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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Google Plus Says No To Anonymity

In what may be the best news for Internet users on Social Networking Sites, it has been reported that Google Plus has said no to anonymity. Read the report at  It is a brave and ethical move by Google, to develop a community which is social in real terms and not full of hooligans, cowards, bullies and other anti social elements. This is something Facebook did not, and still does not, have the courage to do. It does not make business sense to them and business is what they are doing. Google on the other hand has yet again reiterated their commitment to social responsibility with this move.

Or maybe it is something Google has learned from Facebook. Facebook, for all its following and user base, according to me, is full of two kinds of people, the exhibitionists and the voyeurs, and I am just talking of the people who use their real names. Add anonymity and they would go down much further than that. Many of us have received hate mails from anonymous users, had unsolicited mails sent to us, naughty videos posted on our profiles and then sent to the entire friend list, tagged in photos we do not want to be part of, added to groups we have not even heard of and many such other things. The reason for all these activities is the umbrella of anonymity Internet has provided the users with.

Anonymity is a refuge of cowards and no matter how much one stresses upon the benefit of anonymity on the Internet, the pros of genuine identification will always far exceed the cons. Freedom of expression and democratic interests normally figure in any discussion advocating anonymity over the Internet. But what use is the freedom of expression if it can easily be shrugged off as not from reliable sources or as a campaign by the opposition/enemies as the case may be. In the short term perspective anonymity might help send across a message but ultimately a face has to be lent to the expresser of thought for it to have a logical impact. As we have seen during the recent civil unrest in many countries, no amount of anonymous protests made a difference. Ultimately people, real people, had to take to the streets. The democratic process also benefits if real people take on the system rather than people shooting off messages anonymously. Imagine Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King, spearheading their movements anonymously.

Anonymity is also quoted as essential to the whistle blowers. Point taken, but again, in the long run, shouldn't we be vying for a system which allows one to speak up without fear of reprisal. Why would we ever want to have a system where some people have have so much power that others cannot fight for their rights or for the truth?

Then there is the difference between anonymity and confidentiality. You get confidentiality from the likes of Doctors, Lawyers, good friends and family. Try going anonymous with these people and you will not get a single correct advice. On the other hand if you would want to share your issues on the Internet, trust me you will get responses only from quacks and fly by nighters. It is simple, if you are anon so shall I be. In the larger scheme of things if you do not tell who you are, you are pretending to be someone else.

Hate messages, spam, threats, frauds, illegal activities, all are a result of the anonymity which the Internet has so far provided to the users. Google, at the prospect of losing a few million users would have taken care of all that. Imagine a civil, social network where everyone knows who the other person, that they are interacting with, is.

Well Done, Google. Goodbye Anonymity.

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