Anonymity is as old as the hills and dates back to the days of Mark Twain and A.A. Fair when they hid their real identities as a form of pseudo-anonymity. Today, with the advent of the Internet, communicating anonymously has become a thousand times easier. In fact, many websites and social media sites allow users to use nick-names to clothe their actual identity.
Pseudo-anonymity does have advantages: it protects the right to freedom of speech (if you’re brave enough to face the consequences), helps users retain a degree of privacy and also control the information that they want to disclose or withhold.
Most people who use the Internet under the guise of pseudo names are individuals that want to be a part of this whole new world and yet are scared to venture into it. In order to be safer and feel more secure, they resort to pseudo-anonymity. While this is to a large extent acceptable, how much credibility does a pseudo-name create, how much trust does it invoke?
Perhaps it’s wrong to tar all users who use pseudo-names with the same brush for credibility shouldn’t be based on those names but rather on how those individuals really act. For instance, if a user with a pseudo-name offered knowledgeable criticism on an article or piece of art and if it is genuine, good and helpful, it behooves that you accept it just as you would from another who doesn’t use a pseudo-name.
In cyberspace, several sites offer access to anonymous e-mail when the law is helping trace criminals. Journalists and whistle-blowers get access to important information, which otherwise would be impossible to attain—all this by using pseudo-anonymity.
That said, pseudo-anonymity can be annoying, harmful or even dangerous. Online spamming is a serious problem that ISP’s and operators have to contend with. Hackers can send messages under disguised names and disrupt services. As pseudo-anonymity protects the identity of the individual, they can post messages anonymously and bring discredit or disrepute to any company or service. This is enough to damage business.
Cyber criminals achieve what they want without having to reveal themselves. In the same way, individuals can send hate-mails or embark on a campaign without revealing their identity. Using fake identities, hackers can get access to others bank accounts or engage in illegal activities. With e-commerce coming of age, these stalkers of the net can conduct online commercial transactions anonymously to run a fraudulent business on the Internet. This may include money laundering, illegal arms transactions, drug deals and the like.
The question begs – Is Pseudo-anonymity ethical, if used right? Or regardless of how it is used is it wrong?