March 14, 2022

Clear names for a peaceful Internet?

If you behave decently on the Internet, you don't need to be anonymous. But is that true? German Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble has already called for mandatory use of plain names on the Internet. Is anonymity on the Internet really just a shield for haters?

Requirement to use a clear name as an inhibition threshold

Although it would be possible to prosecute the spreaders of fake news and hate more efficiently by making it compulsory to use a clear name, the compulsory use of a clear name does not automatically lead to a reduction in hate. A study by a team of researchers at the University of Zurich shows that users who appear with their real names spread more hate than those who use a username. Haters are also often clearly identifiable by their profile on social networks.

Protecting the victim

Removing anonymity on the internet would also weaken protection for the victim. If not only the aggressor but also the victim had to appear with clear names, any threats would inevitably be directed directly at the victim's person instead of just a username. This would compromise the victim's safety and threats would gain clout.

As in real life

Opponents of anonymity on the Internet often argue that the same law should apply online as in real life. But this argument backfires. At demonstrations, for example, the right to anonymity applies, and the obligation to show ID in real life is also bound by clear and strict rules. In everyday life, too, you don't have to walk around with a name tag all the time, which would be tantamount to requiring a clear name on the Internet.

Although the obligation to use a clear name enables criminals to be tracked more efficiently on the Internet, on closer inspection it harbors staggering disadvantages. In our eyes, the obligation to use a clear name is unsuitable for combating "hate on the internet". Trusted Accounts therefore relies on other methods and means to sustainably reduce the number of hate messages.