You are never as anonoymous online as you think…

Eoghan Harris has been sacked by the Irish Independent for running a sock puppet Twitter account. There is also a good overview of the story in the Irish Times. For those not aware of the term this is when you set up a Twitter account with a fake name. I am not a reader of the Irish Independent so I have never read anything by Eoghan Harris. I have no opinion of him either way but I know he does tend to elicit strong views from fans and detractors alike. His radio interview with Sarah McInernery is well worth a listen:

When it comes to the internet I finally believe you should always use your real name for anything you write as you will always be found out eventually.

At Slugger we always ask blog contributors to use their real names. There are a few exceptions for insiders or reasons of security but generally, we feel it is important to stand over whatever you write and to be accountable.

At times we have thought about requiring real names for the comments but we thought it would be too difficult to enforce. But we do appreciate the commentators who do use their real names.

The core issue is when people are anonymous they can tend to misbehave. The little devil on our shoulder starts whispering in our ear. When you use your real name you tend to pause before you say something stupid.

There is a broader issue here around the toxic nature of social media. Twitter should ask users to verify their identity. At the very least they should expand their blue tick verification process to everyone. Then you should be able to block non-verified accounts from interacting with you. Any Twitter user sending abuse should be immediately banned from the platform – it is inexcusable that Twitter have not dealt with this issue.

You could make certain exceptions like people who live in repressive regimes or insiders but these are a small fraction of Twitter users.

It’s important that people realise you are not as anonymous as you think you are. You leave a digital breadcrumb trail for everything you do online. A safe assumption is to assume nothing is private and act accordingly.

At slugger we have shown that you can have relativity civil discussions around contentious topics. We are not perfect but compared to other platforms we are an oasis of calm.

I have been on Twitter for over 12 years now and as a rule, I never make negative comments. In fact I go out of my way to say nice things. If I have enjoyed a book or a news article I make a point of tweeting the author to say well done. In the end of the day, we all need to remember that there is a real person behind every username and a bit of civility helps everyone.

Can I remind you all of our play the ball, not the man/woman rule. There is at least two legal actions involved in this case so to play it safe keep your comments non-personal.


Photo by Free-Photos is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

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