EFF director argues for use of online pseudonyms

With advent of the Google+ policy requiring users to identify by “the name your friend, family or do-workers usually call you,” Jillian York, a director for the Electronic Freedom Foundation argues that the benefits of pseudonyms outweigh the negatives, particularly for gays and other people subject to violence or harassment such as victims of domestic violence and particularly those opposing oppressive political regimes.

York writes, “Those in favor of the use of ‘real names’ on social platforms have presented a number of arguments: that real names improve user behavior and create a more civil environment; that real names help prevent against stalking and harassment by making it easier to go after offenders; that a policy requiring real names prevents law enforcement agents from “sneaking in” to the service to spy on users; that real names make users accountable for their actions.

While these arguments are not entirely without merit, they misframe the problem. It is not incumbent upon strict real-name policy advocates to show that policies insisting on the use of real names have an upside. It is incumbent upon them to demonstrate that these benefits outweigh some very serious drawbacks.” -db

From a commentary for the Electronic Freedom Foundation, July 29, 2011, by Jillian York.

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