Robert Scoble suggested today that if he could make one rule about the Internet, it would be “no anonymity.” I like Robert but I don’t like his idea.
What many bold souls overlook is that for a great many people – whether due to economic, social, political, or other realities in their lives – the only kind of truly free speech is anonymous speech. Whether out of fear for their jobs, their relationships, or even their lives, they simply cannot take the risk of putting their names behind what they say.
We ought to consider dissidents, whistleblowers, addicts, and crime victims – along with just plain chickenshits.
There’s been a lot of grousing lately about people hiding behind anonymity online and I think in many cases – such as some of the ruthless stalker freaks/trolls – the griping is warranted. But thinking more broadly, not all of us have the ability to stomp our feet and yell from the rooftops (relatively) free of consequences. While celebrating that, we must also realize it’s not a very common condition.
I think we should encourage everyone to speak up, whether they choose to sign their name or not.
EDIT: Most of the conversation about this piece is occurring here.