In a keynote speech at SXSW, 4chan's founder said Zuckerberg is wrong about anonymity. Chris "moot" Poole is the creator of the completely anonymous 4chan message boards. Poole spoke about anonymity, privacy and creativity at SXSW's Sunday keynote, saying that when users are logged in and identified by their own name, like on Facebook, the "cost of failure is high."
Poole believes this anonymous freedom of expression where "strangers can come together and share stuff" allows users to be more "flexible and creative," thereby trying things they might not if posting under their real identity. Then Poole kicked Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, stating, "Mark Zuckerberg has kind of equated anonymity with a lack of authenticity, almost a cowardice, and I would say that's fully wrong. I think anonymity is authenticity, it allows you to share in a completely unvarnished, unfiltered, raw way and I think that's something that's extremely valuable."
Yet when Poole launched his newest image-sharing and collaborative creation project called Canvas, it required a person to create a profile and log in via Facebook. Poole said that requiring users to register can filter out 20% of potential troublemakers; the added Facebook authentication weeds out "casual trolls" and cuts down on spamming. According to Switched, "All user identities remain anonymous, but, unlike 4chan, all content is archived and recorded on individual profiles." In the video, Poole stated that you can post anonymously, but you really aren't due to logging in via Facebook. And the fact that "you know that we know" your real identity on Canvas, is enough to discourage people from coming in and "mucking it up."
Whether you like 4chan's anonymity and lack of archiving or not, it started with less than 20 users and now has 25 million monthly users. However, that is only a drop in the bucket compared to Facebook's claim of a half billion users per month. If how Facebook started and the privacy blunders it has made weren't enough to speak toward Zuckerberg's opinion of privacy, Zuckerberg has stated for the record that, "Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity."
Although U.S. Senate Assistant Majority Leader Richard Durbin asked Zuckerberg for Facebook to allow anonymity options for political activists, Facebook has created a monstrously huge identity ecosystem. If it could, it seems that Facebook would like to issue your Internet driver's license.
Zuckerberg and Facebook are not alone in trying to kill off anonymity. Nor was Zuck the first to try. Twenty years ago, Stewart Brand who started the Whole Earth Catalogue began it by rejecting anonymity as Facebook has. In an interview with BBC, Brand stated, "The whole idea was that anonymity freed people to say important stuff and all I could see was that anonymity freed people to insult each other without retribution and they did so with abandon. Very responsible corporate people and scientists, when they had the opportunity to speak anonymously they did so with such viciousness and ferocity, it took my breath away."
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt made it clear that in his opinion no anonymity is the future of the web. Furthermore, Schmidt stated that anonymity is a dangerous thing and governments would demand an end to it.
It is sad when anonymity turns otherwise smart people into the lowliest of trolls, continuing to batter away at people with whom they disagree or simply dislike. For all the ways in which anonymity could be used in the wrong ways, I hate to see it die. Having anonymity may not be the same thing as having privacy, but like "moot," I think it's vital to maintaining a degree of privacy and furthering creativity on the Internet. Otherwise, as Philippe Riviere stated on Oregon Live, "The word 'Web' was originally an image used to describe a decentralized system of interconnected information networks. Nobody imagined that a spider would actually take up residence at its center and start spying on the activities of all Internet users."
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Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. Smith has a diverse background in information technology, programming, web development, IT consulting, and information security. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.
Smith is an independent contractor and is not affiliated with any vendor that makes or sells information technology.
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