There are countless websites and apps that will let people say whatever they want without revealing themselves. They do this through the use of usernames (which can be almost anything) or by allowing the option for people to remain anonymous. It is a popular feature that many companies and/or websites use to encourage conversation and use of their product. After all, there are no real consequences of typing out a message; people are more open to talking and saying things they wouldn’t normally say if they know they can walk away without anyone ever realizing it’s them. But, that is part of the problem, isn’t it?
Conceptually, being anonymous online is a good idea; it makes for a much more relaxed and stress free environment. People can discuss things that might be unpopular, and having that feeling of freedom can make things easier. But when this idea is put into practice, and real life people get involved, it gets much messier and the worst in people tends to come out. Without the fear of punishment, what’s to stop a person from saying terrible things to anyone and everyone?
Let’s face it, the reality of the situation is that online, people can say things that are racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, and xenophobic, which are just a few examples in a long list. It’s because people with those kinds of views have a mask and a wall to hide behind. They can go about their lives without anyone knowing that they have been spouting hate. If someone started shouting racist slurs in public, then there is a legitimate fear of retaliation, be it physical or legal. Many of these kinds of people are aware that what they are saying is offensive and derogatory. They say it with the intent to hurt and infuriate but they also know that doing so could get them into trouble. Which is why becoming an anonymous figure online is their tool of choice.
Anonymous online posting can be a good thing, but it is a dangerous two edged sword. It often seems to be hurting just as much as it is helping. At the end of the day, it poses an interesting question: how much online freedom is too much? On one hand, it’s rarely a good idea to give up freedom for the sake of security/policing, as that leads to tyranny. But give people too much freedom, and that leads to anarchy. Not to mention, you have to make sure all of these rules are enforced equally. It wouldn’t be right or fair to consistently accuse one group of doing the wrong thing while ignoring another group that is actually committing the action.