Anonymity through two lenses

When it comes to anonymity, there are two opposing camps: Facebook and 4chan. Facebook is a walled fortress with strict identity guidelines. 4chan is the wild west with its users always reinventing themselves. Zuckerberg and ‘moot’ are philosophically at odds with each other. While speaking at SXSW, ‘moot’ put the differences between him and Zuckerberg beautifully:

Mark Zuckerberg has said that anonymity represents a lack of authenticity, but I would counter that anonymity is authenticity.

This quote is great! However, I’m not sure that ‘moot’ uses authenticity in the same sense that Mark does. I’m sure everyone already figured that but I want to look at it a little more.

When Mark talks about authenticity, he’s not talking about authenticity of being but verification of being X. When a webpage asks you to sign up using Facebook credentials they can be sure, to a certain degree, that you are who you say you are. There is value to having verification in the world. It allows startups avoid things that they would otherwise have to deal with (bots, multiple accounts, blah, blah).

moot is talking about authenticity in being. He believes that the freedom of being anonymous allows people to express themselves. If you look at the talk over at TechCrunch about their switch to Facebook comments you see that they have killed the trolls. Posts that would normally get hundreds of comments now receive a dozen. Some of their readers just don’t want to verify themselves because the posts are connected to their real identity*.

Mark and moot aren’t speaking the same language. Mark is interested in identity verification and moot is interested in authenticity of being.

*I have already mentioned that they’re not speaking about the same thing but it doesn’t mean that the concepts aren’t related. Mark has, in a sense, brought social norms and customs to the web. That means that you won’t do something that you wouldn’t do in the physical world. Being authentic, according to Mark, is acting like you would in the physical world.

In a related note, this might be a big reason TechCrunch (and others?) have seen such drops in comments. When someone insults you work in the world you are personally offended. In the same way, when you comment using Facebook credentials that comment is connected to your being. Ridicule is tied to the entity creating it.

I’d like to leave it off by paraphrasing something I read moot said: On 4chan people can create something and it may catch on or it may not. In the end, it’s not the user who get’s lauded, it’s the meme. On 4chan the memes are the focus. [If someone could help with a link, that’d be great!]


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