Five reasons why online anonymity is here to stay, and why it’s (mostly) good

I’ve written about this before, but in the wake of the appalling racist abuse faced by members of the England men’s football team, there has been yet another (well-meaning) call to “ban anonymity on the internet”, and variations on this theme. I understand why this is so popular. Anonymity can be intoxicating and just as some people get happy-drunk, others start swinging fists. In just the same way, this Gyges effect can breed some of the worst kinds of behaviour online. People become unidentifiable and next thing they’re murdering the king and seizing the crown, or pouring out racist tirades on Twitter. A knee-jerk reaction, then, is to remove the invisibility ring from their finger. Snatch away the mask. Pull up the rock. Expose the creeps hiding in the darkness beneath.

But removing anonymity from the internet will not be the glorious utopia that people imagine. In fact, it would actually be quite the opposite. For many, it would be a dangerous, living nightmare, fraught with appalling human rights atrocities and daily fear of persecution. Here are just five reasons why: Continue reading