Every day, individuals there are targeted for harassment online, for various reasons. It can be work, or just who you are. But it doesn’t stop at the personal level. People at companies big and small are targeted in new, and sadly, innovative ways daily. As such, I think we all have to play our part in fixing that problem, both inside and outside of our job descriptions.
Here’s my hope, and I’ll try keep this brief. I think anonymity is great on the internet. This past month, the internet became so ubiquitous that they even took off the capital letter from the word internet. But, anonymity shouldn’t be equivocal to other speech on the internet. One way I’d like to advance the conversation, is promoting the use of real names on the web.
Let’s Get Real
When people use their real names, they’re far less likely to engage in harassment. The veil of anonymity is a powerful tool for cyberbullies and cyberstalkers. There’s no penalty to their professional career, or interpersonal relationships. There’s even clear psychological evidence that engaging in anonymous harassment gives some people a strong dopamine high. It’s addictive, literally.
We shouldn’t ban anonymity on the web. But we should subject it to a different standard. Let’s work to give people an incentive to use their real names, and establish an (open) standard that works to give people across various web sites the ability to link their real IDs, in a validated manner.
Conversations should be gradient in a manner that doesn’t discredit anonymous users, but instead, promotes people to not be anonymous. People who use their real identities are more productive, more constructive, and more courteous.
The internet is unique in that it now is where a significant part of the world’s population spends most of their day. Either in using it for work, to improve themselves, or in just personal enjoyment. But, never before have we had such a common communication tool that benefits the anonymous troll more. The bad is starting to creep up on the good of the web. We can fix that, by promoting real identities across web sites.
Many companies today are already rolling out verified personas online. Twitter and Facebook for example have begun, but this is only one first step. For one, it’s piecemeal, and two, it’s limited. It’s a good start, but much more is needed.
Eventually, this could even be a powerful tool in search. Sites that promote real identities could even get a search-engine ranking benefit, downranking (but not blocking) those who engage in anonymous harassment.
Hack Lip Service
For #HackHarrassment to be successful, it needs people to implement. So I’m doing my part to keep the conversation going… but in the long run, I hope to do what we all should be doing – more than just talk.
Because lip service isn’t going to solve this problem. Only real innovation will.