Dragonfly Comments: Facebook, its real name policy and its anonymous app

Just weeks after coming under fire for its real-name policy, it has been reported that Facebook is to release an anonymous app.

Facebook recently cracked down on the use of pseudonyms sparking anger amongst the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. They argued that their anonymity provided them with protection against harassment, abuse and violence. Clearly, if someone isn’t ‘out’ and they are then forced to reveal their true identity on Facebook, there could be some dangerous repercussions.

Facebook has since apologised and it has said that everyone affected will be able to go back to using Facebook as they had done previously, but it hasn’t explained how and it hasn’t confirmed that its real-name policy will be amended. Instead it has justified its requirement for people to use their real names as it protects its users against ‘real harm’.*

And, when we think of harm on the internet, we immediately think of trolls. Social media users will already be fully aware of the dangers of trolls. Threats and personal attacks are becoming a real problem across all platforms and it seems that a different victim’s story hits the national press every month or so.

But how come this behaviour is so prevalent on social media? Anonymity; in a place where trolls don’t have to reveal their identity, look their victim in the eye or feel that there will be any repercussions for any of their actions, trolls are in their element.

So, we can begin to understand why Facebook is keen to stick to its real-name policy. If everyone is a real person using a real name, there is no place for the common garden troll. And this is why we were so confused to hear the news that Facebook is about to release an app that allows for anonymous sharing. One that has been reported to allow people to have anonymous discussions about topics ‘which they may not be comfortable connecting with their real names’!

Rumour has it that this app will be linked to a health app and, although it’s understandable that people will want to talk about their health problems in private, we’re hearing alarm bells. Depending on their illness, the users of this app could be particularly vulnerable to harassment from trolls.

Why is Facebook keen to protect the users of one app, but not another?

Tell us what you think!

There are some real issues here… Do we have a right to anonymity? Do we have a right to protection from trolls? What about freedom of speech? And, how do we make the internet a fair and safe place for everyone to enjoy?

We’d love to know what you think! Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

*Chris Cox, Facebook’s chief product officer as reported in this Mashable article.

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