An Update on Real Names Policies

When Facebook famously implemented a real name policy that, mostly, required people to use their real, legal names, plenty of people were upset, myself included. Anonymity helps protects victims of domestic abuse, and allows journalists to protect their sources. There are plenty of reasons to advocate for anonymity. This post is not about that.

One of the strongest arguments for a real name policy was that it would help to stamp out spam, and for the most part it has helped.

One of the other rallying cries that we heard early on was that forcing people to use their real names would make commenters think twice about the vitriol of the words.

And in the beginning, it did.

In the beginning, bigots, racists and other purveyors of hate, misogyny, and intolerance were fairly quiet. Perhaps they had concerns over the ramifications that would follow should their beliefs come into the public light.

But then something “beautiful” happened

Somewhere along the way, real name policies faded to the background. People settled into this new world and their true colors began to show.

Now, we have a clear line of site into our lowest common denominators. We see blatant racism, surprising sexism, record-breaking ignorance, and people so candid in their abusive and threatening language that you have to wonder how they are allowed to exist in a civilized society.

We need to reach the next level

We need a next step because as it stands right now, they are winning.

They are winning because in most cases, their behavior goes largely unpunished.

They’re winning because in most cases, they are louder than the chorus shouting them down.

They are winning because they somehow still don’t see their behavior as inherently wrong so much as they see the negative reaction to their behavior as being Political Correctness run amok.

So now we can identify these people. What is the next step?

Free Speech

A common misunderstanding of the first amendment is that free speech has no limits at all. This is obviously not true as speech that incites violence or puts others in danger can fall outside of the boundaries of free speech (classic example: yelling “fire” in a movie theater).

Another common misunderstanding is that being met with a resounding backlash against your comments, is somehow infringing on free speech. This is a common tactic that victims use when their overtly racist statements cause them to lose their job.

I believe people, by and large, are good, fair, and decent people. But we have been too quiet. We have allowed too much hate and negativity into our comment sections.

If we’re going to willingly turn over our privacy, let’s do something good with it.

This is a call to arms. The internet is ours and it should be the collective responsibility of good people across the web to “out” people for advancing the agenda of hate, intolerance, repression, and bigotry.

I don’t know what the solution is, but the first step is surely to stop remaining silent.

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