Anonymity And Criminality Are Not Intrinsically Connected
Should anonymity on the net be done away with? Should lack of anonymity be imposed on people who commit certain offenses? It is something of a minefield that pulls in all kind of laws regarding privacy and freedom of speech on one side, and concern about people misusing the tool to abuse and attack others on the other hand.
The integral role that the internet has played in some activism, and the suppression leveled against activists by both some sectors of the media and authorities, it is argued, makes this a bad idea. And no matter what some people would have us believe, not all activists are violent radicals, and some activism does benefit society.
Can you apply the same argument to the internet that people like to apply to guns? Guns in and of themselves are not criminal – they are merely tools, and it is the fault of the users that one should target, rather than the guns themselves. Now substitute the word gun for internet, and you can see that the logic does apply.
Trolls, most of the time, have a bark that is worse than their bite, and they really only become effective when people respond to them and become inflamed by them – they are trying to goad people, and they will often say the most outrageous things to do it. There are rules in place to handle hate speech of any kind, and if someone takes it beyond speaking into action, there are laws to handle that – nothing specific really needs to be codified for the internet.
The internet is an extension and a reflection of the society that uses it to interface with each other.
The Internet Is A Reflection Of Society And Doesn’t Need A Separate Set Of Rules
Does anonymity facilitate criminality? I think that the anonymity available on the internet is only maintainable to a certain degree anyway, for most people. Not every single troll is some genius hacker that is able to mask their signal and divert attention from where they are logging in – some of them are just kids or men, or whomever, screaming loudly for attention. Should everyone as a blanket thing be disallowed their online identities? There are some people who might find it easier to communicate and create because of the layer of cover that the internet provides them with, and as long as they are doing nothing to harm anyone, why should this be a problem?
Passwords and code are protected under the First Amendment, and with online personas being an expression of communication and in some cases a guarantee of privacy, in a similar way, should they not be afforded the same protection?
If the surveillance state and big technology end up in bed with each other, and we get a Social Credit system like China then all this might become a moot point. Facial recognition and fingerprint technology might make it easier to lock you out of the digital walled gardens, but for now the internet has some freedoms associated with it, and they allow as many constructive things to happen as bad things – if not more.
Privacy advocates argue against punishing everyone for the behavior of a minority, and the technology is definitely there to be more selective about who is targeted by the measures being suggested. If there is a problem and a supposed solution extends beyond the remit of solving that problem, then doesn’t it merely become a means by which to facilitate state control of freedom of expression?
The press is supposed to provide checks and balances that hold politicians accountable, so when someone moves against that it isn’t the best indication. Citizen journalism is perhaps not the buzzword it once was, but it is still out there, and the means to write and put your opinion out there still exists, and the idea was that it would equalize and make control of the narrative available to more than just the elites who can afford to lawyer up needs to be championed. So should the blogger who has an opinion be covered under the same protections? It’s not going to happen if we totally do away with anonymity.
Criminality is criminality, and it is a separate thing that should be controlled and addressed by the law in isolation from something that is neither a by-product nor really a contributing factor to the crime, merely a hurdle to discovering the culprit which, given how far developed the tech at the disposal of the intelligence community is supposed to be, should be no hurdle at all. Allow the innocent to do their thing, and just punish those who violate the law.