The Right to Remain Anonymous?

With a digital world we privilege boundless amounts of information. We live in a world filled with unlimited access, and we have declared ourselves rightfully entitled to it. Technology is advancing rapidly showing no signs of slowing. Will we be able to keep up with development? Progress is uncharted; thereby requiring rules to be created parallel to progress, in order to avoid hindering it.

The online domain is a mysterious one. You create the persona you want to create. The digital veil masks reality allowing privacy and publicity to remain in the hands of the user. Everything shared, including our identity, has solely been left to our own discretion. Yet, a new conversation has been brought forward and it directly concerns our digital identities…or our lack there of. This debate has the potential to change the identity of the Internet in fundamental ways. These changes wouldn’t merely impact the identity of digital world; it would impact OUR identities within it.

In the United States, we have certain unalienable rights including Freedom of Speech. But considering our transition towards digital communication, do we also have the Right to be Anonymous? We are fortunate enough to have the political right to express our opinions and beliefs freely, but with that, do we also have the right to choose the privacy level of the channel with which we communicate those beliefs?

The original intention behind Freedom of Speech was not to encourage citizens to say whatever they wanted behind closed doors. Rather it was to enable citizens to say, “I don’t believe in that” and be protected. But if you want to state your opinion, should you also put your name behind it? Without your name, does your opinion mean anything? Should freedom of expression be limited to those bold enough to stand up for what they say as opposed to those whom hide behind online anonymity?

Anonymity repeatedly spurs unproductive discussion threads. Without traditional indicators of tone or content, (like non-verbal cues), online comments quickly become cold and often toxic. Its true, incendiary rhetoric is not new to the online environment… In fact, aggression and provocation have long been at the core “of public discourse.” But is that an excuse for malicious and/or irrelevant conversation? Many websites say no.

Several organizations in recent weeks have come forward banning anonymous commenting and stating users’ profiles will be made more public. Companies like YouTube and the Huffington Post state they hope to connect users to their ideas as well as cleansing the “commenting culture.” Publicity of user identity creates accountability. These companies assume that users are less likely to post brash comments knowing their name and their reputation will be linked to it. But will connecting identities to profiles restore civility to digital discussion?

Freedoms can’t be undervalued, but neither can rules. Part of what makes society work is that it’s NOT an anarchy. There are regulations. There are cultural norms and boundaries that we must stay within. An easy solution would consist of sites monitoring comments and disabling access to those users who were threatening or making inappropriate comments etc., however, the Internet doesn’t work that way…at least not yet. Perhaps restricting anonymity is the first step to navigating the nuances of the Net.



Lynch, T Wells. (2014, 3 06).Online Commenting: A Right to Remain Anonymous? . Retrieved from

2 thoughts on “The Right to Remain Anonymous?

  1. Very interesting thoughts and questions. While I do not support people who cowardly hide themselves behind a screen and use their anonymity as a way to harass others, I also am not completely sure that more Internet rules are the answer. Like you mentioned, it makes a huge difference whether or not someone’s name and reputation are attached to their comments or not. In fact, authors, actors, artists, etc. have used aliases/pseudonyms throughout history to use the effect of anonymity for good. One limiting factor of one’s reputation in the real world is that is does come with specific assigned roles and levels of credibility. Someone may have a great idea or contribution to make, but they might not be taken as seriously depending on the prejudices that society has already placed on them based on where they come from. By allowing people to enter a world where they get to decide the person they want to be, it puts everyone on a level playing field and allows for more individual freedom and an unbiased platform. The Internet is one of the few places where people have more control over the production of content and that is one of its key defining features. Yeah it sucks that some people take advantage of it, but should everyone’s right to share their opinions anonymously (if they so choose) be taken away because of these few extreme cases?


  2. This is a difficult question. While I agree that anonymity has led to people feeling more comfortable when criticizing others and that removing that would probably help curve comments to a less harsh level, I don’t know if I think requiring people to be transparent about their identities will work in the long run. For one thing, creating profiles for every website you want to comment on is time consuming and often a waste. Also, I think anonymity helps in some situations. A voice may be more likely to be heard anonymously than if the identity of the speaker was known.


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