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The case for transparency

On One Degree I have stayed away from politics of any kind. A personal choice and something I do not think should be discussed at work, fostered by old saying “Never talk about sex, religion or politics at work”. Great advice by the way. However, although I am not a Jordan Peterson fan but a small aside later in this interview is interesting. It was captured during a discussion with Dr. James Lindsay. Yes, this video content is far off-field for One Degree except for the purposes of this post – check the 1:20 mark of the JBP video.

“Do we need to separate the anonymous from the real people on social media?”

Let me step back. I was fortunate to have accidentally find myself online in 1986. A friend who I have known most of my life got a job with Apple in the early days and at his house one evening he showed me the brand new MacIntosh. I had never worked on a computer before and was fascinated by this. I bought one. After a short while I discovered MAGIC (The Macintosh Awareness Group in Canada) which operated a bulletin board system (BBS) using SoftArc’s First Class software.

I had been on the Net previously enjoying the online newsgroups, but this was revolutionary at the time and to this day the friendships out of that experience long ago have been very important in my life, still are! We used our real identities and we met in real life. These people I met are still in my life over 35 years later. Real people. Real friends!

Now we find on social media we are swamped with lies, misinformation, trolls, provocateurs and sheer BS where people will do just about anything to get noticed, or go viral or get clicks, likes and follows. Truth be damned. Sure, we have to be our own gatekeepers but wading through all the nonsense makes social media tough to take sometimes.

I did a quick ChatGPT question about anonymity …

(I plopped this in here because I thought it a good-enough overview.)

Being anonymous on social media can have both pros and cons. Here are some advantages and disadvantages to consider:

Pros of being anonymous on social media:

Privacy: Anonymity allows you to protect your personal information, such as your real name, location, and other identifiable details. This can help prevent unwanted attention, stalking, or harassment.

Freedom of expression: Anonymity enables you to express your opinions, thoughts, and ideas more freely without the fear of judgment or repercussion. It allows you to discuss sensitive topics without potential social or professional consequences.

Protection from discrimination: Anonymity can shield individuals from discrimination based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, or other personal attributes. It provides an equal platform where ideas are evaluated based on their merits rather than the identity of the person expressing them.

Support for whistleblowers: Anonymity can protect whistleblowers and facilitate the exposure of illegal activities, corruption, or other wrongdoing without fear of retaliation.

Safe communication for vulnerable groups: Anonymity can create a safe space for individuals who may belong to marginalized or vulnerable communities to express themselves and seek support without risking their personal safety.

Cons of being anonymous on social media:

Lack of accountability: Anonymity can lead to a lack of responsibility for one’s actions, as individuals may feel less inclined to behave respectfully or ethically. This can result in online harassment, cyberbullying, or the spread of false information without consequences.

Misuse and abuse: Anonymity can be misused by individuals engaging in harmful activities, such as trolling, hate speech, or online scams. It can make it difficult to hold individuals accountable for their actions or enforce consequences for inappropriate behavior.

Reduced credibility: Anonymity can undermine the credibility of information shared, as it’s harder to verify the source or expertise of an anonymous user. This can lead to misinformation and the spread of rumors or unreliable content.

Limitations in building relationships: Anonymity may hinder the development of meaningful connections and authentic relationships on social media. Without knowing someone’s real identity, it can be challenging to establish trust or engage in genuine interactions.

Impaired professional opportunities: Anonymity might restrict professional opportunities, as employers, clients, or collaborators may prefer to engage with individuals who can be easily identified and verified. Lack of transparency about one’s identity may limit networking and career advancement possibilities.

I have always been against censorship. But I believe there needs to be a classification to allow more effective  “gatekeeping” to happen and happen quickly.

To me it is about credentials.

Credentials are pieces of information that are used to verify and authenticate someone’s identity or qualifications. Overall, credentials are important for establishing trust, maintaining security, and verifying the qualifications and identities of individuals in various contexts.

At the moment my default position is 90+% of what I read on SM should not be believed at face value. At that point what is the point of the social web? Entertainment? Surely not news and it flies in the face of “citizen journalism” and devalues someones contribution.

Plus, I do not have any faith in the corporate fact checkers based on the complete disaster Facebook and Instagram have become and the bias and interference by government agencies seen in Twitter pre Elon Musk’s acquisition. And although the “Blue Check Mark” is somewhat helpful to eliminate fake accounts it still does not separate the wheat from the chaff.

There are a large number of anonymous accounts with huge followings but do we accept what they are saying as truth? The ones I am thinking about are mostly humorous accounts. And all that matters is simple. “Is it funny?” And full disclosure I just scanned my personal Twitter account and the only anonymous accounts that are not humourous ones are RT’d from others. So yes, I am very biased.

Simply it is about trust. And yes you can tweak and prune your SM feeds (Who you follow, what topics you are interested in and news sources) but a starting point, at least for me, would be sources that can be confirmed as real. Then we can corroborate the information we read from verifiable sources.

In conclusion the argument for anonymity is:

  • Protects freedom of expression.
  • Protects privacy.
  • allows users to avoid harassment and cyberbullying.

And the case for transparency:

  • Can hold users accountable for harmful behaviour.
  • Identifies fake of malicious accounts..

I believe separating or denoting anonymous vs ‘real’ accounts is the best option. It will save time, help stop the spread of noxious misinformation and get social media back to were it should be “You, the real you, at one end and me at the other.”

(Boy, is that some Cluetrain!)


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