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Ours wasn't published, but here is the response +Eva Galperin and I crafted to Christopher Wolf's NYTimes letter (first letter in linked article):

_Opponents of online anonymity often repeat the platitude that “real name” identification promotes civility. While that may be true, it is often at the expense of free expression. Not only does anonymity enable dissidents in oppressive regimes, but it also helps the small-town kid experimenting with his sexuality or the abuse survivor starting a new life.

Internet intermediaries offer tools that allow users to maintain civility without sacrificing anonymity. On social networks, users can moderate offensive comments or block users who are harassing them. Newspapers can institute systems for flagging inappropriate comments.

Concerns about cyber-bullying and other online crimes shouldn’t be dismissed, but law enforcement already has tools to identify anonymous criminals.

Christopher Wolf makes many claims about the negative effects of anonymous speech, but the truth is that not one of them is backed up by research. We should not be willing to sacrifice free expression for the possibility of civility, especially not when there are more effective alternatives._
Readers debate the benefits and drawbacks of requiring real names in online postings.
Carl Houston's profile photoStephanie Parker's profile photoMichael Lewis's profile photomoneer altaj's profile photo
I find most of those who oppose anonymity on the internet are those who have little to lose as a result. Many people in a position of privilege can't see the harm done to those outside the 'mainstream' if they are exposed.
Once again, we see someone willing to destroy a foundation to frame their pet peeve. From Mr. Wolf's response:

Fundamentally, as someone fighting online hate, I wish that Internet companies would do more to police online hate speech and enforce their terms of service, and if they did so, there would be less need for a real-name policy.

That's right. Let's ditch privacy so we can service civility. Not that I'm against the general concept. I've always believed Google should be less concerned about what someone calls themselves on G+ and more concerned about fostering the community and how those individuals behave (of course - we all know that that isn't cut-and-dry either).

Incidently - need a good "real name" generator? +André Laszlo created an interesting example (

EDIT clarification that I was quoting the response from the author of the original opinion piece.
Encourage identity, allow anonymity. Choose for yourself whether your voice should have a face.
Further, the idea that real names increase civility may in be counterfactual. Studies have been limited, but suggest that this may be the case. Everything else is people going from their "gut instinct," which is a terrible foundation for policy.
This is me standing up and applauding for you in regards to your post.
*standing applause*
1. It's also not "anonymity" that produces incivility, it's "unaccountability". Back on Usenet, people who had good connections and were effectively immune to disconnection (either because of status in their home institution, or because they could hop between Usenet hosts) tended to be the rudest. For commercial ISPs, it didn't matter whether user "fredsmith" was Fred Smith or not, just that he was always the same person and if we contacted about, then the human behind wouldn't show up as and keep flaming or spamming or whatever.

2. Google's "real looking name" policy doesn't create accountability. If you call yourself "Bob The Cat" you're out, but if you call yourself "Elizabeth Bimmler" you're safe... and if you do get kicked out, you can come back as "Mark Shaney" and spool your abuse right up again.
@Peter da Silva

Excellent point about Google's "real looking name" policy. Saying that people are more civil under their real names, while a reasonable statement in theory, is mostly irrelevant here. In practice, Google+ doesn't require a real name to set up an account. It merely requires a plausibly real name. Trolls, stalkers, etc simply use disposable accounts with fake real names for their evil-doing. Meanwhile, the rest of us are denied the privacy protection that a pseudonym allows.
+Jillian C. York Wonderful response, short & sweet -- just like when you spoke at Stanford a few weeks ago! In my honors thesis about online anonymous speech (here: I describe some of the research that's been done so far about anonymity's effects on discussion (Ch. 5, 7) and +Peter da Silva I tell the often-forgotten history of successful anonymity on UseNet too (Ch. 9)!
After all this time, I figure the internet will tolerate some anonymity and secrecy, but it won't tolerate that which threatens the swarm. About the way in which bees mind their business .
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