!Anonymity != Identity

I’m consistently intrigued by efforts to attempt to remove what folks often refer to as ‘anonymity’ from the Internet. Last week, the Berkman Citizen Media Law Project site posted an article about the state of KY attempting to stop “Anonymous Posting“.

While I tend to understand the ultimate goals of these sorts of efforts, I do not tend to understand where these folks are coming from. More accurately, I believe they don’t have a crisp grasp of the difference between anonymity and not-anonymity.

There presumably is a difference between someone calling themselves “BobbyBoy17” bashing a company on a chat board and someone who is verifiably “Robert G. Jones of 17 Main St. Boston MA 02114 ph. 617-738-1829” bashing a company on a chat board. The chasm between those two ‘identities’ is gigantic. Even in the real world we know that the latter isn’t perfect (~$50B in fraud from identity theft in 2007).

Obviously there is a happy medium to be struck. That medium has a lot more to do with our ‘comfort’ interacting and transacting with others, more so than our ability to ‘know’ who they are. The former is a tractable problem, the latter is not.

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