Every one has a unique identity in the real world. But why is it that when we hit cyberspace, our ‘identity’ can change so much, that we morph into a completely different person? The power of anonymity is a strong one. It can promote freedom of expression, exchange of ideas and intrigue. However it can also contribute to online fraud, scams, violation of privacy and abuse online. (Himma & Tavani, 2008) And why? Because our computer screen act as a mask, where we aren’t confronted by the consequences of our actions, where we gain a false sense of freedom and confidence to attack someone and something we can hide behind.
Some like Randi Zuckerberg (Mark Zuckerber’s siter) believe that “anonymity on the Internet has to go away… People behave a lot better when they have their real names down. … I think people hide behind anonymity and they feel like they can say whatever they want behind closed doors.” Cyber bullying allows the perpetrator to disregard the consequences for their actions and vilify their victims anonymously. Victims invite the bully into their home through their laptops and phones leading to constant harassment where this has lead to depression, anxiety, isolation and every suicides.
There is also a big advantage to being anonymous online. Because you don’t need to deal with the consequences of your words, it automatically grants the writer power, because they are seen as unbiased. They can not be judged or ridiculed due to their gender, sexuality, race, religion or physical appearance, which occurs especially to women, transgender or homosexuals. The anonymous, have the ultimate power to express themselves free of judgement. Brooke Magnanti (writer for the London Daily Telegraph) says “the loss of a right to anonymity far outweighs whatever potential harm abusers may cause.” (Rooney, 2013) We all value the freedom of speech and I believe the power of people’s words should not be defined because of who they are.
[If you or anyone you know is suffering from depression/anxiety/bullying, visit http://www.youthbeyondblue.com/ or seek professional help]
Himma, K.E. & Tavani, H.T 2008 “Online Anonymity” in John Wiley & Sons, Inc, Hoboken, NJ, USA, pp. 165-18, accessed 15/05/2014, http://ey9ff7jb6l.search.serialssolutions.com/?ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&ctx_enc=info%3Aofi%2Fenc%3AUTF-8&rfr_id=info:sid/summon.serialssolutions.com&rft_val_fmt=info:ofi/fmt:kev:mtx:book&rft.genre=book%20item&rft.title=The+Handbook+of+Information+and+Computer+Ethics&rft.au=Himma%2C+Kenneth+Einar&rft.au=Tavani%2C+Herman+T&rft.atitle=Online+Anonymity&rft.pub=John+Wiley+%26+Sons%2C+Inc&rft.isbn=9780471799597&rft.spage=165&rft.epage=189&rft_id=info:doi/10.1002%2F9780470281819.ch7&rft.externalDocID=10.1002%2F9780470281819.ch7¶mdict=en-US
Ben Rooney 2013, The Debate Over Online Anonymity, Dow Jones & Company Inc, New York, N.Y. accessed http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/docview/1269762840
Penny, L 2014, Online bullying isn’t freedom of speech, Al Jazeera, 22 February, accessed 15/05/2014, http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/2/online-bullying-harassmentwomenfreedomspeech.html