Zeynep Tufekci, assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and fellow at Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Recently reflected on Eric Schmit’s comments about the “real names” policy of Google+
…[I]f the goal is to create a social network, a place where people can socialize, share, chat, argue, organize, and –yes- vociferously disagree, it is true that stable and embedded identities are more conducive to this outcome. Sociological research talks about “deindividuation” –the notion that without being closely tied to individual accountability, individuals may commit acts which are outside of social norms which would otherwise bind them. Plus, in a reduced-cues environment such as the Internet, it may well be easier say things which are hurtful as one is spared from having to look someone in the eye (and we do know face-to-face interaction indeed taps into powerful and deep parts of our biological endowment as humans).
But Tufekci goes on to critique the policy, indicating that nicknames and pseudonyms are stable identities (one need look no further than the example of digby to realize this).
More generally, while there is a strong argument for stable identities, there also are strong arguments for the preservation of anonymity and pseudonymity online. For example, people participate online in support groups of which anonymity is a key feature. They may not otherwise be as free to share if their identities were known. Many participants on Tumblr report being freer and more creative there behind their pseudonyms than with the “drama” on Facebook.
What do you think, specifically of the policy, but more generally about the issues of pseudonymity and anonymity?