Online Anonymity: Doxing, Distortion and Democracy

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Online anonymity is the rising trend amongst users of the cyber world as it promotes freedom of speech and sharing of content without being traced back to the original source. It comes as people want to experience more privacy on the internet and don’t want to feel like they’re being “spied” on by government gatekeepers. The recommendations of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s conference on “Anonymous Communication Policies for the Internet” [1] support this view. They say that it should be considered a strong human and constitutional right to have online anonymous communication.

Michel Foucault theorised how control works through exposure. He once wrote that “if the prisoner is never sure when he is being observed, he becomes his own guardian.” The right to remain anonymous is one of the principal benefits and freedoms that we have online.  The threat of having no security in being anonymous is under threat with the harmful revenge tactic of Doxing. We can see that anyone can have a valid opinion because prejudice is removed. Online anonymity should be supported as it allows freedom of speech good, bad and neutral. It allows us to see what people really think about online issues and debate, and breaks the control factor over views from citizens. It is the essence of democracy for us to be able to conduct the difficult debates out in the open, where they can be challenged. Rather than trying to chain people to their names, we should be seeking to protect the current capacity we have to deliberate without fear of reprisal


One thought on “Online Anonymity: Doxing, Distortion and Democracy

    Lara Vickers said:
    August 19, 2015 at 5:49 am

    The prospects of anonymity is an extremely important aspect of the current online sphere as we know it. I loved that you mentioned Michel Foucault in your post, as he is a very relevant source for the topic given his involvement and contribution to the concepts of power and control. In his book ‘Discipline and Punish’, Foucault writes about the concept of the virtual Panopticon, which is a device to ensure total control without having to physically enforce this power in person. The Panopticon model was originally designed for a prison to create the most efficient method of surveillance and control. The concept of the design is to allow a single watchman to observe all inmates of an institution without the inmates being able to tell whether or not they are being watched. I think that the concept of the Panopticon can be related directly to cyberspace, as perhaps even though we do uphold a degree of anonymity, we still keep our behaviour in-check in fear of being watched from an observer. It is becoming easier for people to trace the movements of individuals online, which is rather scary and could act a dominant force of control. Just an idea, I suppose in contrast many people are very comfortable doing whatever they like online, regardless of the consequences.
    Your blog was great and really insightful – Thank you!


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