pollyanna wishful thinking on the other? e.g. “We should just have a world without discrimination: that’ll solve it.” “Everybody should just not lie to Google.”

      Wake up people, this is the real world — not The Matrix. You can’t just change the source code and alter human nature. People will discriminate. People will lie. Google cannot implement a real names policy; they can only pretend to, with no positive effects on the unscrupulous who don’t care about their online handles and plenty of negative effects on honest folk who do care.

      1. >  plenty of negative effects on honest folk who do care.

        Like… not having a Google+ profile.

        1. “Like… not having a Google+ profile.”

          It’s more important than you think. Further, why tolerate ANY negative effects of the policy when there are zero positive effects. You are defending nothing.

          What the people defending this policy want is a security blanket. It doesn’t seem to matter to them that a security blanket has no actual ability to ward off monsters under the bed.

    2. Please post your full name and address so that we can confirm you really are who you say you are.

  65. Maybe I’m late to the party, but I’ve been posting on the Internets as Drew from Zhrodague for a long time now. I have cultivated my standing in forums and other fun online deeds using this name, which is not my real birth name. I don’t do this for nefarious purposes. Even my resume, business cards, email, and authorship credits, all say Drew from Zhrodague.

    I am blocked from Google+, but not Facebook, linkedin, etc. They’ve ignored my multiple form submissions. I’d like to extend my online presence to Google+. I can only fill in the form so many times until I lose interest.

  66. I’m not clear — in what sense is a voluntary, free-to-use service, currently invite-only, currently with an invite *shortage* even *capable* of ‘ramming’ anything down anyone’s throats? It can’t ram *invites* down people’s throats fast enough.

    I mean, yes — there is the 6th amendment, whose guarantees related to social media websites clearly states that — wait, what? There isn’t that? I guess reading article after article about what people have a right to expect from FB / Twitter / G+ / etc. had me confused.

    There’s no right to wifi. There’s no right to 3G service. There’s no right to Amazon. There’s no right to charge your laptop. There’s no right to television during your flight. There can be no abuse of power in a situation where participation is free and voluntary. I literally have *all* the power, because I can leave.

    I know. I get it. I don’t understand because I’m living in the past, where stupid crap like ‘what words mean’ and ‘hyperbole’ are still notions of importance. Carry on.

    1. “A person in a wheelchair doesn’t actually have to go to a store that doesn’t have a wheelchair ramp because there are other stores with wheelchair ramps.” It’s a bad argument.

      There’s nothing novel about marginalized people requesting accessibility.

  67. Zuckerberg says:

    “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.”

    I, for one, hide behind anonymity.  It makes me feel like I can say whatever I want behind closed doors. 

    This is a *good* thing.  It’s called “free speech”, and it’s a fundamental human right.  Sorry Zuckerberg, I’m not going to “behave” for you by shutting up when I have something to say that some people don’t want to hear.

    If you don’t like it, move to a totalitarian dictatorship where everyone’s required to register with the Ministry of Truth before speaking in public.  Seriously, you jackboot-licking goons are insane.  You’re going to take away our privacy and rights because some mean people said some nasty things on the internet?  How thin is your skin?  “I believe in free speech unless it’s something I disagree with.”   That’s not how it works.

    The right of people to express their racism, hate, and prejudice is important.  It demonstrates the extent of the problems and helps better understand how to fix them.

    Trolling is important.  It exercises the parts of the brain responsible for critical thinking, preventing people from just accepting everything they’re told without question.  It hardens people against the appeals to emotion propagandists use to control public opinion.

    1. >The right of people to express their racism, hate, and prejudice is important.

      And the right of people to use shame to keep cretins like that marginalized is important, too.

      1. Not sure what you mean by that.  People have a right to post that they hate gays anonymously, and other people have a right to retort anonymously.

  68. Btw let me add an instance of anonymity being a bit of a bummer that has occurred in my life that actually affects — I know this will be shocking and amazing — other people.  The streams of racist abuse that have been heaped on trailer sites of my last movie, which was about an undocumented immigrant.  I suppose this could be regarded as simple information  — I know how many people think that Mexicans are “mud people”, say — or, it could be regarded as a chance for otherwise timorous racists to gain confidence in their spite and, say, beat up day laborers (it happens, a guy was killed in L.I. recently).

  69. Cory you should at least read the, The Offensive Internet, before you go about equating “real name” polies to “abuse of power.”

    By specfically chosing the phrase, “abuse of power” it speaks to a utopian vision of the web. So I must ask a follow on question. Who is abuseing the power and from what authority? You are selling an old innovation (the anonymous message board) at the cost of some unfortunate individuals’ reputations (think of LamdaMoo, things in many ways haven’t changed since then). Is there some manifest or “natural” law that we should all follow when joining in the online fray? Do laws of decency extend into the online world of expression?   

    In reality I think you chose that phrase, “abuse of power” as a sort of cover to counter the most compelling argument for real name policies. I would think you support the notion that an accused has the right to face their accuser? Yet, by allowing anonymity you allow someone to be abusive towards another indivdual with absolutely no consequence.

    I know 4chan is for 4chan; but, true anonymity prevents one of the most fundmental mechnisims to crisis resolution and human law, the right for the accused to face one’s accusers. I can only implore you to take another look at this idea of complete anonymity.

    I find this last thought strange, but it seems you are turning into a new sort of “netizen conservative” (at least on “online”  issues), bashing the new innovations in an attempt to keep things “the way they were” when you first became comfortable and adept with the internet as it was then.       

    1. Red herring. Cory could disavow the phrase ‘abuse of power’ and it will still have no effect on the arguments in this thread, nor would it prove that this is a good policy. That phrase is just a matter of rhetoric and purely irrelevant.

      Nobody will gain the ability to force their accuser to face them as the result of this policy.

      1. You missed my point. In such a cases where one would need to “legally compel” someone’s identity, we might just be talking about a real email address.

        Still you need to give the idea some thought. Think about it, who is “abusing” whom.  

          1. “It’s irrelevant who is abusing whom when the abuser-decloaking technology does not do what is advertised.”   
            Ergo the reason for requiring people to give their real identity/information in order to use such-and-such service. Never mind the negativity of that statement. Just becuase it doesn’t work now doesn’t mean it can’t be made to work in the future.

            It’s not like there is a singular governing force for the internet, why should we suddenly impose one now? If this is what Google wants to do, who are we to tell them no? We live in a free country right? Google made their service to their own specs, and we’re all free to think of it and express what we will.

            I am not sure where you stand on this matter, on principle are you ok with the existance of unfettered abuse in an online context? I see this as an odd dichotomy, in what essentially amounts to a condemning of hate speech in person (i.e. Westboro Baptist Church’s), and an odd insistance that anyone spouting that same hate speech online shouldn’t be required to identify themselves (think of it as taking a stand for what was actually said)

            A difficult part of the online world is that there is this mashing together of the personal and professional. The medium is, by nature, convoluted, it is one thing to stand outside an office or building and talk-down, protest, or (“verbally abuse” or “Westboro”) a co-worker/boss/company/cause, “in-person” does not equal “anonymous.” It is quite another thing to carry out such an assult from behind the protective mask of a completely anonymous online accusation.

          2. “Just becuase it doesn’t work now doesn’t mean it can’t be made to work in the future. ”

            With all due respect, I don’t think you have really thought this through in terms of the resources required to manage any verification system (they are not going to come to your door; even if they wanted to) and from the perspective of somebody trying to beat the system.

            “If this is what Google wants to do, who are we to tell them no?”

            The people.

            “We live in a free country right?”

            Where we are free to tell Google no or even stay on the service and keep arguing no and coming here to pages like this to say no.

            “Google made their service to their own specs, and we’re all free to think of it and express what we will.”

            Yes. I haven’t disputed that. You are the one arguing that people’s identities should be known so that they will feel restricted in their expression. I haven’t made any suggestion that you should restrict your expression, nor am I the one advocating for restriction of expression, between the two of us. I think there’s no question that you are the one arguing in favour of more such restrictions, directly on usernames, and indirectly on what people feel free to say without Google giving them up to the government, based on hate speech laws, etc. And in the name of controlling these few, you would argue that it is desirable to restrict every single user on a service. When in fact there is no guarantee (and plenty of reason to doubt) that such measures will even stop the hate speech in the first place.

            If there is hate speech, the user can be banned. Then their IP can be banned. They’ll use proxies, and then they’ll get caught again. And then the difficulty of maintaining an identity on the service will just get to be too much and they’ll give up. I’ve seen this happen literally hundreds of times, online. There is nothing broken about this system. Certainly nothing requiring a massive curtailing of civil rights on a Google-sized scale to avoid.

            So I think now you know where I stand on it, as you requested. Assholes exist. You know what? I meet them on the street. It doesn’t justify some shopping mall doing ID checks before they let people in on the theory that you can see their asshole status on their driver’s licence.

          3. “”If this is what Google wants to do, who are we to tell them no?”The people.”

            Easy there. No need to get snarky. I validated this and most of the other stuff you take issue with in my last post. You want to take umbrage when you really shouldn’t. I’m not angry and I have no malice for the views you hold, it would be nice if you could return the favor.

            All I am opposed to is slamming shut the door of legal recourse. America has a healthy body dissention and its not like this will suddenly disappear overnight. I am just trying to seek a middle, commonsense approach that leaves the existing mechanisims of legality open and cooperative with modern technology.  

    2. …it seems you are turning into a new sort of “netizen conservative”

      Rather ironic to term Cory a “netizen conservative” when you’re defending a networking site that says “papers, please” before it lets you continue.

      1. “Rather ironic to term Cory a “netizen conservative” when you’re defending a networking site that says “papers, please” before it lets you continue.”

        That’s hyperbolic and you know it. Posting under you own name does not in any meaningful way equal handing your “papers”  to a gestapo. Never mind the fact Google is a privately owned company. You cannot in good faith make that comparison.

        I am defending the freedom of a company to do whatever it likes within the confines of law. If google+ is to “Nazi” for you then don’t use it. Its not like I or anyone else is going to force you to. And if enough of you feel that way then of course your voice will be heard, but until then who is anyone to impose on them? We live in a free country right? 

        Whats wrong with letting google making their own mistakes?

        1. Google is a privately owned company, yes.  What’s your point?  We’re not allowed to complain about or criticize companies for their stupid choices?

          1. Google is a privately owned company, yes. What’s your point? We’re not allowed to complain about or criticize companies for their stupid choices? 

            No my point is that you only speak for yourself and not some great mass of the population. Since if you did, I’m sure you’d have lots of data to show you are indeed a leader of that group in the capacity of their poltician or lobbyist.

          2. Yeah, all of us speaking out against Google+ here are speaking for ourselves.  What’s your point?

          3. I just wanted to make sure you understand that you aren’t leveraging the “will of the people” as seems to be common when people make moralistic  arguments.

  70. You take away anonymity, you take away many peoples’ freedom to speak their minds.

    And restricting freedom; even from people who are being dicks, certainly goes against the ethos of the Internet.

    I don’t the social networking.  I came, I saw, I was hooked..then annoyed.  Then quit.  When parents join to see what you are doing, it’s time to move on: I’d rather just meet them for breakfast.  Though my old man had a point; ‘you know, if you ever do anything to make the newspapers (God forbid) what picture do you think they’ll use…the Academy graduation one or the scantily clad females and firearms one?’

    Not long after that sage advice I closed them all down.  You see, as part of my job I’m supposed to be nice.  Civil and helpful and brave.  And most of the time, while working, I can live up to that.

    But I’m not always nice.  And I’m not always happy.  Or kind.  And my Internet presence proves that.  -I do endevour to be civil however-  Still: with anonymity I can be honest.  If I had to ‘be me’ all the time? 

    I’d be forced to self-censor.  Screw that.

    1. Out of perverse interest, where do you and everyone else stand on the internet bullying, and bullying issue in general?

      1. uuuh….it’s bad?

        yes, sure: internet bullying is bad.  And in some cases people have been shamed or scarred.  And rarely, sadly. . .death has resulted.

        But ‘real’ bullying?  The meat-space, ‘I’m scared to go to school/ride the bus/leave my house because those guys are gonna get me’ kind?  I remember that.  Mostly as a spectator. (mostly)  And EVERYONE knew who the players were.  EVERYONE knew who the victims were.  And the general consensus was ‘kids will be kids’ from the adults and ‘better them than me’ from the chilluns.

        It seems that mindset is changing these days, and I suppose that’s a good thing.  But it can be a mean fucking world out there, and everyone has to learn to survive on their own sometime.

        Trying to stop ‘net anonymity to protect the meek and expose the cruel Will Not Work.  At least; not all the time it won’t.  And by doing so, important freedoms for many would be lost.

        I’m again’ it.

    2. Exactly.  With “real name” policies, we have to pretend to be someone we’re not.  On Myspace, I could speak my mind and make friends under a pseudonym without fear that someone would find me.  I am on Facebook because it’s a necessity, but only reluctantly.  I can’t say anything on there without my ultra-conservative family seeing, so I say nothing at all.  Because it’s so essential to social interaction, and I don’t participate, I’m falling off everyone’s radar.  I’d love to ditch it and move onto the next best thing, but Google has demonstrated they’re just as hostile to privacy, if not more.  So I won’t use that either.  I’d like a place I can express myself without my boss or mom or government seeing.  Is that so much to ask?

      1. Exactly.  With “real name” policies, we have to pretend to be someone we’re not.

        That’s part of its allure to the proponents.  It’s creepy to realize just how many people exhibit their true cruelty and barbaric nature when given a small dose of anonymity.  The Klan may not admit it, but without those hoods to hide behind, a lot of their membership might not be so emboldened to carry out their most nefarious acts, out there where everyone can see and identify them.  Anyway, the argument is always that when everyone is identifiable, it serves as a civilizing mechanism, wherein everyone is obliged to stand behind and take responsibility for their opinions.

        Some people might be put off by the idea that “good manners” is a falsehood that belies our own free-tongued, opinionated nature, but that’s not the compelling argument in favor of anonymity as far as I’m concerned.  I don’t consider it a betrayal of self to keep my low opinion of other people to myself when it would serve no purpose but my own amusement to express it.  The safety and privacy issues are compelling enough without having to assert my own inalienable right to insult the world whenever I feel like it.

        But since I don’t really believe in putting arbitrary limits on freedom of speech, then the right to be an abusive dick on the internet ends up being as protected (in my mind) as the right to be a political dissident, a whistleblower, or a victim seeking justice.  Anonymity benefits all of them, and I’m not interested in figuring out who deserves it and who does not.  Since it’s obvious to me that it should be available to some of them, it follows that it should be available to all.

        1. Being able to criticize the Klan without worrying about your house being burned down is an argument *for* anonymity, not against.

          I hate all that fake plastic personality bullshit.  I like that the Internet gives people an opportunity to show their true colors, no matter how ugly, and for others to shame or attack them in response, all without worrying about personal real life violent retaliation.  A meeting not of bodies, but of minds, and a public exposure of the ugly things that go on inside them.  Hanging out with the people I do, watching television, etc, you might be tempted to think that racism is an obsolete problem, and that people complaining about being discriminated against are just attention whores or making excuses for bad behavior.  But a quick read through the comments on a YouTube video will set you straight, showing that racism is alive and well in the minds, if not the spoken words, of the people around you.

          Maybe a free exchange of ideas will actually help discredit the bad ones.  I used to belong to a somewhat cult-like religion, and when you’re isolated and surrounded by people who think like you, it’s easy to accept the things they believe without question.  When you get online for the first time and start to read the very different worldviews of others, you start to realize that you might be wrong.

      2. Exactly. With “real name” policies, we have to pretend to be someone we’re not.

        You’re crossing into meta-territory here. And I think you aren’t grasping all the mechanics at work. It’s not that you are “pretending” it is the fact that you cannot express “yourself” wholely over the internet or anyother medium. Whatever the medium you work with you can only produce a derivitive of yourself. “Avatar” is probably the most common understanding of this.

        No one piece of a person’s Avatar can contain the expresser’s (artist’s if you will) soul. There are concious choices one makes  to control the public presentation. Everyone does this, from the most virulent troll to the best writer, and it is false to refer to this as “pretend” it is a very REAL part of life. 

        I think the internet, especially this textual side of it, is very reminisent of a hyper-speed periodical culture. And it is with this in mind that I like the idea of vetting (whether though peer review or other means) your sources. I have seen countless articles here discussing the idea’s related to peer review in science periodicals. Yet at the same time here there is this great skittishness when if comes to any other type of expression. It is worth noting that anonymity in peer review is not an all-or-nothing contention, but one that is used selectively.

        I don’t care for extremes or black-and-white contentions and I think the “complete anonymity” argument brings with it a large downside with a minimal payoff. What good are anonymous political players? Isn’t it the contention on this site that opaque poltical clout (lack of transparancy) is bad?!?! Well complete anonymity equals no-transparancy. So whats worth more to you, complete transparancy or maintaining an off balance position that insists everyone EXCEPT you should practice “full disclosure”?

        1. Anonymous political players could be pretty great.  No longer would voting be based on physical appearance or sex scandals, it could be based purely on the ideas and words of the person campaigning.

          1. Anonymous political players could be pretty great

            You can’t vote for what you can’t see. You seem to be missing the trust angle. Why trust anyone who doesn’t trust you enough to grace you with their presence.  

          2. I certainly can vote for what I can’t see.  There are plenty of pseudonymous people I trust more than I trust real-life politicians.

          3. There are plenty of pseudonymous people I trust more than I trust real-life politicians.

            It’s certainly a kick to imagine voting someone like Banksy or Murray Langston into political office.  You may have read Heinlein’s The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, wherein a political figure that serves as the voice and figurehead of revolution uses the pseudonym “Adam Selene,” and occasionally broadcasts  screeds and messages to the lunar revolutionaries.  During a landmark battle, he’s declared KIA, and becomes a martyr for the movement, despite nobody ever having seen him in person.  Since the book is narrated from the perspective of the core group of revolutionaries, we know from the outset that “Adam Selene” is a wholly fictitious (even for the fictional characters in the book) computer program, and was created to give the downtrodden people of the Moon a figurehead to look up to, and by whom to be inspired to revolt against their tyrannical oppressors.

            We’re meant to identify with the revolutionaries, and even though they play the masses for suckers, the ruse comes across as more of a clever gambit than a fundamentally dishonest cheat.  Still: Selene initially explains away his pseudonymous and secretive nature by describing how much his life is endangered by being such a political firebrand.  In the end, his “sacrifice” actually does serve the longterm good of the Lunar people (though not without considerable sacrifice and bloodshed), but one has to wonder how badly things might have turned out if most of the revolutionaries had discovered that their martyr was nothing more than a cleverly voiced computer program.

            I don’t mind learning from anonymous sources, nor do I begrudge them friendship, respectful treatment, or any other form of respect I might extend to someone with whom I am not wholly familiar when it comes to dialogue and discourse.  But their anonymity is a limiting factor.  It prevents most forms of verification, and nearly all forms of assuming responsibility and/or liability for what one says.  Just as some people are in such a position as to make it impossible for them to be completely forthright and 100% honest about the information they possess without resorting to anonymity, so is it that much easier to be dishonest and misleading when nobody discover from whom flows the disinformation.

            It’s important to stress that this is Google+ we’re discussing in large part; Randi Zuckerberg’s idea is the really stupid one.  I think it’s misguided for Google to insist on a “real names” policy for all the reasons listed above, but it would indeed be a whole lot worse if there were no avenues for anonymous voices anywhere on the internet.  Still, I’m going to demand as much information as I deem pertinent on my political figures.  I don’t care where they sleep, who they bed, if they pray, or what they like to drink… but I do care who they are, how they vote, and whose payroll they’re on.

  71. Please repeat until you understand: correlation is not causation. There is no proof – only assertion – that people who are not white-college-educated folks use pseudonyms because they feel that using their real name would be “authoritarian assertion of power” over themselves, one of the “vulnerable people”. First one would have to establish whether there’s a real statistically valid difference in real name use between the two groups (white-college-educated and not white-college-educated). If there is, then to derive any meaning from that statistic, one would actually have to *ask* a statistically valid number of white and non-white people with and without college educations why they chose to use either their real name or a pseudonym on social media.

    Until that is done, you’ve just got anecdotal piece of data, and a rabidly left-wing screed, nothing more.

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