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Is the problem Anonymity? Social networks and bad practices

On a couple of times we have been told to act responsibly on and off the Internet. By that we are advised to keep our selves secure and at the same time meant to maintain security of other people who rub with and tag along us on the social networks.

By our culture and upbringing we are always asked to act our age and respect other people's opinions and choices. We are not allowed to insult people for the choices they take provided they are not against social norms and traditions. We must respect other people's tribes, culture, religion to mention but a few.

On a number of occasions we have seen people who use the social networks to attack and mock other social groups like religious sects, tribes and origins. With out mentioning examples, which might bring back bad memories for those reading this blog, we have at one moment been angered by some people's actions and comments on the Internet.

We all know that some of these acts are illegal in some countries and totally unacceptable in others. All these vices are committed with the cover of anonymity. Could this be the cause? Could removal of anonymity on the Internet solve the problem?

I am a champion of free, unrestricted and open Internet, an Internet that doesn't threaten the users and an Internet where some one's identity is not followed for what ever she/he does online. I however believe that with this freedom we should observe some degree of discipline and respect the freedom we are given so as not to harm other people. The question every one is asking now is how will this freedom be maintained amidst discipline on the Internet. This is the same question am asking ma self, so don't expect an answer from me. At least not now.

Before we search for an answer, lets look at what has been transpiring in the social media circles of recent on matters regarding the question.

Not long ago, twitter was requested to unmask racist tweeters, a move it was objecting. Google has on a number of times been request to put down some content and also requested to reveal the identity of anonymous bloggers in the Australian defamat....

Whether this is called for or not is a matter of another discussion. All we are sure of, there is restriction of freedom of expression but at the same time misused free expression is hurting some people.

I am of the view that we should be responsible enough to stand up to our actions onlines if we seriously want to enjoy the freedom of expression we are craving for in the Internet struggles. As google puts it straight that; like other law abiding companies, they will comply with valid legal processes, I think we should respect the law and other people as we consume the freedoms of Internet.

Ofcourse this is my thinking and this is the Internet in my own making, a stand that is open to criticism and for that matter, I welcome those bashings and comments.

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Comment by Mayengo Tom Kizito on January 17, 2013 at 5:00pm

From your contribution Stephanie and from my thinking, I would advocate for an Internet that provides for freedom of expression and anonymity but still allow or give provisions in case some one commits a grave crime, the right to anonymity be stripped. Still this definition of crime might differ depending on different countries but cooperation between countries can still circumnavigate this.

May be with this, we can think of an Internet that is used by sober people.

Comment by Stephanie on January 17, 2013 at 3:45pm

Personally, I see no problem with unmasking a perpetrator of a grave crime if the request is truly legitimate. My concern is with abuses of such requests, or in cases which breach a person's fundamental rights (ex free speech). Some cases are more straightforward than others: cases of child abuse, identity theft, cyberterrorism etc. In other cases it is a fine line, Tom, riddled with loopholes, legal lacunae, and lack of respect for fundamental rights.

Comment by Mayengo Tom Kizito on January 16, 2013 at 11:39am

Thank you Stephanie, In the same line, would you support companies (Internet providers) who when asked to unmask a user, go ahead and do so? The two examples in the text above seem to end up differently. Google seems to be willing to unmask any one provided they are petitioned with a legitimate request yet twitter seemed to trash the request. Should we then allow  security operatives to knock on the doors of Internet providers and ask for the identity and ofcourse location information of an individual if it is proved that the person posted illegal substance?

Comment by Stephanie on January 16, 2013 at 11:16am

Tom, I'm not sure anonymity is the problem. People know that if someone (including the authorities) wants to uncover the identity of an anonymous user, some companies are releasing the information. So in many cases, a user can be anonymous only up to a certain extent. At the same time, there are many users who post hate speech (to take one example) without trying to hide their identity, ie, using their real names. I think it has to do with a widespread erroneous mentality that one can say anything on the Internet without fear of prosecution ('I am too far away geographically for them to reach me'). Of course, anonymity can add to the problem in the sense that it poses a bigger burden on the authorities to unmask perpetrators. However, I wouldn't say that the incidence of crime is higher only because of the possibility of hiding behind an anonymous mask. I wonder what the others think...

Comment by Aida Mahmutović on January 15, 2013 at 10:38pm

As I just posted - "Hate speech is not free speech"

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