You don’t talk about 4chan.
The rules of the internet were set out long long ago on an image board called 4chan. Those who frequent the image board /b/ value anonymity over everything else and it was in this rule that people found the ability to speak freely on just about anything.
Of course there have been trolls, those who start flame wars for fun (or teh lolz), none more apparent that on comment forums like CBC, which is the breeding ground of anonymous trolls who target the weak and easily offended. However, sometimes in this chaos does truth and real opinions come out, whether they are bad or good.
Sometimes I view this lawlessness as a way to gauge our society, especially if you’re naive enough to think racism, sexism, ageism, hell any discrimination in general has been eradicated. Sometimes we forget the ugly side to people and the lies that are only said in whispers or the half-joking comments we secretly believe to be true about other people.
If anything, anonymity highlights why some comments are unacceptable and the backlash is seen through other comments. People are far more aware of trolling, it’s common knowledge that you don’t ‘feed the trolls.’ However, it’s not a perfect system but if you follow comments you can easily see other people push back. Sometimes self-moderating (like Youtube) is better than actively trying to control the masses. If there’s one thing 4Chan and Anonymous has taught us is that the internet is self-correcting.
I suppose I also have a problem with websites that require me to log in with my Facebook account or Twitter. I don’t like the idea of one website controlling my whole online identity, especially if I want to comment on something but would rather not attach my name.
Many times I comment on CBC stories or other sites with a completely anonymous account that no one could tie to me because I use it to discuss topics that I’d rather not have people affiliate with my role as a communications person. Sometimes I want to speak for myself and not for a group I represent and I can only do that if I am anonymous.
It seems no system for policing the internet is foolproof, just because I use a Facebook or Twitter account doesn’t mean I can’t make a fake one…and maybe I have one already.
So what does anonymity mean for journalism? Not a damn thing. People will always find a way to troll, you’re just delaying the inevitable.