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Why requiring Real Names online is evil - Ed's journal
Why requiring Real Names online is evil
I'm sure many of you will have notice - several accounts have been disabled by Facebook, thanks to their policy that 'thou shalt use real names'.

They're under some misguided concept that anonymity leads to trolling, or maybe it's just marketing.
Whatever. It's extremely misguided.

I've used my real name of Facebook since the start. It's not particularly bothered me. However I'm also quite well aware that as a straight, white, middle class citizen of a first world country... the world is actually pretty well geared up to my convenience.

There are quite a few reasons why someone might not want to use their real name - but oddly, the vast majority of them _don't apply_ to the straight, white, middle class citizens of the world such as say, Mark Zuckerberg or the majority of employees of Facebook. http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2014/06/25/facebook-diversity/11369019/

Now, leaving aside _malicious_ reasons to 'fake up' a facebook persona (I can think of a few. Fraud, stalking, anonymous trolling).

There's also some really quite serious reasons why removing anonymity is an evil thing to do:
- Victims of domestic abuse. Children might want to avoid being tracked down by an abusive parent. Partners might want to avoid being tracked down by an abusive ex.
- Victims of crime in general - as a straight, white, middle class male you will likely never have to worry about being targeted by a rapist.
- People who work in particular professions - are seriously disadvantaged by their personal and professional lives collide. Police officers, teachers, social workers... are all much more at risk to online abuse as a result of what they do.
- LGBT individuals, who risk harassment or abuse - lets not forget, there are some countries that treat homosexuality as a crime.
- Political activists and dissidents - How much do you trust your government anyway? Do you think people who live in say, Syria, or China feel the same? Do you really think it's 'fair' to put these people at risk?
- People in responsible positions, such as banks who are at risk of being targeted by organised crime.

One of the things I particularly remember is a person I met who used to work in the prison service. One of the things he had hammered into him on his first day: DISCLOSE NOTHING. Because they'll be in close proximity to some serious criminals for extended periods. Some of which were clever enough and sociopathic enough to put together a profile on 'the screws'. And if they ever completed their picture, at some point a nice man would show up outside their house, and ... would probably offer to do them a favour. But would make clear that refusal wasn't an option, and things could get extremely nasty if they didn't want to co-operate.

Just by disclosing their favourite pub and which footie team they supported... they'd been tracked down, and their family put at risk. Coerced into corruption.

At which point they're basically screwed. Quitting your job might remove your risk of being corrupted, but there really is no guarantee that a criminal group won't retaliate. Not everyone can afford to provide their own personal witness protection scheme. Until you've experienced what a systematic campaign of petty harassment and vandalism can feel like - you really don't appreciate just how horrifically destructive it might be.

But the thing is - Google started requiring Real Names when they started G+.
They've since dropped it, presumably because they realised that 'Don't Be Evil' didn't really include putting people at risk simply because they've never had to worry about being victimised.


And to top it all - a firstname/lastname is really a very westernised view of the world. Not every country works like that.

So seriously Mr. Zuckerberg and Facebook. Think hard about the people who'll be burned by this policy.
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