Social networking software

Facebook Comments: The Death of Online Anonymity

...forcing people to comment - and more broadly speaking to log-on - with one identity puts a massive stranglehold on our very nature. I'm not too worried about FB Comments in isolation, but the writing is on the wall: all of this off-site encroachment of the Facebook graph portends where FB is really going in pushing one identity. And a uniform identity defies us.

Face it, authenticity goes way down when people know their 700 friends, grandma, and 5 ex-girlfriends are tuning in each time they post something on the web.

You could spend half a semester of freshman composition going over all the ways Cheney murders language and logic in that post, but I think his point is essentially this: Tying blog comments to your identity means you can no longer be a total a****** online with absolute impunity.

Personally, I think unless it somehow endangers their lives (they're whistleblowers or human rights activists under threat of reprisal), people should stand behind what they say online. Here in Cringeville, commenters are generally pretty good -- respectful of the opinions they disagree with, not prone to ad hominem attacks. Wandering into the comments forums at other sites, however, can be like entering a wild ape compound dressed like a 200-pound banana. A little more civility on the Web would be a good thing.

At the same time, handing over the Web-commenting franchise to Facebook? Not a good idea, in my opinion. For one thing, there's that "we own everything you do and we're sharing it with everyone else" problem that Facebook tends to have. The fact Facebook shares your friends' comments on your wall on another site entirely -- without notifying them or asking permission -- is a rather egregious example of this. Then there's the fact that it's a closed system; log-ons for commenting systems like Disqus or Twitter and Google identities don't work with it, and it's not clear whether they ever will. Finally, if you really want to post nasty stuff under a name that's not your own, making a fake Facebook account is pretty darned easy, so the system is hardly foolproof.

Still, I'm liking the general idea of having a consistent identity across the Web, even if it's not necessarily the same one that appears on your birth certificate.

As I've written in the past, anonymity has its uses. But one of them should never be to shield trolls or cowards.

What do you think -- identity, anonymity, or a little bit of both? Post your thoughts below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "Facebook Comments: The death of Web anonymity," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Track the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringeley's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

Subscribe to the Daily Downloads Newsletter

Comments