Should internet users be allowed to post anonymous comments on public websites?

Introduction

Anonymity in the internet occurs when an internet user have their identity protected from the people they are interacting with or with a third party. Different anonymity levels are available on internet and they range from secure billing; QA sites; anonymous flirting sites; as well as blogging. The primary objective of anonymity is always about the identity of the involved parties. As such, they use this provision of the internet to hide their identity while engaging in certain interactions with others on the net. However, despite anonymity having some benefits to the internet users, there are other reasons that make anonymous users not supposed to be allowed on public websites. They range from: misconduct, cyber bully, illegal activities; and other antisocial behaviors.

Discussion

Internet users should not be allowed to post anonymous comments on pubic websites.  ROUTER, (1) discusses; allowing the anonymous communication on public websites fundamentally increases the breakdown of the social fabric in our communities. How does this happen? When people are allowed anonymity on the public websites, it allows them the opportunity to advance their ill motives. Those who are ethnic bigots may use the opportunity to spread hate and spew venom on others. Similarly, the racist in the society may also use the very site to target their victims. Such sites have often been used especially in the height of islamophobia where the Muslim bigots have taken issue with Muslims attacking them verbally. This happened following the 9/11 attack. Also, those with racial prejudice may use the platform to propagate racism and racial phrases targeting their victims. The price for freedom of speech is not anonymity but rather accountability. Individuals as well as governments need to be held accountable for their actions. Accountability cannot be realized under circumstances of anonymity. Even though one would argue that anonymity gives us the opportunity to understand what the society is thinking, it is a platform that causes more harm than good.

Secondly, anonymity on public websites should not be allowed because it encourages psychological issues like group polarization; social loafing and bystander apathy. In a situation of work, the bystander apathy occurs when individuals are expected to carry out certain task but opt to leave it for others with the thought that there are so many people in the group who will do the duty.   They tend to think that less work may be required to them personally and therefore hide behind their anonymity to laze or fail to do their duty. The end result is that nobody may end up conducting the required task in the hope that someone else will. Even though it would be argued that one may not individually be noticed out of anonymity and so it discourages contribution, the bystander apathy and group polarization has more weight as the contributing factor.

Thirdly, proponents of anonymity in communication have led to many forms of antisocial behaviors. They include cyber bulling targeting certain vulnerable individuals in the society Fabio, & Perren (9). In the public websites where individuals are able to interact, anonymity provides an opportunity for cyber bullies to carry out their mischief. As such, they may post comments that are intimidating or demeaning. Often cyber bulling have a psychological effect on their victims. This may even result in to suicide on the victims of cyber bulling (Fabio, & Perren, 13 ). Further, antisocial behaviors like posting pornographic content on the website may also occur. This is because one is not able to know who posted the content. It gives ill mannered individuals the audacity to engage in malpractices that may not auger well with the public. Aside from vile content like pornography, anonymity may grant one an opportunity to threaten other individuals or post profane comments. This may taint the image of the organization that owns the website. When individuals don’t identify themselves and make posts or comment on a public website, the displeased or disaffected fellows may use the platform maliciously as they dissent. They may post materials that are not necessarily a true reflection of the organization leading to an image crisis. Such issues may be difficult to prevent when anonymity is allowed on a public website.

The fourth concern of anonymity is cyber crimes. According to Wall, (5-7), these crimes are often meted out at the innocent public leaving them helpless. For instance, anonymity on public websites can be used by thieves or fraudsters who intend to defraud the public of their hard earned money. This includes corn men who may post attractive but misleading information for individuals directing them to their fraud platforms. When one enjoys anonymity, they never fear being caught since the system protects them. As such they are free to engage in malpractices that endanger other people’s lives. Similarly instances of hacking can happen when anonymity is allowed on public websites. Individuals who are interested in accessing certain private information that is out of reach to the public may use their anonymity to survey the website and launch hacking. Among other crimes that come with anonymity is harassment. Anonymous individuals with ill intensions can take advantage of their anonymity to harass people on the site (Yassir, & Samitha 157). These may be harassment of the website owners or other users of the websites. Such harassment affects the efficacy of the website with regards to its intended purpose. Another form of crime that may take place due to anonymity is identity theft (Malamuth, Linz, & Weber, 103). Identity theft involves someone stealing another person’s identity. It often happens when people need to access certain areas or facilities but are not eligible. There are also criminal gangs that deal in identity theft and sale. With anonymity, the risk for these kinds of crimes is increased exposing individuals to their dangers.

Fourth is an issue of accountability and justice.  This has been mentioned a bit in the introduction. Davenport, (1) explains; Accountability cannot be realized when communication is not traceable. There is need for communication to be traced to the initial source. The anonymity on public websites gives criminals a ticket to escape after committing crimes. One may turn their freedom of expression or freedom of speech in to illegal engagement or hate speech. This is because; anonymity will mask the source of the illegal act. Individuals in the society derive certain benefits from it. Similarly there are responsibilities that they are expected to meet so as to contribute to the society.  When there is no balance, the society is in a mess. It therefore follows that, those who are responsible for certain malpractices own up or be identified so as to be brought to justice. Anonymity makes it possible for highly sensitive information to be leaked, financial frauds on organization websites to be carried out and even elections to be rigged. The resultant effect is a chaotic situation.

Lee, & Stapinski (7) identifies others to include difficulty in establishing relationships between the sender of the information and the receiver. Spammers and stalkers too are having a field day where there is anonymity. Fake identities among other illegal activities that come with anonymity can be threats to individual both socially and politically.

Solution to the problem

There can only be one solution that is sustainable and sensible in this issue. It is that, individuals embrace accountability and abolish anonymity on public websites (Backes, et al, 17). Individuals can only have themselves to blame for their lack of accountability which results in cyber bulling, frauds, hate speech, ethnic bigotry, among other unfortunate things that happens due to anonymity. Anonymity is just but a quick sand ad cannot stand a test of time. A more democratic society that embraces improved communication and recognizes the price of vigilance that comes with the freedoms is all that is needed. Accountability, truthfulness and openness have proven to stand a test of time anchored on democracy and responsibility.

Accountability is a better solution because it is the smallest price to pay for a right to liberty, life and one’s pursuit to happiness. It provides a more stable option unlike quick sand anonymity.

Conclusion

Despite anonymity having some benefits to the internet users like, freedom of expression, confidentiality the disadvantages make anonymous users not supposed to be allowed on public websites. These negative impacts include: fundamental increase in the breakdown of the social fabric in our communities such as islamophobia, racism and ethnic hatred; it encourages psychological issues like group polarization; social loafing and bystander apathy; proponents of anonymity in communication have led to many forms of antisocial behaviors like cyber bulling targeting certain vulnerable individuals in the society; leads to cyber crimes often meted out at the innocent public leaving them helpless like in cases of  fraudsters who intend to defraud the public of their hard earned money; an issue of accountability and justice which cannot be realized when communication is not traceable to the initial source; and also other factors like difficulty in establishing relationships between the sender of the information and the receiver. Spammers and stalkers having a field day where there is anonymity. Fake identities among other illegal activities that come with anonymity are also some of the threats to individual both socially and politically.

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