Calling for an end to anonymity on social media would deprive the most vulnerable in society of a voice, of security... of their lives.

First published in February 2021.

Deep sigh, yes social media companies need to be better at tackling abuse, but, and it is a big but, it shows a lack of engagement with reality, and a place of privilege to think that calling for anonymity to be removed is the answer.

Not only is anonymity essential for many across the world calling out human rights abuses, etc. – people who would be killed otherwise – but it also won’t stop abuse. Take a quick look at some of the worst offenders and they are not only not anonymous, they are verified.

Verified accounts on Twitter and Facebook.

Imposing a necessity to use photo ID, credit cards, etc. as identification would mean that many of the poorest and most vulnerable in society would be unable to access social media.

Not only that, but you couldn’t even claim it could be country restricted. Take the UK for example, for many asylum seekers social media is a means to be heard. Anonymity prevents the Home Office using their tweets to prejudice their applications, and thereby deny them safety.

What about people fleeing abusive partners, or who fear being stalked online? Does removing their ability to communicate anonymously benefit anyone other than their abusers?

As I said at the start, there is a serious discussion to be had about limiting abuse on social media. Removing the ability to be anonymous isn’t it though.

Calls for such action would deprive the most vulnerable in society of a voice, of security, potentially of their lives.

I say this as someone who isn’t anonymous, but I know my ability not to be is a highly privileged one.  

Dan Sohege, Human rights advocate, international refugee law specialist, immigration economist, charity fundraising professional and Director of Stand For All.

[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 1 February 2021 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected, and published with the author’s consent. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

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