- Honestly, fuck this. After spending over ten minutes setting up a throwaway Disqus account just so that I could post this comment on http://www.wired.com/insights/2013/02/anonymity-isnt-the-problem-with-web-comments/ I was able to hit the "post" button, upon which event I was told my comment had to be "moderated" before being posted.
- It wouldn't irk so much if that wasn't precisely the fucking point of the post.
- So here it is.
- Daniels' treatment of Udell's post is too charitable.
- I think that the primary argument against Udell's vision is that he is proposing erecting an authoritarian nightmare of identity control just in order to create conditions he thinks will force everyone on the internet to conform to norms of discourse he thinks are "appropriate" or polite.
- Already, the ubiquity of Disqus and other identity ecosystems means effective lockout for anyone who is not willing to sacrifice their online anonymity. People are being excluded from communities unless they forgo the ability to use the internet anonymously.
- Anonymity is of primary and inestimable political importance. The last line of defence for free speech online is anonymous speech. Threats to these things are not abstract hypotheticals.
- A system that forces people to conduct all of their activity under independently verifiable identities will give asymmetric power to authoritarian systems. It will be abused, because we do not live in a timeless liberal paradise where bad things only happen Over There, and officials stopped being power-hungry dishonest scumbags Long Ago.
- Udell says that anonymity is "necessary" in a small number of limit cases: "whistleblowers, political dissidents and victims of abuse." Once he has broken the internet, once it is impossible to join a single important internet community without authing, how is anonymity going to be available in these limit cases? Who is going to decide who gets to be a political dissident?
- All of this, for Jon Udell, is to make it so that people "think twice about that nasty or petty comment." A massive fuck you to Jon Udell, folks. Nasty and petty comments are not a good enough reason to break the internet. What is it about people that they seem to think freedom of speech is just for people who want to say lofty things they agree with? Freedom of speech is precisely protection for offensive speech. It is offensive speech it is there to protect. It doesn't matter that you think it is petty, or useless, or not worth protecting. It is protected against exactly that censorious instinct in you that would have you erect yourself an authority and deny someone else a right to offend you. Inoffensive speech doesn't need protection. When you feel something you read doesn't deserve protection, freedom of speech is protecting it *from you* and from whatever puerile moral sentiment it is *you* believe should be universal. Freedom of speech means you should grow a fucking skin and get used to it.
- It is normally argued, in response to this, this isn't a freedom of speech issue: every site has a prerogative to "moderate" the discussions that happen within its control. But what Udell is arguing for is a systematic architecture that will (he thinks) tend towards sanitizing the general internet of impolite or vexatious speech. It's not even dangerous speech he wants to remove from the internet, euphemistically "doing wonders" for the "entire web." It is speech that people find mildly vexatious. In essence, tolerable, but mildly troubling speech. And the net result of this horrific proposal is that speech will be moderated and sanitized to be more "acceptable" through an infrastructure governed by private entities, with arbitary administrative powers, and no independent review body or process. The responsibility for abridging speech, then, is distributed to the totality of private corporations that make up the web - a worrying 21st century protoype for the Mussolini model for fascism.
- Jon Udell should realize the closet authoritarianism his position on this represents. He would significantly worsen our de facto liberties in order to save overly sensitive people the trouble of having to read rude things on the internet. The alternative is that we can all grow up and get over it, and stop being so fucking sensitive.
- I had to start a poxy Disqus account in order to obtain the privileges to even post this comment. But I will never ever use it again. This is the sort of awful lock out I am talking about, and every time I hit one of these registration walls, all of these politically illiterate web utopians appear to me like so many little web fascists.
- The email address for this disqus account is firstname.lastname@example.org, and the password is gahgah. Help yourself to a log in. I'm done with it.
Post on WIRED:Udell/Ha Anonymity Debate
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