Over at Slate, Farhad Manjoo puts the case to do away with anonymous comments on the internet. His argument is essentially that there will be a massive increase in the quality of comments if people are forced to take responsibility for them. Read the entire post, because he develops this theme in quite impressive detail.
That doesn't mean I agree - at the end of the day, I do think there's a place for anonymous interaction. Many people would be deterred from putting unpopular opinions, or even discussing unpopular subjects, if their participation was available to be searched online by actual and potential employers, family members, potential lovers, educational institutions, and who knows who else. While it might work for Slate to insist on people revealing their real identities, it's not something that I'd want to insist on here, or something that I'd like to see insisted upon routinely by blogs, message boards, and the like.
Nonetheless, anonymity can be abused. We saw plenty of that in recent times, with the Tom Johnson/You're Not Helping saga, and it happens every day. Even without blatant abuses such as sockpuppeting, identity faking, and the like, we often see people behaving with a degree of hostility and anger that goes far beyond satire and snark. Personally, I'd rather, where convenient, comment under my own name. I think it good to take public responsibility for my words. That might not apply to all possible topics in all possible forums - even over at Wikipedia I don't normally use my real name if I edit an article (though in this case it's not hard to track me down).
I do, of course, appreciate that I'm far better placed than most people to get by without the need for anonymity. Within quite broad limits I can get away with saying very controversial things without suffering for it - this is almost expected of someone whose public presence is as a writer and a philosopher - and in recent years I've reached a point where, although I'm far from rich, I can live a comfortable life with some little luxuries without having to worry about falling into poverty. To be sure, I could do with funding for purposes such as travel, to get out my message, blah, blah ... but I don't need to worry about actual bosses and employers. Not many people are in that position unless they're fully retired.
I totally understand that commenters here, or many of them, really do need anonymity/pseudonymity as a protection. But it's also true that anonymous commenting can have a downside, even if it's not actually abused.
What do you think of Manjoo's piece, and this issue more generally?
H/T Tauriq Moosa.