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How Important Is the Right to Anonymity on Social Media?




Perhaps one of the biggest current issues surrounding the use of social media is the question of online anonymity. This debate has raged for several years but has been accelerated in recent times, fueled by political debate and governments alluding to the need for greater controls on online abuse and trolling behaviour.

Just how important is preserving a user’s right to remain anonymous on social media platforms? And are these so-called ‘anonymous accounts’ really driving abusive behaviour online to the degree that individuals and governments are now claiming? These are some of the questions that we need to be answered in order for society to move forward.


Business and personal identity in the virtual world


Taken as a whole, the virtual world is fast overtaking the real world as a marketplace as well as a place of social gathering and networking. With businesses increasingly reliant upon the internet to transact, the need for digital identification and secure transactional management has importance. Secure online payment facilities and control of digital signatures by several different DocuSign alternatives have gone hand in hand with the rise of the virtual world as a place of business.

But do these same checks and balances and exacting identification measures need to apply to recreational users of social media platforms?

In truth, there can be legitimate reasons for a person opting to remain anonymous.


An erosion of trust in social media platforms


One of the key drivers behind many people electing to maintain anonymous profiles on social media is a growing distrust of the operators of social media platforms and their intentions. An argument arises that “If a service is provided to you completely free of charge, then you are likely the product, not the customer.”

The 2019 Cambridge Analytica scandal, which revealed that 50 million Facebook users were subject to data harvesting in a major coordinated data breach, can be seen as a major milestone event that led to a growing sense of distrust with the social media platform.

In the face of those growing societal concerns, Facebook recently made the decision to discontinue its use of a decade-old facial recognition system which had led to privacy concerns and class action lawsuits.


The fact that Facebook had operated such a system for a decade merely added to the growing sense of distrust for many users and cemented their decisions to remain anonymous.


Has user identification led to improved online behaviour?


Facebook stipulates the use of real names, although it is fairly obvious that many users circumvent this. In the case of new sign-ups which may indicate a compromise, the social media provider does request copies of ID documents to confirm the legitimacy of the user.


A great many users on Twitter elect to use an anonymous account name or perhaps an alternate persona. Being the platform of choice for the more politically engaged, Twitter has been the focus of a move by certain politicians and governments toward legislating for greater restrictions on user identification and the use of real names online.


But does user identification actually lead to improvements in online behaviour? While it could be observed that anonymous accounts have been involved in trolling and abusive posting, it is also obvious that similar negative behaviour has stemmed from ‘real name’ accounts.


The right to anonymity


There are a number of reasons why a user elects to maintain anonymity on social media. In some cases, this is a safe haven for marginalized and vulnerable individuals. For many others, it is a firewall against a sense of distrust.


In any case, the right for individuals to elect to remain anonymous should be viewed holistically. Arguably, there is a valid case for such a right to be upheld.



Steve Conway
Content marketing and inbound marketing expert, Steve is passionate about discovering new tech which will enhance his already well-honed digital marketing skills.



How Important Is the Right to Anonymity on Social Media? Reviewed by Mili Ponce on Thursday, November 25, 2021 Rating: 5

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