The author Warren Ellis started his own message board about a year ago. It was called The Engine, and one of the underlying premises was no anonymity. Every person who had an account had to use their full name. No cute nicknames, no stupid puns – their real names. And what happened on this message board was that since everyone was actually accountable for their words, people acted civilized! It was a grand experiment, and I was sad to see it go when it got too big for him to maintain and he had to shut it down. But it makes me wonder – wouldn’t the Internet be a better place if people had accountability for their words?
Anyone who’s online for more than a day knows about trolls. Trolls are the lowest level of humanity on the web. They use anonymity as a shield, which makes them feel powerful and strong, and then they try to use that power to attack whomever they want. Since they have no accountability, they feel invincible, which spurs them to attack more and more. Usually they like to attack people who don’t hide behind anonymity, and the more personal the attack, the better the troll feels about him or herself. And the troll needs to feel good about him or herself – they’re usually filled with self-loathing. Whether they’re some biker trash in Bend, Oregon, trailer trash in California, welfare trash in Massachusetts, or redneck trash in the South, they’re always unhappy people with very few redeeming qualities. And they know that they’re shit, too, because they have no defense for using anonymity as a weapon.
Other than trolls, though, there are plenty of valid reasons to stay anonymous online. People want to write private thoughts without worrying about being found out, or they’re trying to avoid a stalker or angry ex-spouse. Or they just don’t want their work to see their opinions on everything from movies to sex to life in general. I will always respect those valid reasons – it just makes sense.
I feel, however, that the very second that anonymity is used to attack someone else without repercussion or accountability, it should be forfeit. Every time I read some little idiot’s personal attack on another person, it just infuriates me. It takes every effort for me not to spend the resources to find out exactly who and where they are (which can be done for the right price), then drive to their home and beat them severely with a rusty pipe. Then I’d take a picture of their broken and busted faces and post them online with all of their contact information, linking to each and every time they thought they were powerful by attacking someone anonymously. I bet they might actually learn a little maturity, responsibility, and accountability then!
Maybe I should start a company called Trollbusters. It would probably make millions!