The case against anonymity

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Dzhayk
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The case against anonymity

Postby Dzhayk » Wed Jan 18, 2017 7:36 pm UTC

Many advocates of privacy and anonymity/pseudonymity are also advocates against 3rd-party control.
Here I argue that if one is against the latter then one should also be against the former.

Sockpuppets are more possible with more anonymity.
With sockpuppets manipulative behaviour is possible such as convincing people of, say, belief or attitude B by pretending to be someone with both belief or attitude A (which is widely respected/agreed with) and opinion B. Also convincing people against, say, belief or attitude B by pretending to be someone with both belief or attitude A (which is widely hated) and opinion B. Perhaps there are few or no people who are susceptible to this kind of thing (which I call 'conflation' or 'conflation by identity') however (but I know at least one who is).
And if you want to say that nobody would go to such lengths to create so many sockpuppets and use them all, consider that the NSA goes to lengths to spy on people (not individually but still).

But then again knowledge = power so anonymity = protection against power (but following that conclusion assumes such alphabet agencies have the resources to gather knowledge of and therefore to exert power over individuals not just masses/societies/groups, which seems unlikely)

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ucim
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Re: The case against anonymity

Postby ucim » Thu Jan 19, 2017 1:37 am UTC

Sockpuppets make it important that people to consider an argument on its merits, not its pedigree.

Dzhayk wrote:With sockpuppets manipulative behaviour is possible
Yes. People have to be aware that not everything they read is trustworthy. Especially on the net.

Dzhayk wrote:consider that the NSA goes to lengths to spy on people
Sockpuppets are no defence against TLAs that have decided you are a target, but at least it doesn't make their job easy. Laws against sockpuppets probably would not affect spies much.

Dzhayk wrote:But then again knowledge = power so anonymity = protection against power (but following that conclusion assumes such alphabet agencies have the resources to gather knowledge of and therefore to exert power over individuals not just masses/societies/groups, which seems unlikely)
If you become a target, they have all the power they need. The only thing holding them back is their own integrity, the laws crafted to protect free society, and all of our respect for those laws.

I'll add that many of the debates surrounding the constitution and founding of the US were sockpuppets.

Jose
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ahammel
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Re: The case against anonymity

Postby ahammel » Thu Jan 19, 2017 3:43 am UTC

Dzhayk wrote:Many advocates of privacy and anonymity/pseudonymity are also advocates against 3rd-party control.
Here I argue that if one is against the latter then one should also be against the former.
What is 3rd-party control?

Sockpuppets are more possible with more anonymity.
With sockpuppets manipulative behaviour is possible such as convincing people of, say, belief or attitude B by pretending to be someone with both belief or attitude A (which is widely respected/agreed with) and opinion B. Also convincing people against, say, belief or attitude B by pretending to be someone with both belief or attitude A (which is widely hated) and opinion B. Perhaps there are few or no people who are susceptible to this kind of thing (which I call 'conflation' or 'conflation by identity') however (but I know at least one who is).
And if you want to say that nobody would go to such lengths to create so many sockpuppets and use them all, consider that the NSA goes to lengths to spy on people (not individually but still).
I don't find this a very convincing case by itself. You've established that there is at least one consequence of pseudonymity/anonymity that is kind of bad (viz: it makes sock-puppets easy). Why is that worse than the consequences of not having anonymity? And furthermore, would a real-names policy even fix the problem? We're apparently talking about the sock-puppets of state-like actors here. Would it really be that much of a problem for them to use nonymous sock-puppets if they had to?
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Dzhayk
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Re: The case against anonymity

Postby Dzhayk » Thu Jan 19, 2017 3:18 pm UTC

ahammel wrote:
Dzhayk wrote:Sockpuppets are more possible with more anonymity.
With sockpuppets manipulative behaviour is possible such as convincing people of, say, belief or attitude B by pretending to be someone with both belief or attitude A (which is widely respected/agreed with) and opinion B. Also convincing people against, say, belief or attitude B by pretending to be someone with both belief or attitude A (which is widely hated) and opinion B. Perhaps there are few or no people who are susceptible to this kind of thing (which I call 'conflation' or 'conflation by identity') however (but I know at least one who is).
And if you want to say that nobody would go to such lengths to create so many sockpuppets and use them all, consider that the NSA goes to lengths to spy on people (not individually but still).

I don't find this a very convincing case by itself. You've established that there is at least one consequence of pseudonymity/anonymity that is kind of bad (viz: it makes sock-puppets easy). Why is that worse than the consequences of not having anonymity? And furthermore, would a real-names policy even fix the problem? We're apparently talking about the sock-puppets of state-like actors here. Would it really be that much of a problem for them to use nonymous sock-puppets if they had to?

Very true, as far as I can tell my point is overturned now. But here are some draft comments just in case:

ucim wrote:Sockpuppets make it important that people to consider an argument on its merits, not its pedigree.

ucim (Dzhayk's interpretation) wrote:Sockpuppets help people to consider an argument on its merits, not its pedigree

But, like I said, sockpuppets allow fake pedigree to be created - which is worse. I realised after you said this that mine is an argument against pseudonymity not total anonymity. I'll clarify the original post now. //but total anonymity is impossible to guarantee

ucim wrote:
Dzhayk wrote:With sockpuppets manipulative behaviour is possible

Yes. People have to be aware that not everything they read is trustworthy. Especially on the net.

Yes, good point. This argument also goes for what you said about 'merits not pedigree' - which made our respective points seem equal to me because they both try to

ucim wrote:I'll add that many of the debates surrounding the constitution and founding of the US were sockpuppets.

Can I see something for that, please?
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ucim
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Re: The case against anonymity

Postby ucim » Thu Jan 19, 2017 4:10 pm UTC

Dzhayk wrote:
ucim wrote:I'll add that many of the debates surrounding the constitution and founding of the US were sockpuppets.
Can I see something for that, please?
Check out the Federalist Papers for starters.

It is often very important to separate identities because one operates in different contexts, and those contexts may not be compatible with each other, even though each of them may be compatible with you. For example, a writer may write about characters with intense sexual practices, but also have a job teaching English at the junior high school. It's easy to see (especially in the present environment in the US) how this could lead to... er... "undesirable consequences" if the two personas were connected.

Likewise right here in xkcd there are several safe spaces, notably the suicide thread and the sex thread, wherein sock puppets are permitted (and even expected), for obvious reasons. Anonymity permits (or disinhibits) the expression of opinions which otherwise would not be safe to express, and is thus a fundamental need in a free society.

Yes, it has a down side, but freedom itself has that same down side.

Dzhayk wrote:But, like I said, sockpuppets allow fake pedigree to be created...
No, they allow a fake identity to be created. The pedigree that eventually follows, follows from the way this identity responds to its surroundings. It's real. Its just not complete. But do we ever see a complete identity? Do we have the right to? For example, in a political discussion it may matter that you are a multi-millionaire with financial interests in biotech and agriculture. Should I have the right to know this? Should you have the right to conceal your financial status? Anonymity involves many gradations.

Jose
Order of the Sillies, Honoris Causam - bestowed by charlie_grumbles on NP 859 * OTTscar winner: Wordsmith - bestowed by yappobiscuts and the OTT on NP 1832 * Ecclesiastical Calendar of the Order of the Holy Contradiction * Please help addams if you can. She needs all of us.

reval
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Re: The case against anonymity

Postby reval » Sat Jan 21, 2017 5:38 pm UTC

Anonymity protects a speaker against retaliation. This allows the speakers in a discussion to reach conclusions that are independent of attempts by any 3rd parties to control them. That is a valuable thing.

Of course, anonymity can be broken in order to accomplish retaliation. That is just an argument for seeking better anonymity.

And of course anonymity can be used by a third party to facilitate sockpuppetry, spamming, and trolling for the purpose of interfering with a discussion. Speakers who want to have a useful discussion will have to seek a different venue, or block or ignore the troll. That does not require them to abandon anonymity, though.

Anonymity has a useful secondary effect of undercutting arguments from authority, which are invalid anyway. But its primary purpose is to block retaliation. That is what allows a truly independent discussion to happen. It's worth the costs.


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