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Minxminnie

Anonymity

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I have taken a lot of interest in the recent furore over online abuse and cyberbullying, given my job (I'm a teacher).

I have noticed that many commentators are saying that part of the solution is not to allow people to "hide" behind pseudonyms, and force them to put their real name to their comments.

Obviously, BGO is a kind and supportive place, but many of us do use pseudonyms, and, as far as I know, none of use our full names.

I just wondered how we feel about this. Is there a need to be anonymous, or is there a benefit to it? If you were obliged to post using your full name, would it change anything?

 

I think it would. I sometimes post experiences which would reveal personal details about other people if my name was there: for example, my recent comment about one of my pupils who experienced depression. But maybe I just wouldn't post those things. I have a gut feeling that I like being anonymous, even for ordinary book posts, but I can't figure out quite why.

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Don't think it would bother me not being anonymous as I'm sure anyone who is on facebook knows who I am already and I don't think there is another Ontarian on this forum, however, I guess other people can have a look on the forum without joining - is that the case?

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As momac says, some of us who have been using BGO on Facebook now know some members names.  For me that has been an interesting experience - knowing people's real names.  Personally, I don't have a problem using my name rather than a user name - in fact at times I wish I had not chosen my user name.  However, I can see that it might temper some comments, such as the one you mention Minxminnie.  Having said all that, I am happy wish what we currently have anyway.

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I like being anonymous, as those on Facebook know I don't use my real name there either. I don't have a suspicious reason for that and I think it's clear from both here and FB that I'm not posting vicious comments and hiding behind my anonymity. I prefer to be anonymous - I have a really unusual first name and would spend all my time, as I do IRL , explaining it - to protect my own privacy and those, as MM pointed out, that may be identified should I post under my real name. If real names only were adopted I'd cancel my membership.

 

I don't think, as far as trolls and cyber bullies are concerned, that forcing them to post using their real names would make a difference but I do think that more details need to be taken at registration to the site to ensure that they can be traced should the need occur and much better monitoring of said sites should done.

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Pseudonyms and the associated anonymity allow people to interact with strangers in a way that they might only do with real friends in RL. In a way the degree of anonymity can vary. Many on BGO know each other in RL or have gotten to know who members are via other places like facebook. But, because most people use a pseudonym, we respect that and treat people's posts with a sort of distant respect.

 

Personally, I treat BGO members as proxy representatives of the real people and this allows a distance and respect that means differences of opinion (or even outright arguments) are not taken personally. I also allow myself a certain freedom to not be consistent, and to behave differently to how I would to people who know me... and differently to how I do on facebook.

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I don't think I am particularly anonymous at all and have always used my real first name here. I am easy to find on FB too especially with the new BGO FB page. I like to think that I behave online as I do in real life. Maybe I don't but as far as I know, I am the same person online or not.

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for bgo, i'd have no problem to unwrap the anonymity of my posting as there really isn't anything here that i would be uneasy about others knowing about me personally.

Edited by iff

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The only thing I've ever wondered about as far as people knowing who you are is why I had two people contact me on Skype, people I had never heard of and one youngish black man asked in a typed message "how are you doing today Mum?"  I found that a bit disconcerting as the only time I sign myself as Mum is when I e-mail our children.  Obviously I didn't respond and there has been no further communication but this social networking thing has its drawbacks I think.   :(

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If I want to discuss or pursue controversial subjects I do so in a different social media and use my real name to support the comment as being genuine. I don't think my views on those sort of subjects are relevant to BGO whose members are non controversial and where the discussion is aimed at people's enjoyment of reading and sharing discussions on books. This is a different side of me and I do not particularly want the two to be associated, so prefer anonymity.

 

Last year I had my email identity stolen together with all my address book. This had not only friends and family but a very large number of addresses for a society as I was a voluntary secretary. All these people received an email asking for money to ransom my family and I from kidnappers in the Phillipines. I closed the account as soon as it happened and fortunately, with help, I was able to contact everyone through a different email address to assure them it was rubbish. Most people had guessed, but some older people had been alarmed. The repercussions were huge, I had to change email addresses and pins on all accounts etc etc. everything online. I was terribly upset, that others had received this horrible email and and felt that my private life had been invaded. It took a while to be able to see it as just one of those things and it helped to hear that other people had similar experiences.

 

I still have no idea how it happened, and never will, but since then I am very careful about using my real name and even use a fictional email address name, and no longer keep a huge contact list.

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I first started using a pseudonym many moons ago when I worked for a political party. It was important to be able to keep my personal views separate from views I put forward in my political role. Since then, I have seen advantages in keeping separate aspects of my internet life separate from one another. This is due in part to my wish to keep my private life separate from my work life, but also to allow me to express different parts of my personality in different arenas. And given that your history stays available, the kind of inconsistencies that are part and parcel of everyday life can shine out like a beacon on line. And remember, in real life when you meet someone, you are in much more control of the information you give out to people you meet and decide whether and when to fill people in on your background or wider life. 

 

Most regulars on BGO know my real name or could work it out quite easily. But I still value the nuanced difference between MisterHobgoblin and my real life identity.

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I belong to a French group for ex-pats which is the only one I've ever been on that doesn't degenerate into slanging matches on a regular basis and I can't help feeling it's because the site owners insist on real names and real photographs - which isn't to say that you can't sign up under a false name etc and indulge in some trolling but even so manners do seem to be better when you're replying to a "real face" and not Shrek's cat or an abstract pattern.

 

When I joined BGO I still had books in print and would never have felt free to say what I think about books in case some other author with a lot more clout than me got the hump over something I wrote and organised a trashing campaign on Amazon.  I don't think I've ever been really rude about books on this site apart from Paulo Coehlo and I'm sure he sells far too many books to bother trawling the net to search out those who've dissed him but even so having a slight pseudonym gave me a freedom to express myself that I wouldn't have had otherwise.

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I like a little anonimity but then I'm a very private person in the physical world too.  That said, after the first big BGO crash I asked Bill to change my username to Jen because the one I used previously tended to make people assume I was a man and that sometimes got confusing. 

 

I don't think, as far as trolls and cyber bullies are concerned, that forcing them to post using their real names would make a difference but I do think that more details need to be taken at registration to the site to ensure that they can be traced should the need occur and much better monitoring of said sites should done.

 

Cyber-bullying is a complicated issue and I think education and monitoring by schools and parents is the best that anyone can expect to realistically achieve.  People will hide behind pseudonyms but as Luna says, the site should have enough details to deal with issues arising.  One can't expect the website owner or ISP to police the issue.

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Since then, I have seen advantages in keeping separate aspects of my internet life separate from one another. This is due in part to my wish to keep my private life separate from my work life, but also to allow me to express different parts of my personality in different arenas. And given that your history stays available, the kind of inconsistencies that are part and parcel of everyday life can shine out like a beacon on line. And remember, in real life when you meet someone, you are in much more control of the information you give out to people you meet and decide whether and when to fill people in on your background or wider life. 

 

I think this is very much how I feel.

 

I like the fact that I can come onto BGO and express opinions or experiences which I might not feel free to talk about in real life. This might be a negative opinion about a book which I have to "sell" to my pupils, or a frustration about something or someone. Like Jen, I'm a very private person, and in real life I often keep my feelings to myself. Far from anonymity allowing me to behave badly, it actually frees me up to be myself at times.

 

I'm not on Facebook for that reason - that it asks you to present one version of yourself for all to see. I have known this to cause real problems, when people disclose things on Facebook without telling people who are affected, or when they express an opinion which hurts someone. In real life, you wouldn't dream of telling that person that their wedding was really boring, for example. But it's good to get it off your chest somewhere - that's where usernames can be handy, I think, and thoughtless posting in your real name can be risky.

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I like creating personas for myself.  It brings out the actor in me. (In my 20s, it was stage acting that helped me overcome a very restricting stutter.) I feel much more natural, and relaxed.

Not long ago I was asked if I had ever "googled" my name.  It had never occurred to me, so I did it.  A good job, too, because now I know what people will get - an American lady who can give you a verrrrry good time!  :yikes: And unfortunately, it is only her name that the search brings up.  Maybe someday I'll have to put my own name out there, just so searchers have a choice of whom to contact.

I won't touch FB; but I am signed up with a couple of other social sites that are not half as good as BGO. :clap:

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Not long ago I was asked if I had ever "googled" my name.  It had never occurred to me, so I did it.  A good job, too, because now I know what people will get - an American lady who can give you a verrrrry good time!  :yikes:

:lmao:

 

I have the opposite problem: my surname is relatively uncommon, and along with my first name even more so. Googling me gets me, very easily, as I have a few things online in my professional role.

 

I posted for a while on a photography forum, using a username though my real name was identifiable from the email address in my profile. It was pretty a international community, but someone replied to a post of mine (identifying myself as a teacher) and included a video to illustrate his point, which, coincidentally, came from my old school. Of course I replied, how weird, that's my old school!

Within minutes he came back asking if I knew his niece who is a pupil at the school where I teach. He had got my name from my profile, googled me and found out where I worked. He meant no harm, but I was spooked and didn't want my professional identity flagged up on a site I used for social purposes.

 

I do link to my Flickr site on BGO,which gives my real name (they used to put your username then changed to your real name). So, anyone in BGO could get my name very easily, but the point, for me, is that no-one googling me will find my BGO posts. So I can ask really stupid questions about books on BGO without my pupils or their parents thinking I should know that. Or, when the inspectors come, as they no doubt will soon, I can vent to the good people of BGO without any danger of the inspectors reading what I say, were they inclined to do a wee Google as they sit in their hotel room of an evening. I can do the same talking to my friends on the phone - but couldn't risk doing it online using my real name.

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This is a really interesting thread.  I can't help wishing that more people put the amount of thought into their online activities that the posters here have.

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Well, if there were a collective decision to abandon anonymity on BGO, BGO would be saying goodbye to me.  I agree with all the comments above about retaining anonymity, but in addition we've certainly had trolls here in the past and also others who have been highly disgruntled with my preventing them selling their wares, leading to some pretty abusive PMs.  Running my own business, which relies massively on its internet presence, I would run the considerable risk of serious damage from someone wanting to get revenge or have more 'fun' as a troll.  It's my living and that's not a risk I'm taking.

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Well, if there were a collective decision to abandon anonymity on BGO, BGO would be saying goodbye to me.

 

That sounds a bit melodramatic in retrospect - didn't mean it to come across that way. 

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Since this thread is more idle speculation rather than discussion of a policy change, I've moved the thread to Anything About Books. I hope this doesn't cause any confusion.

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There are two strands to anonymity on the internet in the context of discussion forums, whether ones like this, facebook groups, or whatever.

 

The first is identification of posters by visitors, so anyone visiting the site can see that a Jane Smith wrote a particular post.  I don't think this is necessary or of any benefit, there is no need for anyone to be able to track everything another person writes on the internet and I can't see this ever being legislated for - enforcing it would be near impossible anyway.

 

The second is the ability to identify posters by the site owners or ultimately the police or third parties that wish to litigate.  This I am in favour of, because of the way defamation law in the UK is written.  At present in addition to the author of a defamatory post, the website hosting a defamatory post is liable as the publisher, even though the website owner did not write it or even agree with it.  The site owner will be identifiable and potentially an easier target for the litigant than the original author (tracking them down might require one or more applications to the court for Norwich Pharmacal orders, if it's possible at all).  I would like the law changed to remove publisher liability for user generated content, but at the same time to require the user to be indentifiable to the site owner (but not necessarily to visitors) so that they can be made to stand by their words in a court, if necessary.  I stand by my words, I expect others to do the same.

 

(That's the short version, the long version includes a discussion on the merits and problems of the "notify and take down" system that arose out of Godfrey vs Demon Internet)

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from an irish times article on the subject:

 

When I was editor of thejournal.ie from 2010 to 2011, I discovered that there were certain hot-button topics guaranteed to bring out the worst in (often anonymous) commenters. Travellers was one. Feminism another. Immigration. Transgender issues. RTÉ presenters’ salaries. There were days when my fingers burned from deleting comments; days when I left the office feeling utterly dispirited by the cruelty I had seen commenters direct at one another and at journalists.

 

Acres of column inches have been devoted to answering the question of why we behave so badly online. I suspect many people do it just because they can.

 

Every time this topic comes up, it prompts protest that anonymous online commentary is a cornerstone of free speech. Sorry, but that’s just tosh – posting anonymous comments on the website of a private, commercial media organisation is not your constitutional right.

http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/goodbye-anonymity-let-s-unmask-the-internet-1.1507267

 

ms. o'connell includes transgender issues being one of the issues that brings out the worst in people under the veil of anonymity. (which is true. elsewhere i see some vile transphobic posting)

 

but there is also a benefit of anonymity in relation to transgender people in regards of being part of an online community and interacted with other people who fall outside of the gender binary, helping them to communicate and understand and find people who they can relate especially if they are young and scared to come out to their family that they are transgender. it can be difficult for transpeople to come out and corresponding in relation to this with others can be very helpful in taking the brave first step to coming out to friends and family but for the person to do so without anonymity would be putting them in a precarious situation.

Edited by iff

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I don't mind people being anonymous online (like me) i.e. having a login 'name'  and posting as that persona but I think that in light of recent teen suicides as a result of social media and trolling in general that internet sites should demand that enrolment itself not be anonymous.  Naturally that would require policing - as would monitoring the relevant sites - which would cost money and thus isn't necessarily going to happen. 

 

Just as well BGO has a GREAT set of mods/admin that we can rely on to volunteer their services. :flowers:

Edited by lunababymoonchild

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