Sunday, March 14, 2010

Is the anonymous nature of posting to Internet forums a blessing or a curse, the devils brew or heavenly tea?

       Should we continue to allow people to create blogging sites or websites anonymously without any accountability for either the content or the nature of the site itself? Should everyone who uses the internet as a public forum be asked to register themselves and be held accountable for it like businesses are asked to have a business license and pay taxes? And finally if changes do need to made, what should the future look like and what are the alternatives to how the worldwide web is being used now?
       One could argue that as the web is set up and accessed now we are just allowing for expression of "free speech" and our right to engage in the cyberspace market place. For example, if I want to go down to my neighborhood corner and start a business I can do so, providing of course I do so within the context of laws that govern starting a business. Or if I want to hang a poster on a local telephone pole that is either selling, informing, or as in the case of graffiti, expressing a point of view then I should have the right to do it, and do it anonymously. Like our constitution states, we do have the right to gather, to express ourselves and we have freedoms that are undeniable under God's laws. We should also have the right to anonymity while expressing ourselves in these manners if we choose, whether they be on the internet or elsewhere. We are allowed to vote for our government officials anonymously, why should we not be allowed the same anonymity to our affairs on the internet?
       An opposing view embraces the idea that having businesses who conduct business with websites, or individuals who have personal blogging sites that can be accessed by anyone through the web, should be required to register themselves and be reviewed for adherence to certain laws and standards in order to continue to be able to do so. This is not only not a bad idea, it is necessary if the web is to continue to be a useful and safe tool for our society. As our countries recent financial meltdown indicated, to simply let businesses or financial systems run wild assuming they will self regulate themselves without causing tremendous damage to our system or individuals first is naive. The internet in this regard is no different and with it comes a whole new generation of crime, from phishing and accessing personal financial information from unsuspecting individuals, to the exploitation of minors (often because of being able to be anonymous) and  the ability of hate groups and or terrorist's to organize and recruit. Most aspects of our lives are governed by laws to some degree, the internet should be no different. Allowing people to do whatever they want to do on the internet while remaining anonymous is a "pandora's box" that should not be allowed to stay open.
       It is hard to imagine anyone argueing for a totally unregulated internet, a "wild west" so to speak without laws in an "anything goes" type environment; even though at times it does seem being able to post anonymously on the internet isn't too far from this reality. When there is no accountability or ways to track how people use the internet then it can allow people to do whatever they want to do without risk of exposure. That being said, one wonders how much anonymity we really have on the internet. As I have to clean my computer of another load of spyware or cookies that were set in it by sites I may or may not have visited, or as I get an email verification from a site I signed up with to recieve their newsletter and accompanying the message they tell me my netscape user address for verification purposes (so my computer does have an address), or as yet another local man on the nightly news gets hauled off to jail on internet pornography charges (apparently having been tracked down while using the internet), one wonders, is there really any such thing as total anonymity on the internet? People seem to be getting arrested all the time for improper use of it.
      It is a complicated issue with many different aspects to it but I do agree with the point of view made earlier that the internet needs to be regulated and laws are needed to govern it. Perhaps when soliciting through emails or for a business there should be a business registry all companies and sales individuals must register with to ensure their legititimate and are who they say they are and that their email comes with a verification number. Perhaps we should all have user i.d.'s and be registered so any use of the internet we do have we would have to sign in for first before using. Many company and school networks already have some of these restrictions in use. Perhaps we do need more intrusive ways of tracking internet use thus giving up some of our rights to privacy, it is hard to know. Our government has always try'd to do a balancing act between individual rights and the rights of the many. Even if we decided on stricter laws for this country, it is still a worldwide web and a "one world, one web" (perhaps a new Bob Marley song), still seems a long way off; any changes we would make would have to be agreed on globally.
       As with all forms of business, including the issue of the right to anonymous posting, it comes down to "buyer beware", or in this case, "the user beware". The government and laws cannot, nor should they protect us from everything that's out there. It can set up guidelines and laws we must follow to give us a reasonable chance to not be ripped off or exploited at every turn, but the final decision and responsibility still lies with us, the consumer and user. I would love more accountability and less anonymity for those who use the internet for personal motives and gain, though I do not advocate a total turning over all my personal information losing all anonymity in order to protect others. Often this is another way I get exploited myself by becoming another number in a system that arbitrarily defines my worth and who I am by a number. If you have doubts, go look at your credit rating and how that effects the price of your car insurance. Again, one could argue we really don't have much anonymity with anything anyway, why give up what little we might have by not being able to post anonymously? Without throwing in any towels, the challenge of the future of internet use still rests with the balancing act between individual rights and protecting the rights of the many. Which in the final analysis, should always be the same thing...... 


  1. You brought up a good point regarding the fact that we can all be traced back to our computer usage so really how anonymous is it. You are a very creative writer. Good job!

  2. I really liked your fifth paragraph and how it talked about the internet being regulated and having laws. There are so many minors that use the internet and can do and see whatever they want because they can be anonymous. It is kinda scary. Also businesses having to sign up on a registry. Your opinions were really well written and explained!

  3. I agree with how anonymous is it really? should still be self conscious to what you are writing.Great job and very informative.

  4. Your blog was very well written and in detail kinda makes a person think. I never thought about things being tracked back to a persons computer I guess nothing is anonymous especially if it came right down to it a person will be caught. Thanks for the great blog great job!

  5. Not only did I find your blog well written but it was very informative and gave me a new insight on the subject.