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The Issue of Banning Anonymous Comments and Pseudonyms

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Some people believe that anonymous comments and pseudonyms should be banned online whilst others do not. In this essay, I will explore the pros and cons to these arguments and consider and whether they should be banned.

Anonymous comments online can provoke cyber bullying, hate speech, currently illegal activities and fraud using fake identities. People feel safe behind a pseudonym because it acts as a barrier between them and the ‘real’ world. Hiding behind a pseudonym can make a person feel more empowered to use more profane language and just be more gratuitously repugnant towards others.

On the other hand, banning anonymous comments could be damaging to a person’s freedom of speech, it can limit the ability of an oppressed individual to seek out help and it would limit their capability to experiment with identity. People believe that whilst using a pseudonym, they can talk and present their ideas more freely without feeling judged or trivial.

The first call to action for prohibiting anonymous comments came about in 2010 when the American Journalism Review said, “It is time for news sites to stop allowing anonymous online comments”. Since that bold exclamation occurred, a large selection of media outlets, including ESPN, The Huffington Post, Popular Science, Sporting News and USA Today have either completely eliminated comment sections on their posts or have brought about a sign-in format for their comment sections so people have to log in to make a comment, which will hopefully deter people from making crude comments. Also in 2010, Leonard Pitts, a Pulitzer prize-winning columnist, claimed that comment sections which allow people to be anonymous “have become havens for a level of crudity, bigotry, meanness, factual inaccuracy and plain nastiness that shocks the tattered remnants of our propriety”.

On the other hand, it could also mean great things for some business communities: members of the companies who were previously unwilling to join in with discussions are now becoming less reserved and are actively partaking in group discussions; some conversations that may be deemed to contain a touchy subject and may not have taken place before are now able to happen; sensitive legal issues can be freely spoken about because people don’t have to own up to their opinions and they feel more comfortable talking out about certain subjects because they cannot be personally arbitrated or attacked if something gets taken the wrong way. Obviously, guidelines need to be put in place for these company communities but with them in position, anonymous commenting and participation in professional online places could foster some positive, and more so beneficial engagement than there was previously.

The ubiquity of anonymous comments would make it very challenging to remove them all but maybe it should be a challenge that someone is ready to undergo? A study in the UK found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying- in particular, cyber bullying. In recent years there has been many anonymous commenting sites online which encourage teens to attach the website’s hyperlink to their online profiles to ‘see what people really think about you’. Sites such as ask. fm and sarahah. com pushed teens to comment anonymously their opinions of other teens. They were hidden behind pseudonyms or even no name at all so people were inclined to make rude or nasty comments that they would never dream of saying to someone’s face. Bully-related suicides can be connected to any form of bullying, including physical bullying and emotional bullying but most importantly- cyber bullying. Cyber bullying is one of, if not the, most prominent form of bullying for young people today. People feel that because they are hidden behind a screen that they can say whatever they like- and when they are anonymous it makes it so much easier to victimise people because they have near to no way of finding out who the ‘abuser’ is.

Some people believe that having anonymous comment sections online can contribute to them having freedom of speech. It means that they can say whatever they want with no consequences attached. This can be a blessing for some people. Anonymous comments and questions can be good in some ways. They can allow people to ask more personal and sensitive questions without the embarrassment of others knowing who asked, especially as they may be unique to a certain person. Websites such as yahoo. com deliver a safe place online for people to anonymously ask and answer questions which would otherwise not be spoken about, or even just simple questions that someone may be too embarrassed to ask (for example if someone is suffering from mental health problems). These anonymous pages online are beneficial to the online world and are good reasons to sustain anonymous comments online.

To contrast this, anonymous websites can also be very dangerous- especially to children. Websites such as moviestarplanet. co. uk are easily accessed by children and adults alike. On these types of websites, you are encouraged to use fake names to protect your identity but you can freely talk to fellow users. Older men and women can go on to these sites and pretend to be a young child to ‘befriend’ the innocent children who use it. They can form a relationship with the child and then trick them into meeting their ‘online friend’, to later find out that their ‘friend’ is an adult who has the potential to harm them. If pseudonyms and anonymous comments were illegal then it could save young people’s lives from kidnapping, rape and potentially murder.

Some may argue that removing the right to post or comment anonymously could potentially increase the pressures that people feel to post/write/comment in a specific type of way, which thus restricts the degree to which they can speak openly. A study done by Auburn University found that 89% of anonymous posters would not post if they had to reveal their real names. This completely damages our right to free speech so in this retrospect- anonymous posting- or posting using a pseudonym- would greatly benefit our society.

Sites such as Wikipedia, answers. com and references. com all rely on anonymity. They encourage users to post and edit pages on topics that they know a lot about or that they have a level of expertise in so that they can share their knowledge with the rest of the world. People use sites such as these to gather information for reports and papers alike. Since these sites are completely anonymous, it is almost impossible to know whether the information is factual or whether it is fictional. These sites can be questioned on their credibility but if a name or even a source was attached to the information then it would be easier to determine whether the information is reliable or not.

Privacy is a basic human right; the online world has no exception to this ‘rule’. People, over time, have argued that society should be able to comment easily without giving away any private or personal information, because they have the right to keep certain information out of the public’s eye. Banning the use of pseudonyms or anonymous commenting may violate our right to privacy.

In conclusion, both counterparts have equally compelling arguments but I personally think that anonymous comments and pseudonyms have a more negative than positive impact on the world and therefore should be banned. Anonymous comments and pseudonyms can bring about harmful and potentially dangerous situations and they also lead to a rise in cyber bullying which has increased the suicide rate, in teens particularly. Surely if something can bring about a higher chance of suicide, crude and offensive comments towards another and potential kidnappings then we should ban it for the safety of our loved ones online? Anonymous comments and pseudonyms should be banned, in due time, to help protect our online society.

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The Issue Of Banning Anonymous Comments And Pseudonyms. (2020, March 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 17, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-issue-of-banning-anonymous-comments-and-pseudonyms/
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The Issue Of Banning Anonymous Comments And Pseudonyms. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-issue-of-banning-anonymous-comments-and-pseudonyms/> [Accessed 17 May 2022].
The Issue Of Banning Anonymous Comments And Pseudonyms [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2020 Mar 16 [cited 2022 May 17]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-issue-of-banning-anonymous-comments-and-pseudonyms/
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