Drake Bennett writes:
…. The real-name/drag-queen dust-up is one more example of the tension between accountability and anonymity online—a tension that forms the backdrop of the debate over search engine results and the “right to be forgotten.” A new proposal from the cyberlaw scholar Danielle Citron in her new book, Hate Crimes in Cyberspace, suggests how sites dedicated to protecting its users’ identities could compromise, as well, and mitigate the excesses of anonymity. As Citron puts it, social networks could treat anonymity as “a privilege that can be lost.” When a user violates a site’s terms-of-service agreement by writing or passing along cruel, offensive, or harassing content, administrators, rather than banning the user from the site, could simply require that they reveal their identity, making them stand behind their words. It wouldn’t take away the platform, just the mask. (Facebook recently put in place this policy for group pages that don’t disclose users’ identities.)
The policy wouldn’t make much difference in the really hard cases—a dissident in an authoritarian regime whose anonymity is the only thing protecting him from arrest and incarceration. But applied carefully to those who are using anonymity to indulge sadistic tendencies that they’d be ashamed to have their names attached to, it’s a promising idea.
Read more on Bloomberg.
Yeah, it’s promising, all right – promising to erode protected speech as people overreact to unkind speech. As much as I respect Danielle Citron, I think a real name policy is awful.