In today’s NYT, an op-ed piece by Julie Zhuo of Facebook (“Where Anonymity Breeds Contempt”) about anonymity and trolling on the net, with this observation:
Psychological research has proven again and again that anonymity increases unethical behavior. Road rage bubbles up in the relative anonymity of one’s car. And in the online world, which can offer total anonymity, the effect is even more pronounced. People — even ordinary, good people — often change their behavior in radical ways. There’s even a term for it: the online disinhibition effect.
Zhuo goes on to discuss ways to combat the wicked consequences of anonymity, suggesting (no surprise) Facebook’s approach:
Content providers, social networking platforms and community sites must also do their part by rethinking the systems they have in place for user commentary so as to discourage — or disallow — anonymity. Reuters, for example, announced that it would start to block anonymous comments and require users to register with their names and e-mail addresses in an effort to curb “uncivil behavior.”
I’m dismayed to see that though I suggested in my “Nicks” posting that commenters on this blog who wanted to continue posting under a nick or with only their first name should sign their (whole) real name to their comments, no one seems to have taken me up on it. Trollish behavior has not been a problem on this blog — though it has on Language Log, where some of the LLoggers go to the trouble to hand-delete inflammatory comments — but there are other good reasons, explained in my earlier posting, for commenters to be identifiable.