Facebook Executive Calls for End to Internet Anonymity

by Sam Dean - Aug. 03, 2011Comments (1)

Recently, anonymity on the Internet has been the subject of much debate, and much of it is centered on how social networks treat anonymity. For example, Google has a "real names" policy that applies to its new Google+ social networking service, which has outraged some privacy advocates (many of whom are already concerned about how much personal data Google collects). And now, Facebook’s Marketing Director, Randi Zuckerberg, has stated that anonymity on the Internet "must go away"--a highly questionable thing to say given Facebook's track record at respecting user privacy.

Specifically, Zuckerburg said the following at a panel discussion, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

"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."

While it's true that people are more circumspect when using their real names, and a rule against anonymity would seem at first glance to be an "open" principle, there are many reasons why anonymity on the Internet must be preserved. For example, in our post "There Are Ever More Ways to Browse With No Name," you can find many free tools for browsing completely anonymously online, which are very valuable to people who live in parts of the world were Internet censorship runs rampant. (Tor, shown above, is just one example.) How would some of the anonymous browsing users in China, who face jail time or worse for expressing their opinions online if identified, feel if they couldn't find ways to stay anonymous?

In fact, the Electronic Frontier Foundation takes this argument further, focusing on the important rights of "dissenters" in general:

"The problem with the civility argument is that it doesn’t tell the whole story. Not only is uncivil discourse alive and well in venues with real name policies (such as Facebook), the argument willfully ignores the many voices that are silenced in the name of shutting up trolls: activists living under authoritarian regimes, whistleblowers, victims of violence, abuse, and harassment, and anyone with an unpopular or dissenting point of view that can legitimately expect to be imprisoned, beat-up, or harassed for speaking out."

Of all companies on the planet, Google and Facebook regularly get more criticism for privacy invasion than any others. Beyond all other issues, it doesn't seem like a good idea for a Facebook executive to argue that you should be stripped of your anonymity.

Handrus Nogueira uses OStatic to support Open Source, ask and answer questions and stay informed. What about you?


Disallowing anonymity is a means of control. The world is full of crazies. I've received death threats and threats of intimidation for free speech that some adherents of a "peaceful religion" (and supremacist political ideology as well) did not like. And if you don't want a bunch of thugs bused in to protest in front of your home shouting "This is what democracy looks like" or other such nonsense, because you don't agree with their mob mentality or appreciate their thuggery, you stay anonymous.

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