Source: Rajan Laad
The news of Elon Musk clinching a deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion, was celebrated by proponents of freedom of speech.
Twitter, that at its core is a great idea, is a forum where ideas are succinctly expressed and exchanged. But alas, Twitter was taken over by left wing Democrat extremists under whose watch it as devolved into an echo chamber. Twitter frequently suppresses inconvenient facts ranging from a bombshell report about Hunter Biden laptop in 2020 to Tweets questioning the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccine.
Since the news of his takeover, users have inundated Musk with suggestions on how to make the platform better.
Among the leading suggestions is the elimination anonymity on Twitter.
Governor Mike Huckabee thinks it is good idea.
Let’s dig deeper.
During enrollment, Twitter verifies that a confirmed email address or mobile phone number is associated with an account. Twitter has a two-factor authentication process. The first is obviously the username and password. The second is the entry of a security key received via email or text message on a phone to verify the user’s identity. While signing in on a daily basis, only the username and password is required.
Those who desire anonymity can confirm their identity via email with a cryptic username instead of their mobile device while enrolling.
One of the issues on Twitter, that even Musk has complained about, is bots. These are dummy accounts whose sole function is either to boost follower counts of certain users or push an agenda to influence others.
Bots can enable the call for cancellation by claiming that “Mr. ABC was excoriated by thousands of users on Twitter for his bigoted utterances”
But the trend might have been pushed by a thousand bogus accounts run by Democrat operatives.
Making authentication more ‘robust’ will eliminate bots.
Perhaps in addition to a confirmed email address or mobile phone number, Twitter could mandate that the user’s driver’s or other government ID be verified during enrolment.
This would eliminate the issue of bots.
Even if users are allowed to remain anonymous after signing in, the thought that their account is linked with a government ID could deter users from expressing themselves freely.
What if Huckabee’s recommendation is also implemented, i.e. in addition to government verification while enrollment and every user has to have their own display photo and real name while tweeting?
Most people use their cloak of anonymity to express ideas that they would hesitate to express in person. Some claim that anonymity is the sole reason behind abusive and hateful online behavior.
But there are other circumstances that require anonymity. Often the message is more important than the individual.
Perhaps a whistleblower wants to reveal large-scale corruption or wrongdoing at his place of work but doesn’t know whom to turn to. Being anonymous is the only way the individual can express himself freely without fear of reprisal. The hope is that his tweets will cause an internal or external investigation that is followed by remedial action.
People often hesitate to even file police complaints because they do not want to be mixed up with the law. Here again, social media anonymity can be invaluable. Perhaps an individual witnesses a crime in progress but hesitates to call the police because he doesn’t want to be subjected to questioning and participate in court hearings. If, however, the user can tweet anonymously to law enforcement, precious lives could be saved without the complainant being ‘mixed up with the law’.
We know that most big corporate houses, showbiz, educational institutions, and NGOs are overwhelmingly liberal. Conservatives often have no option but to be reticent about their opinions at work. Being anonymous once again is the only way they can express their political views on social media and meet many others like them. If users are compelled to reveal their identities, they will probably remain silent and independent voices will be lost.
The result is Rachel Maddow and Anderson Cooper will still be able to tweet about the debunked Russian Collusion story but a covert Trump supporter working in Hollywood will not be able to reply and debunk her story for fear of reprisals at the workplace.
It is not just politics, there may be other scenarios where people desire anonymity. Perhaps an individual suffers from a rare health disorder and wants to interact with others who suffer from it without having to disclose their identity.
Under totalitarian regimes, anonymity on social media may be the only way to express dissent.
Beyond social media, many writers have used nom de plume to conceal their identity. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë published Jane Eyre and, Wuthering Heights under the pseudonyms of three brothers, Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell.
It has to be remembered that absolute anonymity is impossible on social media. Irrespective of how cryptic a Twitter handle and display photo is, an identity (and address) of a user can be exposed by determined cyber experts.
This occurred with the famous Twitter account Libs of TikTok, which merely reposts the voluntarily posted ridiculous utterances of the woke liberals. The Washington Post carried an article that revealed the identity of the individual who runs the account. The risk of this doxing is that the user could suffer both professionally and personally. Perhaps an irate waiter sneezes into her soup or an angry left-winger resorts to violence. The user will have to always be on the lookout for the rest of her life.
What about those who incite violence and hate?
Twitter can easily remove such content if law enforcement issues directives. There have been plenty of instances when this has been done.
Anonymity is related to privacy which is regarded as a human right. The right to remain anonymous hence must be respected.
In the end, we cannot deny responsible individuals their right to express themselves freely just rogue elements will abuse it.