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Ask Slashdot: Do We Need Pseudonymous Social Networking?

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the just-watch-out-for-those-crafty-wiggin-kids dept.

Social Networks 213

An anonymous reader writes "While the idea of anonymous social networking sounds like an oxymoron, the use of pseudonyms to mask a user's online identity has a long history that stretches back to the earliest days of the Internet and local bulletin board systems (BBS). Such imperfect anonymity, which can often be unmasked with a few well-defined Google searches, has led to abuses like the invention of 'spambots' and the persistence of forum trolls. But, as the BBC reports, pseudonyms have their place in online communities, especially where identities are a risky commodity, under oppressive state regimes and governments where corporate interests increasingly dominate the interests of individuals: 'Some users choose to hide their identity to avoid being found by people they would not like to be contacted by. Others live in countries where identification could have serious implications for those who have expressed political views or associated themselves with others who have.' Should Google+ and maybe even the notorious Facebook evolve into two-tiered sites where those who choose to remain anonymous are 'identified' as such and denied access to certain site features, while being free to post, blog, or tweet their views, without summarily getting their accounts suspended or revoked?"

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Yes. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925334)

Yes we do.

Re:Yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925634)

Fuck yes.

and furthermore... (5, Insightful)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925734)

Why do I need your real name, or the thing you claim is your real name? What, exactly, am I to do with it that is legitimate use? Am I to look up your address so as to stalk you? Seriously, why do I, as a social website member, need anything other than some unique identifier so conversations can be directed? Frankly, I don't need your real name, nor do I want it. The question here really is: Who does want your real name -- and why?

Facebook and Google want your real name. They want it because they're going to sell it; it, and the habits they associate with it, by tracking every move you make that they are able to. They're going to sell it to corporations; give it to the government; etc. If you're ok with that, then fine, give 'em your real name. What I wonder, really, is why you'd be ok with that. Too young to remember McCarthyism, perhaps? Don't understand the reasons why privacy was given such primacy in the constitution? Just plain... dim? It's an interesting question, certainly.

No. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925362)

I always use my real name, and all others must, too.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925480)

Anything else would be Cowardly.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925662)

Anonymous Coward wrote:

I always use my real name, and all others must, too.

I'm going with "no", but for a different reason.

The point - and the problem, from a privacy perspective - of social networking is that you can usually determine a person's real-world identity by the graph that represents their social network. If FOO hangs out with BAR and BAZ, and I have their faces tagged, or their photos geotagged, and I look in their respective streams for things like "happy birthday" or "happy anniversary", I can make a pretty good guess as to the real-life identities of the people behind the pseudonyms.

If you have an individual pseudonym (preferably registered with a different email address) for every website you visit, you can preserve pseudonymity, but you must compartmentalize the activities of your pseudonyms. Only by doing so can you ensure that nobody can perform an outer join of "FOO mentioned the name of his employer on Slashdot" and "FOO mentioned the name of his spouse of Fark".

That's counter to the purpose of large social networking sites: they act as huge aggregators of data suitable for outer joins. Even if I know nothing about your friends, all those little "F" and "+1" icons serve as means to link the guy on Slashdot with his other identity on Fark with his third identity on DailyKos or FreeRepublic, and with his real-world identity on NewEgg.

A lot of us, myself included, have doubleclick firewalled at the router, because back in the 90s, we realized that it was a Bad Idea to have an advertising company hosting banner ads that tracked every click you made. Ultimately, the only difference between Doubleclick's cookies and Facebook's or Google+'s is that instead of annoying banner ads, they come with "Like" and "+1" buttons.

So no, we don't need pseudonymous social networking - because having a separate identity for every website to which you log in defeats the purpose of social networking, which is to enable users to communicate with each other across websites.

Re:No. (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925912)

So no, we don't need pseudonymous social networking - because having a separate identity for every website to which you log in defeats the purpose of social networking, which is to enable users to communicate with each other across websites.

What you're missing here is that your purpose for social networking sites isn't necessarily the same as other people's purposes. For instance, if a young lady is being oppressed in a country where her rights consist of the right to be set on fire and have her genitals mutilated, perhaps she might have a use for anonymous speech, you think?

Or, again for instance, if you are espousing a viewpoint that is not popular with the SS, sorry, I mean "homeland security", perhaps you would prefer they didn't show up at your door without a warrant, guns ablaze or ready to toss your sorry butt into a cell, sans phone call, lawyer, with your very own free ticket to the new Washington sport of water-boarding, as they are lately prone to do from time to time.

There are other reasons as well; some families might social networking accounts as places to meet in relative (no pun intended) privacy, with only family members allowed to see and post.

So let's not get too o/c about what social networking "is for." Like most things to do with computers, there are many other outlooks besides our own. Let's leave room for those -- it's all around better that way.

So yes, we do need it -- and its gradual loss is very much not a good thing. Except for corporations and the government. Corporations like Facebook. And Google. Imagine that.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36926266)

For instance, if a young lady is being oppressed in a country where her rights consist of the right to be set on fire and have her genitals mutilated, perhaps she might have a use for anonymous speech, you think?

Then she needs to be able to do it by registering on a website with a pseudonymous identity that is not linked to any other identity she owns.

Especially given your example about politics, where attackers have greater resources at their disposal, a pseudonymous equivalent to a Facebook or G+ login (that is, a "social networking" account wherein an identity is preserved across websites, rather than a set of individual pseudonymous logins, each of which exists only at its respective website) results in users being every bit as identifiable as though they'd used their real-world identities.

There are other reasons as well; some families might social networking accounts as places to meet in relative (no pun intended) privacy, with only family members allowed to see and post.

Yeah, but it's called email :)

So let's not get too o/c about what social networking "is for." Like most things to do with computers, there are many other outlooks besides our own. Let's leave room for those -- it's all around better that way.

We're on the same side; I like pseudonymity and anonymity. I believe both are essential components of the right to speak freely. I loathe the movement towards "real-name-only" networking.

It's a lot more difficult to easily track individual logins across individual websites because such a system features no single point of data aggregation. The instant you move to any single-sign-on mechanism for the "social web", be it pseudonymous or real-name-based, you lose whatever privacy you may have had. If you want to be pedantic, consider my "no" as being directed against single-signon, rather than social networking per se. But virtually all "social networking companies" are in the single-signon business, not the forum-hosting business.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36926178)

Mark Twain: "If there is a God, he is a malign thug."
Google: Who is this Mark Twain?
Society: It is a pseudonym.
Google: Boot the dick!

Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925382)

Yes. That is all.

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925462)

+1

Re:Yes (0)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925552)

plus one!eleventy11!!

Seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925384)

How else are we supposed to troll? -Anon

You realise my real name is not Xugumad, right? (1)

Xugumad (39311) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925400)

It just seems a bit odd asking about need for pseudonyms, on /.

Wait - it's not? (2)

RussellSHarris (1385323) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925656)

-Russell S. Harris

Re:You realise my real name is not Xugumad, right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925670)

Ross?

Uh... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925404)

Isn't every message board and online forum in existence pretty much just pseudonymous social networking?

It's the no trolls club (-1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925408)

Should Google+ and maybe even the notorious Facebook evolve into two-tiered sites where those who choose to remain anonymous are 'identified' as such and denied access to certain site features, while being free to post, blog, or tweet their views, without summarily getting their accounts suspended or revoked?

No.

Re:It's the no trolls club (1)

DeeEff (2370332) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925440)

Kind of like the no Homers club. You're allowed one.

Re:It's the no trolls club (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925884)

Well assholes will be assholes, even if you use their real name. So it really doesn't matter. Just play some SC2 sometime, and you'll know exactly what I mean.

Yes (5, Insightful)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925412)

Take a look at Wikipedia's list of social networking sites. [wikipedia.org]

The application of the name may be fairly recent, but the idea of social networking sites has been around forever. (In fact you could easily make a case for including Slashdot in the list on the basis of the friends/foes system and journal posts.) And very few of them have required the use of "real" names, and even fewer of those have actually tried to enforce it on a serious basis.

Re:Yes (1)

Relayman (1068986) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926204)

If you require a "real name" I will just create a false alternate identity (not stolen, just false) and use that. How is anyone going to know the difference?

YES! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925424)

Real names are absolutely vital!

Yes, No (1)

cfhboston (1160119) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925436)

Perhaps I would feel differently if I lived in a place like Iran, but I see little reason to participate in a community where everyone hides their identity. It encourages too much bad behavior. That's one reason I (and everyone else) abandoned MySpace and moved to Facebook.

Re:Yes, No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925554)

ur using a site that hide peoples identities and if ur so free with your information, may we please have your ssn?

Re:Yes, No (0)

Press2ToContinue (2424598) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925664)

Your pseudonym here does not provide enough information for us to verify that your opinion is valid. Please post your full name, address, and phone number. Thanks.

Re:Yes, No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925922)

I would post mine if everyone else did so as well, but being the one "real" person in a sea of people whose behavior is not constrained doesn't seem like such a good idea.

The topics here continue to be worth discussing, but Slashdot is an anachronism. If one was to start a similar forum today it would probably grow just as fast, if not faster, if everyone was identified.

Re:Yes, No (1)

Press2ToContinue (2424598) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926062)

What I hear is "It's a good idea, until I have to post my own information."

Re:Yes, No (1)

DJLuc1d (1010987) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925694)

I agree. On one hand you have google plus and facebook - real names encourage responsible behavior. On the other end of the spectrum you get places like 4chan - and nothing beats that in irresponsible behavior. We have more and more anonymous places on the internets every single day - every forum, blogger site, places like reddit and digg, the list goes on. Just once I would like somewhere where I know the name of the person I am talking to and vice versa.

Silly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925464)

Should Google+ and maybe even the notorious Facebook evolve into two-tiered sites where those who choose to remain anonymous are 'identified' as such and denied access to certain site features

Which features and why? It's not as if they're able to prevent people from being pseudonymous. What are they going to do, hire an actual person to not only review a scan of my passport but actually come round to my house and make sure it is mine? That's never going to catch on. If I list myself as "Paul Davies" or "Joanna Crayfish" or "Simon Sunstable" or whatever then chances are they'll believe me. What else can they do? Christ, you can probably find online programs that'll make up character names for use in games like Call of Cthulhu that work perfectly in modern life.

We dont even need social networking (-1, Flamebait)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925472)

Its just a bunch of lemmings trying to prove they are popular, so much so they would go start a riot over a blockparty tweet by some unknown DJ

The world was a better place when the stupid of the world did not have a meeting hall

Re:We dont even need social networking (1)

Rob Kaper (5960) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925706)

I don't know what your talking about, then again I don't befriend/follow/circle the stupid of the world that much. If you stick to networking with actual friends, peers and organisations of interest, the social networks are a much happier place.

An anonymous reader writes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925474)

'nuff said

Greetings (2)

nimbius (983462) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925484)

from your friendly social network provider. This reminder is being brought to you, John Doe, on behalf of your favourite toilet paper. Please avoid using any and all aliases in your friendly and ultra-useful social networking realm as it interferes with targeted advertising/shareholder reven....errrr.....the quality of your user experience.
Please do however continue clicking through the adverts you enjoy, purchasing the products you use in daily life, and applying for the various bank accounts and credit cards you wish. None of these services, their providers, your advertisers, or of course your friendly social network are in any way related and should not concern you in the least.

regards:
the book of faces.

P.S. Do consider a new subscription to netflix to complement the television you just purchased, your friend will bring the Doritos he has confirmed enjoyment of, and you both can appreciate the lice he recently cured with his purchase from WalMart Pharmacy.

Yes we need it. (3, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925490)

In large part because pretending we can prevent it is stupid.

The entire thing about being online is that text communication does not include any identifiable clues. You can't see the face, you can't hear the voice, you can't even measure the timing of the key strikes.

Worse, it is very easy to get and use someone else's password. (A password dictionary of the top 100 passwords will work in at least 5% of cases).

To require real identification would involve a massive change in technology that would unnecessarily invade a lot of privacy for things NOT done on social networks.

The internet is designed for privacy, not security. Pretending otherwise just makes you look like a fool

Re:Yes we need it. (1)

shoehornjob (1632387) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925646)

I'm antisocial so I don't give a $hit about social networks but I understand the need for privacy. I post a lot from work and the company doesn't really need to know my screen name. If they really wanted to know who I am it probably wouldn't take too much effort (goes back to the security thing the parent noted above). But privacy doesn't necessarily give one the right to act like an a$$hole online as someone will make it their business to figure out who you are.

Re:Yes we need it. (2)

theNAM666 (179776) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925792)

>The internet is designed for privacy, not security. Pretending otherwise just makes you look like a fool

As a student of a few of those designers (at MIT), I can assure you it was designed for neither. The protocols were open and subject to inspection as they passed any party. There was a default assumption that you'd know the identify of any part on the network. More recent events have added layers of both privacy and security of certain sorts, but you have to rise out of the abyss of vague generalizations before you can say anything meaningful about either.

Re:Yes we need it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925820)

The internet is designed for privacy, not security. Pretending otherwise just makes you look like a fool

You might accept this unquestioningly and even wish it were true, but actually the Internet was explicitly designed for security. The fact that its security is so easily circumvented (by cooperation of the provider and carrier with the user) has made a degree of online privacy possible, but it is by no means absolute privacy--weak at best and mere illusion at worst.

Re:Yes we need it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925898)

Equate the "social network" to a bar. It _may_ be reasonable to have to prove your identity to the owner in order to be served, process payments, whatever, but it would be insane to think that the other patrons have any compelling interest in having any access whatsoever to your identity until the point at which you actually commit a crime for which they are the victim. Barring that, releasing your identity is far more likely a means to making you a victim of a crime than preventing you from committing one.

Re:Yes we need it. (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926110)

The internet is designed for privacy, not security

I'm aware of the Internet being designed for robustness but I don't recall other design principles being too important. Remember, it started as a DARPA project during the Cold War. The ability to route packets around nodes that were damaged due to nuclear attacks was a consideration. Privacy was, AFAIK, not a consideration at all. Security was almost certainly a consideration for parts of the Internet and for some protocols; but when you start talking about the whole thing it becomes really hard to define what "security" is.

Whose choice shoiuld it be? (1)

Dr.Zap (141528) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925496)

I say yes, pseudonyms are necessary. Is it my privacy, therefore it should be my choice whether to reveal myself directly or use a pseudonym.

It's not my fault (2)

ivandavidoff (969036) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925524)

I tried to use my real name, but it was already taken.

Re:It's not my fault (1)

Relayman (1068986) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926256)

I have a friend who refused to join LinkedIn because six people with his name (with an unusual spelling) already had accounts.

Anonymity should be a right (1)

lucidlyTwisted (2371896) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925544)

In one sense a pseudonym is pointless, you can working out who someone is from their connection on a social media site so long as you already have enough background knowledge.
On the other hand a pseudonym does stop basic abuses like an employer trawling the social media looking for "undesirable behaviour". That may not seem so bad, but what your current or future employer deems "undesirable" could effectively silence you. Spoken out about depression, gay rights, socialism etc? Any of those could be viewed as "undesirable" an effectively exclude you. I know in the USA companies are already offering to mine social media for just such things.
Speaking out against the status quo would also become incredibly difficult, be that against the state or against one's employer (i.e. whistleblowing).
Of course the biggest worry is not the pseudonym or lack there of, it's automatic facial recognition. With that enable (as is default on Facebook) any pseudonym you care to use is moot as it only takes two friends to innocently tag you with you real name and pseudonym and eventually the system will marry the two up.
Anonymity, while can be abuse just like anything, is precious and losing would have terrible consequences for society in my opinion.

Re:Anonymity should be a right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925710)

Anonymity, while can be abuse just like anything, is precious and losing would have terrible consequences for society in my opinion.

Unfortunately, the consequences are already here. There is no anonymity right now for minimal offence such as speeding, or downloading Hollywood movies. The next step is no anonymity for offending the king, aka the President. Or his court, the Senate.

Whenever you're suspected of a minor offence, authorities will have access to your friends, and your full browser history.
Whenever someone in authority wants, they will have access to your full browser history and your friends.

There is no anonymity online.

How quaintly naive... (2, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925632)

While it isn't false that users in repressive regimes have an obvious interest in privacy, the notion that the feds are your primary concern is so hopelessly naive that I almost find it hard to believe that it isn't purposefully deceptive.

So, let's look at the social-networking life of your average resident of a Not-Repressive(tm) contemporary society: The secret police aren't going to be bashing down the door for saying the wrong thing, so nothing to worry about, eh? Well, yeah, not exactly...

How many schools(for the under-21s in the crowd) will treat a picture of you with a red plastic cup as presumptive evidence of illegal drinking? How many companies will skip you for being a touch controversial online? How about that canadian case of an insurance company deciding that a picture of the patient smiling was evidence that they were not depressed, and further support could be cut? Heck, to ignore organizations entirely, how about the 'timmy thinks he might be of the homosexual persuasion, doesn't really want ma and pa bible-belt to find out' use case?

While repressive regimes do suck, and anybody who runs one should definitely trip and hit their head on a bullet, the notion that the state is your primary concern(among people who have plenty of leisure internet and broadly unfettered access) is openly absurd. It's the private sector: schools, colleges, corporations, parents, etc. who you really need to watch out for.

Re:How quaintly naive... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925910)

While it isn't false that users in repressive regimes have an obvious interest in privacy, the notion that the feds are your primary concern is so hopelessly naive that I almost find it hard to believe that it isn't purposefully deceptive.

So, let's look at the social-networking life of your average resident of a Not-Repressive(tm) contemporary society: The secret police aren't going to be bashing down the door for saying the wrong thing, so nothing to worry about, eh? Well, yeah, not exactly...

Except that sometimes, even in Not-Repressive(tm) societies, it *is* the secret police (in the form of a three letter agency) bashing down the door for saying the wrong thing because of some dumbass "analyst" [wired.com] decided that they could "find teh 3v1l hax0rs" by aggregating social media data. Someone I know had all of their electronic equipment taken by a three letter agency after months of making Facebook posts that were sympathetic to Anonymous and WikiLeaks. Call me paranoid, but I don't think that that is a coincidence at all.

Careful you don't step in the bullshit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36926076)

It's the private sector: schools, colleges, corporations, parents, etc. who you really need to watch out for.

Uh, okay. As I'm 30, schools and colleges don't concern me. Nor do corporations. And I pity you if you have to hide things from your parents once you're over the age of twelve.

Sorry, but the government is my primary concern. I'm a vocal opponent of both parties, our military camping trips, the Federally-sanctioned sexual abuse organization known as the TSA. Oh, and I'm a vocal proponent of liberty and equality for all my fellow Americans, regardless of whose hole they stick their naughty bits in to.

I'm not paranoid enough to suggest government agents are going to come pick me up next Tuesday for speculating on what orifice the TSA stores their confiscated snow globes in; hardly.

But you know something? Do you remember the USSR?

Pepperidge Farms remembers.

Warantless wiretapping; endless imprisonment without cause; demanding papers for travel.

Fuck man, we're doing the things that we used to rag on the Soviets for.

I'd like to believe our gross violation of human dignity will stop at these. History shows it probably won't. Yes, yes, I know - this is Murrica! We don't cart people off in the middle of the night for disagreeing with the Government!

Well, previously, we also didn't infringe upon privacy without a warrant; we didn't imprison without charges; we didn't demand documentation to travel; and we also didn't molest grandma at the airport.

If you're naive enough to think your primary reason for anonymous speech should be your parents...

Wake the fuck up, please.

Re:How quaintly naive...indeed (1)

theNAM666 (179776) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926152)

The problem with your argument is that privacy is not the solution; it buttresses the private sector behaviors you list. One counter-solution is the light of day and not allowing such organizations to, for instance, have an opaque process which allows them to assume "red cup in hand" means drinking-- not that it's any of their business if a person was drinking in private! Ditto your extreme ma & pa in the bible belt example: its not that extreme, and reasonable privacy as an option (not default) can defend against problems; on the other hand, maybe the bible belt could use a few less filters on the information that reaches it. Perhaps pa's in the closet :).

Re:How quaintly naive... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36926212)

you must be a fed.

no (2)

w_dragon (1802458) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925648)

There's a simple problem with social networking with pseudonyms: you can't find people from real life.

For something like Slashdot it makes no difference, I don't care if people commenting here are people I know in real life, we build the community based on the user names we have here. But for Facebook, which is all about connecting with people you actually know, it would be impossible for the system to exist if everyone used aliases. It works if a few people use pseudonyms because that person can still find friends using their real names, but it breaks if someone using a pseudonym is trying to find someone else who also uses a pseudonym. Because large-scale use of pseudonyms would be very detrimental to their use model, I think it's perfectly understandable why facebook and Google+ don't want pseudonyms.

Re:no (3, Interesting)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925952)

It'd be easy to incorporate pseudonyms in Google+. Just let the user set what nicknames their circles would see them as. So your blogging friends might see you as CleverBlogNickName while your family might see you as Real Name and your college buddies might see you as Frat Nickname. Your blogging friends wouldn't be able to see your real name even if Google had it in the Profile.

Re:no (1)

w_dragon (1802458) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926012)

But how would your friends find you to add you to their circles in the first place?

Re:no (1)

rabbitfood (586031) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926086)

There's a simple problem with social networking with pseudonyms: you can't find people from real life.

If you don't know their handle, they're not your friend. They're your victim.

Re:no (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926094)

The idea that such a site is only for people who are "trying to find you" is dead in the water. What if I set up a page, and inform my family, perhaps by email, that the page is there and I'll welcome family conversations there, but no one else? Perhaps I'm not interested in the people I knew in high school at all, eh? Or at work, for that matter.

I think it's perfectly understandable why facebook and Google+ don't want pseudonyms.

Well, of course it is. That information is worth money to Google and Facebook (and those they're going to sell the names to), and it is a direct path to increased power for the government. What's not to like?

It's all about search engine results (5, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925658)

Google+ isn't the problem. Google's use of "crowdsourcing" in search results is the problem.

Google values links, reviews, and now "likes". All can be, and are, be spammed using anonymous accounts on social networks and blogs. This is why there are so many spam posts on blogs, phony reviews, and phony accounts on social networks. Those aren't there for humans - they're there to feed Google's ranking system.

This was a nagging problem for years, but didn't get much attention outside the "search engine optimization" community. It went over the top in Q4 2010, when Google Places was merged into Google web search, and the payoff for social spam increased. Now there are articles in the New York Times [nytimes.com] about it. 40% of the jobs on Amazon's Mechanical Turk are for spamming.

Now the trend is toward requiring a login from some non-anonymous social network to post on blogs and forums. That reduces spam targeted at Google. None of this has anything to do with human readers.

Nothing to hide (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925682)

This question reminds me of how it's sometimes said that you shouldn't worry about increased surveillance etc. - after all, you're a law-abiding citizen and have got nothing to hide, right?

But the truth (and obvious rebuttal to the above) is that we law-abiding citizens all do have things to hide, too. And similar, yes, we need the ability to use pseudonyms on social networks.

Coming from another angle, social networks should not artificially set up barriers for social interaction. We do interact in real life without knowing each others' full names; we may not know our names at all, and when we do, they may well be pseudonyms. I've got more than one good friend whose real name I don't know at all. Social networking sites should not impose constraints on us that we do not want.

Finally, the trolling issue is a red herring: trolling will persist unless and until a social network takes steps to actually verify people's names, e.g. by asking them to submit photo ID. A troll can create an account as "oogaboogah_the_great" (apologies to anyone actually using that pseudonym!) just as easily as he can create an account as "William Blake" or "Errol Thompson" or whatever.

In fact, that's another problem with the whole thing: forbidding pseudonyms doesn't lead to real names, it leads to real-sounding names.

Re:Nothing to hide (1)

oogaboogah_the_great (2424684) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926112)

A troll can create an account as "oogaboogah_the_great" (apologies to anyone actually using that pseudonym!) just as easily as he can create an account as "William Blake" or "Errol Thompson" or whatever.

I'm not a troll, you insensitive clod!

Yes. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925686)

Do we need pseudonyms? Yes.

Here's why: because for every troll you manage to thwart by making them more identifiable and thus hopefully more accountable, there are innumerable people out there that for various reasons wish to remain anonymous but have useful things to contribute. Sometimes the only way in which they are able to safely contribute is via anonymous or pseudonymous accounts (e.g., for reasons of job or personal security). Otherwise they will remain silent.

You may have some idea of how many trolls you've stopped, but trolls will inevitably still be there and you'll never know how many people you have discouraged from participating that aren't trolls.

Let me put it this way. I've only ever contributed to Slashdot as AC. Nevertheless, I have submitted numerous posts that have received +5 Insightful from the mods, and I've had 3 or 4 story submissions accepted too over the years. I wouldn't have submitted them without AC.

It's also why I don't have a Facebook page, and why I'm no longer interested in Google+.

A better question.. (1)

Petron (1771156) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925720)

Why do we need to provide our real information if we do not want to?

Would social networking sights break if people used a handle instead of a real name? To date, none have.

A better question: Do we need social networking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925724)

The only (internet) social networks I like are forums (which are not what people mean when they talk about "social networking", AFAICT). They provide a good way to exchange useful information on a given topic in a pseudonymous fashion. We get help and in turn, help others in a mutually beneficial altruistic kind of way. It's altruistic because the person you help may never help you, but it's still not stupidly altruistic. Build up enough karma/reputation/whatever and people are more inclined to help you out when you have a problem.

For typical social networking though, i.e. the facebook style network that delineates who your friends/acquaintances are IRL - I don't see the point. The downsides outweigh the benefits.

This debate is stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925732)

We have anonymous votes for a reason. Only the tech-meritocracy from Google can ignore life and believe it knows better.

Anonymity is overrated (0)

theNAM666 (179776) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925740)

Anonymity is overrated.

Sure, it has its uses, which are pointed out in the OP. If you're trying to whistleblow on an oppressive Middle Eastern government, it's useful.

However, 99999.8 out of 100,000 people don't need this. They need good online communities, which rely on identities and trust.

Sure, there were BBSes with anon ids. They weren't exactly the whole internet, were they? Just as well, there were places such as the Well, which relied more on getting to know who people WERE.

Prior to 1995 or so, it was also *almost* impossible (ie, difficult) to operate on the real internet, without a real, verifiable, traceable ID-- university, government, or corporate. One thus knew that one was accountable for one's actions and could be reached if one went beyond the pale (spam, viruses, scams, or just abuse).

Today's internet is sadly lacking these features, and this is one reason so much of it is described as a "pit." Ironically, the destruction of the Penet and other anon services in Finland, seem to have accelerated this.

Again, anonymity has its place. It should be defended. It, however, should not be the default assumption. It's not *that* important, no more than anonymity in the real work (big cities, etc.), which has decidedly negative and socially divisive effects.

Re:Anonymity is overrated (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926048)

Under my blog nickname, I share photos of my kids and activities we undertake. I don't reference my real name nor any personally identifying information (town we live in, schools my kids go to, etc). Last year, I wound up with a cyber-stalker. Real deranged woman who was convinced that I was really someone else posing as me... someone who was secretly in love with her. (Of course, telling her I wasn't this guy didn't help because I was just "lying" about not being him.) It was bad enough dealing with the stalker's antics. If the stalker knew my real name, she could have looked up where I really live and then who knows what would have happened. (I actually contacted the FBI about this. Not sure if they did anything but she stopped stalking me after I let her know that the feds were involved.)

If I choose to go by CleverNickName online, then I shouldn't be required to reveal the real name behind this nickname.

(In case you think this is hypocritical coming from a Slashdot user who uses his real name as his username, I signed up for Slashdot way before I thought privacy mattered. If I could change my username, I would.)

shi7? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925764)

another folder. 20 series Of exploding driven out by the aacounts for less Irrecoverable Gawker At most you loved that of an admittedly raise or lower the

Do we need them in all social networks? (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925772)

For most social networking, your real name is your best asset, and when everyone is verified to be who they are, the spam and trolling drop to minimal levels.

For agitprop boards, everyone should be anonymous. Spam and trolling are innate, but most people consider everyone else's propaganda to be spam and trolling anyway.

Attempting to require the ability to be anonymous on anyone's social-networking server is like demanding the right to pee from the second deck at Wrigley Field.

Isn't fake names sort of the opposite? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925784)

I mean, if I walk into a room and tell everyone I am joe schmo, then I am not really being social... So other person is. So isn't using fake names on social networking the opposite of actually being social?

One name for everything (1)

hantarto (2421914) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925788)

Why don't we begin with IID (International Identity) for every person living on this earth?

I propose to build a system called IIDS (International Identity System) for every person living on this earth. There are about 6 billion people living on this earth. If we use 37 alphanumeric (a,b,c,...,z,0,1,2,...,9,_), not case sensitive, we need 7 characters to cover 6 billion people. [377 is about 95 billion].

IID number is internationally unique. Let me start with my own IID : hantart, since my name is Hantarto Widjaja.

This IID can be used for very general purposes. And it'll be very useful for the future. IID treats and sets everybody equally as a person, no discriminations on race, religion, gender, nation, education level, income, age, social status, military or civil, etc. (no discrimination in all aspects).

Now, we have many identity numbers, such as our bank accounts no., student registration no., driving licence no., credit cards no., address, e-mail account, national ID no., telephone/fax/mobile phone no., etc. With IID, you just remember one thing, that is the IID. You don't need to know where someone is to call him/her.

To call someone, you do not need to dial numbers, you just dial hantart/phone. Also to e-mail me, you just type hantart/email. And other, such as hantart/fax, hantart/address, hantart/office_address, hantart/mobile_phone, hantart/homepage, etc. This idea can be extended not only to person, but also to institutions, companies, organizations, schools, universities, etc.

Let us popularize this IID system. In the future, you can communicate with everybody as easily as he/she is in front of you. The goal of this project is to connect every person in the world. People say two heads are better than one. Others say, if the thinking power of a head is ten, then thinking power of two heads is ten powered by two. And the internet is very good thing in bringing IIDS into reality.

I think we make IIDS mandatory for all thing. With this system there no need for anonymous, no longer is this a question. This way Google+ not need deactivate you for being coward and not using real name haha.

get worse as time goes by (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925796)

This problem is getting more problematic as time goes on. In the 90's and before there was no assumption that anything you posted online was going to remain online for eternity. For a period of time, it didn't. The rise of dejanews, Google, the internet archive, and related projects have not only started the process of archiving everything that hits the internet for eternity, but have actually gone back and dredged up things that had been previously removed.

For youngsters that are in high school or college the prospect of putting your entire life on the internet doesn't seem like a big deal because it doesn't really affect you in any meaningful way. Twenty years from now, they might feel differently, but it will already be too late. The concept of a permanent record that follows you around permanently has finally become a reality.

You can do your best to scrub yourself out of the archives, but using usenet as an example, even if you get rid of your own posts all the posts that quoted you are still there.

Even with pseudonyms the possibility of getting careless exists. Once you are linked to your handle, well, too late.

With the vast amounts of information that now exist either tied to, or waiting to be tied to your actual identity, there are a lot of concerns that for the most part are being ignored in the name of convenience. Many will end up regretting it.

4chan is way ahead of you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925808)

Anonymity is the only true freedom.

do you Need to be mocked for your cowardice? (1)

MichaelKristopeit351 (1968158) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925812)

you're completely pathetic

Re:do you Need to be mocked for your cowardice? (1)

MichaelKristopeit405 (1990180) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925978)

"MichaelKristopeit351" is operated by a pathetic individual attempting to steal my identity. i cower from no one. you live in a fantasy world that you have created relative to me. i live at 4513 brittany ct. eau claire, wi 54701. present yourself to me, admit what you have done, and i might let you watch while our dog sodomizes my wife tonight.

Re:do you Need to be mocked for your cowardice? (1)

MichaelKristopeit352 (1968160) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926188)

"MichaelKristopeit405" is operated by a pathetic individual attempting to steal my identity. i am michael kristopeit. i live at 4513 brittany ct. eau claire, wi 54701.

to the individual responsible: present yourself to me, admit what you've done, and i'll bring upon you the ultimate punishment for your transgressions.

Yes, we do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925834)

As written in the BBC article, pseudonyms are extremely useful in countries where you can be killed or imprisoned for your ideals and ideas.
Besides that, exists lot of people such as famous people who wanted to have a pseudonyms to not affect the reaction of people when they write in list. Or that do not want people to follow them to all the places they go. Many people also are more known by their pseudonym than their real name.
Which is more valid, the name all the people knows you or the name your parents gave you at birth? For me both are equally important, and one cannot be obliged to deny one part of our self.

Re:Yes, we do (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926084)

pseudonyms are extremely useful in countries where you can be killed or imprisoned for your ideals and ideas.

Then people in those countries shouldn't be using Facebook and Google+ to express their ideas. They should be using an anonymous service.

Why... (1)

V. P. Winterbuttocks (2246736) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925848)

Why would I want to use a pseudonym?

Retribution (1)

drooling-dog (189103) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925866)

countries where identification could have serious implications for those who have expressed political views or associated themselves with others who have

In the U.S., that would come more from the private sector than the government per se. Retribution is most likely to come from employers - and potential employers even more so - who don't like your views or associations. Even when there's no explicit retribution, it leads to self-censorship as people actively seek to avoid offending the boss and otherwise practice various forms of online brown-nosing. As we learned from the blacklists of the McCarthy era, denying people the right to make a living for their political views is no less effective than throwing them in jail. And that, my friends, is why I don't do social networking.

Why a two-teired system? (1)

vitaflo (20507) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925870)

I don't really see a distinction between a pseudonym username (ie, Captain Avenger) and a made up real name (ie Joe Smith). The later would be accepted by Google+ and FB, the former most likely not, and yet both are pseudonyms because they're not the actual name of the user.

As such I don't see why you would need a two-tiered system. Additionally, I don't see why you wouldn't just allow pseudonyms of any kind in any social network. You're not gaining anything by enforcing a "real name" because you can't actually enforce it without asking everyone for an ID to prove that's their actual name.

All you end up doing in the end is having people switch from a username like most of us have on slashdot to a pen name ala Mark Twain. But it's a distinction without a difference.

StackOverflow already solved this (2)

bhmit1 (2270) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925874)

Admit that you'll never know if anyone's name online is their real name, let them put whatever name they want, but then limit what they can do until they build up some reputation.

If they are a new user, don't let them run around spamming on everyone else's posts and throttle the number of activities they can take until it's been verified by other more trusted members. Allow people to flag posts or identities as spam, and follow up with moderators (or even algorithms analyzing the flags) to suspend or outright ban the offender.

There's no need to reinvent the wheel here.

I say yes and no (2)

Infiniti2000 (1720222) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925896)

I don't mind allowing the option for anonymity for those who need or want it, but I also want the ability to disable viewing anonymous drivel; which a large percentage of the time (IMO) these are links to goatse and rickrolls. For instance, here on /. I disable viewing posts scored 0 or less and don't even look at AC posts until someone else has gone through the pain to verify that the post isn't crap.

In other words, I fully support others' right to free speech and anonymity, but I even more desire my right to not fucking hear it.

Re:I say yes and no (2)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926104)

In that respect, Google+ and Twitter seem to get it right. (Facebook probably does too, but I don't use it so I can't speak for it.) You won't see people's updates unless you decide to follow the person. And, if the person begins posting updates that you don't care to see, you can unfollow them quickly and easily, removing their updates from your main screen. This is in contrast with message boards/comment sections, like Slashdot, where you see everyone's responses whether you want to or not. (Perhaps filtered by some moderation routines, but still effectively 'everyone.')

Yes. Reputation matters, not ID (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36925926)

Yes. We need pseudonyms and anonymity. Sometimes you need to be able to speak out without IDing yourself.

Part of the solution to spam is the reputation of a name, not the real ID behind it.

Re:Yes. Reputation matters, not ID (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926064)

If you need to speak out without IDing yourself and, more importantly, other people want that, then stop complaining about the rules of someone else's social network and START YOUR OWN.

A) What is the rest of the solution.

B)What is to stop someone from registering 1,000,000 pseudonyms and modding themselves up or just using all of them to spam.

Unequivocal yes. (1)

inca34 (954872) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925982)

Subject is the message.

Sone - Uncensorable Twitter on anon networks (3)

batouzo (2424666) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925984)

If you imagined a twitter where noone can ever block you, censor you, or trace you - then this is actually already true. We forget about Google+ and FB - we think decentralized and independent :) Sone is actually implementing Twitter-like functionality in Freenet. While still in beta, it works surprisingly fast! Posts appear in minute or so after posting, which is blazing-fast as for strong crypto-network that is not centralized and can not be censored. Since last week (version 1386) Freenet finally is no longer a burden to computer! IO and hdd use was fixed and compared to last years it is really not a problem to use this software on even medium computers. Freenetproject.org instalation takes 3-5 minutes. Then from main page bookmark "Sone" - link to .jar file USK@.......jar should be copied into Configuration > Plugins - add unofficiall plugin from freenet (it is still in beta), also add WoT (web of trust) plugin from the list there - solve some captchas while creating Pseudonym (the new main menu tab Community) and then create your free twitter (Sone) by clicking top menu "Sone". See you there ;) any questions - both Sone and Freenet developers are on IRC freeNODE - #freenet afaik.

No. (0)

Reyendo (1451201) | more than 3 years ago | (#36925998)

No, we need unindexed social networking, so my pictures and data aren't one google search away from being discovered by an employer or curious passerby. Social networking is, nearly by definition, for the purpose of communicating clearly with people one is formally acquainted with. There are other forums for anonymous communication.

Quit your bitching (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926006)

If you don't like Google's rules for Google Plus, or Facebook's rules, then don't use them. Start your own social networking site that allows pseudonyms and use your real name on the others or don't use them at all.

This is really a non-issue.

Re:Quit your bitching (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926278)

But since both Google and Facebook want more users, isn't it helpful to them to know that they are working against that goal with these policies?

Consider Publius (3, Insightful)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926024)

"While the idea of anonymous social networking sounds like an oxymoron, the use of pseudonyms to mask a user's online identity has a long history that stretches back to the earliest days of the Internet and local bulletin board systems (BBS)."

The use of pseudonymous communication goes a bit further back than that. The value to society is rather plainly displayed in the body of the Federalist Papers, by Publius -- a pseudonym for Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison. Anyone who argues that pseudonymity is a bad thing has to explain how The Federalist Papers would have been better without it, or how The United States would have been better without The Federalist Papers.

Examples (0)

Moof123 (1292134) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926050)

GED teacher: Many students are on parole, undocumented, or otherwise at the bottom fringe of society. She (a friend) is very appropriate to not want her full name too easily googlable.

Kids: I'd rather kids NOT use their full real names, as kids are stupid. Stupid things you do as kids should be mostly allowed not to turn into part of their permanent and easily searchable record.

School Teachers and other semi-public people: Being able to easily google your teachers private life is not good (see: Kids are Stupid above). While teachers need to be good moral compasses for their students, they are not paid well enough to have to live in a fish bowl for the world to watch.

So in specific I see these as obvious cases, but the general tenor of wanting to be able to have an online life without having your dirty laundry on very public display applies to almost everyone. We should control the choice as to how public or private we are, not Google or Facebook.

Kudos on a well-placed Ender's Game Reference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36926078)

Seriously, kudos to you, Soulskill.

The real problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36926090)

is how does Google decide what a "real name" looks like? I've seen actual names that would probably get falsely flagged.

Re:The real problem (1)

ivandavidoff (969036) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926168)

how does Google decide what a "real name" looks like?

They google you.

identity maintenance (2)

epine (68316) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926172)

This goes back a lot further than social networks. We all maintain multiple identities across different social circles, starting with the language we use while watching the hockey game with Dad when Mom is out of the house.

Blakley on Fashion and Intellectual Property [econtalk.org]

Fashion has always functioned as an identity hack. I'm as much into fashion as any fashionista, but not sartorial fashion; I mince, but not in drag; I'm queen of the lateral link; Uruk-hai ninja of the face-palm rebuttal. But not on my cravat or my crevice sack, by which I declare myself Puritan of Pattern Recognition. Nor have I scribbled on my leather pyjamas: I can't figure out which anthropic landscape to pick from; it seems premature. Blakley got my goat a bit by presuming that the game is only played on sartorial terms. Forgive me if that paragraph is not my regular office gab.

Hey, I've got an idea. Let's do it all online. What I say in the locker room, what I say to the girl I spoke about in the locker room, what I tell my parents when I come home late after speaking to said girl, let's make the whole thing part of a unified dossier. What could possibly go wrong?

I might work for a company that couldn't care less about my verbal excursions. But they might want to present me to an investor as a level-headed character who is the brains behind the operation. Now, the investors already know that it's a coin flip whether the brains behind the operation is a total flake in his private life. (So true.) Mostly, they don't really care. But if you rub their nose in it, they have to care. CF CYA.

A flake with the good grace to hide the fact will suffice if the job gets done. This becomes a tenuous proposition on Fishbowl+. (I'll learn to love that + sign yet. It goes anywhere. I could even print a T-shirt --Fishbowl+ if I weren't so busy hiding my other half; or my other half wasn't so busy hiding from me.)

It's also a sign of social grace is knowing when to let it go and not peering over the fence into ever aspect of the social lives of the people you work for, with, or employ.

From Mark Brezinski at Sennheiser CX 980 Comparison [headphoneinfo.com]

The CX 980s have a slightly cooler-looking design on their ear buds and plug, but the mc5s have a splash of color to them and really, whoâ(TM)s studying your ears so much they notice a subtle design flourish on your in-ears? Creepy people, thatâ(TM)s who. What would your mother say if she knew you were deliberately accessorizing your ears for creepy people?

We'll all be accessorizing for creepy people if this direction continues. Kudos to Mr Brezinski for this wonderful send-up of coolspotting.

Should Facebook and Google Evolve? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36926210)

They are businesses. Fuck them. Don't use their shitty sites. Throw them in the garbage and replace them with a better business.

Who cares what they do?

Use of their services is not compulsory.

Yes - if user controls the network (1)

davide marney (231845) | more than 3 years ago | (#36926238)

In a service like Google+, where the user controls the network participants, then anonymity doesn't really make sense, right? I mean, who would accept an invite from someone they didn't know? Ditto for FB.

In another context such as a comment on Slashdot, where somebody else decides what gets seen by whom, then anonymity would be handy for all the usual reasons people give.

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