The conflict between anonymity and accountability

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I'm going to write about something different this time. Generally I've only used this blog to write small reminder type posts for myself about technical stuff, but I've been wanting to reflect on some other things for a while too. Disclaimer: my opinions and thoughts are not set in stone and are for this moment.

The past few days, I've been following Hacker News and reading stories about sexism in the tech industry. There was the case of a previous google employee talking about her harassment at Google and of course, the trolls at 4chan (most likely) have already started to harass her by sending rape threats and publicly doxing her. This also reminds me of the, probably still ongoing, #GamerGate controversy and the large amount of harassment faced by the feminists.

This post is not about sexism or feminism per se. I'm thinking about anonymity and accountability. I'm wondering, is online harassment even possible to prevent when we can anonymously post whatever we want?

Anonymity

I like anonymity. I feel it is a cornerstone of a working democracy. We need it to prevent censorship and allow free speech.

From a discussion standpoint it's wonderful, because an anonymous identity will have to be more logical in its statements. There is no bias by the participants gender, race or authority. Facts need to be verified.

The ugly side of anonymity is of course the lack of accountability. Anonymity will hide criminals from prosecution. Anonymity will allow you to publish any message.

As it stands now, I think there will always be some form of anonymity on the internet. We also have our own thoughts

Social Media

We live in a society where social media is our outward facing image towards the world. It works as our own little PR agency, which we can use to promote ourselves.

We willingly share large amounts of information about ourselves. How we look, where we live, who we love, what we do. It makes us vulnerable.

Accusations and Threats

So, going back to the beginning of the topic where I discussed online harassment. Generally we see harassment in the form of threats.

Is it possible to prevent threats being made by an anonymous identity? No.

Another interesting question is if it's possible to verify accusations.