The Pros & Cons Of Online Anonymity

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Pros and cons of online anonymity.

Depending on which side of the fence you’re on you could see online anonymity as a blessing or a curse. Social and political activists and privacy advocates propagate the importance of anonymity; whereas some repressive regimes and governments view anonymity as a threat that breads dissidents and potential acts of terrorism. So, who’s right?

For the most part online anonymity is a gray area that ignites discussions; but when you break it down you’re able to see the pros and cons of online anonymity more clearly.

Free speech

Pro: Self-expression is much easier

Being able to share personal information, philosophies, politics, beliefs, and more, without fear of discrimination or retaliation can be liberating. Maybe you’ve been diagnosed with an illness and are turning to an online community for support, or perhaps you’re uncertain about sharing your sexual orientation with others, anonymity removes some of the fear of speaking out.

Con: Abusive tendencies and language can be harmful

Sometimes the veil of anonymity can cause vitriol to run amuck. Harsh criticism and hateful comments are difficult to police when someone is hiding behind an avatar and a pseudonym.

Sensitive subjects

Pro: Absence of judgment creates a more equal playing field

Abortion, religion and political opinions can be elaborated on without worrying about how actions and stance can negatively impact an individual’s professional or personal life in a negative way.

Con: Hateful rhetoric can be spewed without repercussion

Racism, bullying and general accountability for what’s being posted and published masques the identities of people with possible nefarious intentions, and that can potentially result in negative consequences.

Positive motivation

Pro: Whistle blowers and witnesses to crime have a voice

Coming forward to report on injustices, wrong doings or illegal activity takes a certain amount of bravery (not to mention integrity). Without anonymity individuals could be fired from jobs or targeted for retaliation by criminals.

Con: Sources might not be trustworthy

Anonymous crime-fighting sources can abuse the system and ruin the lives of innocent people. Furthermore, a disgruntled employee could spread false information without merit about a company or a supervisor.

In summary, online anonymity can be good and bad. The advent of social media and the Internet play important roles in how anonymity is used and abused (in some instances). How anonymity evolves to keep up with privacy policies and tech communication tools remains to be seen. What are your thoughts? Is online anonymity good or bad?

Photo Credit: krissen via CC

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Sarah Hartshorn is a marketing, public relations and social media professional with Vuze. She blogs about content, torrents, social media and a number of other tech topics. Sarah has been involved with traditional and digital marketing since 1998.