Wulf's Webden

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Anonymity

In comments on Tuesday’s entry, I promised a short rant on the topic of Internet anonymity.

I recognise that the Internet is a relatively anonymous place for communication. Unless virtual contacts turn into face to face meetings, nobody knows who is hiding behind your online persona. Nobody knows if the regular commentators on your blog are real people or just alternative faces you put on to make it look as if someone is reading. Maybe, behind it all, you are just a clever old dog?

I also recognise that there are positive aspects to this. Without relative anonymity, fewer people would be willing to give an insight into repressive and dangerous areas of the world, such as the voices coming out of nations like Iraq. Fewer still would be able to sustain their commentary in the face of regimes who would rather keep things quiet. In that context, the ability to speak and remain hidden is a gift to us all.

However, by and large, I think some level of identification is valuable. If I post a comment on someone else’s blog, it is backed up by links back to other places I have made a mark. That online trail is only my representation of part of who I am but it gives an identifiable persona. Even for those who have never met me, or met those who have met me, “I” am unlikely to be a marketing bot designed to hawk a product (see my earlier posting, False Accounts) or a bored teenager creating a complex fantasy world to wind other people up.

Equally, I want some degree of traceability from those I encounter on my Internet travels, including those who might comment on my blog. Not addresses and bank details but simply the option of following their trail back a little way so I can decide what credence to give their contributions.

Anonymity is a wonderful-sounding word to roll round the tongue but I spend time on the web because I am interested in making connections, not drowning in the noise of a billion unrelated, anonymous fragments.

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