This is about Google’s policy of only allowing “real” names for participants on Google+. Before I go into why this is evil, I want to point out without providing any details that I’ve already spotted dozens of pseudonymous people on Google+ that Google+ authorities have missed. So, their policy, as implemented, is absurd to a level that should be embarrassing if the people who run Goolge+ have that emotion. I sense that they do, and I sense that they are in fact rather embarrassed. I’m confident that Google+ will change its policy shortly. In the meantime, this comentary is for people like Benno Hansen who said “Activities that need anonymity will produce the demand for anonymous sites….With anonymity there is no accountability. People should grow up and treat each other properly, using their real names.”

Benno Hansen is a moron twice over. First, he’s a moron because of his religion. His religion is Teh Free Market in which he has misguided faith. Second, he’s a moron because he does not know that without anonymity, an uncomfortably large percentage of those who make an effort to communicate on the Internet will suffer what the two friends I’m going to talk about now have suffered.

Both of my friends are female, and both have blogged or do blog about science as well as certain political issues, education, and so on. I’ll call them Mary and Jane. You know them by their pseudonyms, and I happen to be lucky to know them by their real names, which few people do.

Mary decided to blog about science. I have to say that it was probably me that talked her into considering this seriously, but obviously she made the decision on her own, and when she did so she set up a blank blog at a well known blogger service. She used a pseudonym to set up the blog but it was obvious from the data she provided that she was a female.

Within a few hours after she set up this blog but before she wrote a single post, a friend of ours (never mind the details, these are rather technical and possibly private) discovered that Mary’s pseudonym and blog were the subject of some chatter on an Internet discussion group of some kind. The discussion group was a semi-private but not very well hidden forum for a group of racist white supremacists operating within driving distance of Mary’s home. This chatter involved plans to find her, track her down, and rape her. They had discovered her by trolling around on the Internet, via her set up but not yet used blog.

There as an intervention, and the bad guys were scared off. Mary continued to blog, a bit frightened but more angry, and although she constantly receives obnoxious and threatening, misogynist and inappropriate blog comments and emails, she is resolved to ignore these things, but only because she has the comfort of anonymity.

I don’t know much about Jane’s early blogging. At first I knew her as a pseudonym only, and then one day we had the opportunity to meet in a sort of dark alley where we were both stranded waiting for something else, and we hit it off quite nicely and have been friends and colleague’s ever since. She has received, and continues to receive, the usual threatening and obnoxious comments and emails that many women who blog receive. The reason that I mention Jane in particular is this: Some of those comments arrived in ways other than electronically; She has had comments attached to her car, her door, her snail mail box, etc. Somehow, there are those who have broken through her anonymity and who have gotten far too close. She has had to do things that no one should ever be required to do just because there are, well, men who have not learned (or been forced as is sometimes necessary) to behave.

Interestingly, one of these women is on Google+ and the other is not. The former is on Google+ because her pseudonym was not recognized as a pseudonym by the Google+ Authorities. The other was found by the Google+ Authorities and summarily tossed off the service.

Benno Hansen wants all of us to live in a world where if you are a woman or otherwise subject to this kind of hate, you can do one of the following:

1) Be lucky and no one notices you;
2) Get harassed in ways that are troubling and dangerous;
3) Shut up; or
4) Wait for the free market to somehow figure out a way to solve your problems.

Perhaps I was harsh above in calling Benno a moron twice over. In fact, now that I think about it, it is pretty mean for me to use my Bloggy Mojo to single out a commenter and attack him in an ad hominem manner from my Lofty Bloggish Platform. Generally, it is true, I don’t like doing such things. (I promise you: For every time I’ve done such a thing there have been a hundred times when I didn’t but could have!) So anyway, I take back my declaration that Benno is a moron twice over. Sorry Benno.

But he is a misogynist. A hapless misogynist if he’s also a moron and has no clue what is going on in this world in which he hold the right to comment on people’s blogs, not so hapless if he does understand that as a man he is essentially immune to this problem which he insists women should just live with.

There are a lot of reasons pseudonymity is important, and valid, and I’ve only detailed one here. In some cases people cannot openly and freely blog because of their jobs, but they can blog using a pseudonym. This is probably far more common than most people think. It is true of almost everyone above a certain pay grade in government institutions who are not academics, for instance.

Others have discussed the broader issues recently and at length.1 I think the point is clear; If Google+ wants to operate properly it will allow pseudonyms.

Google+ policy is based on the assumption that using a pseudonym is linked to bad behavior. It can be. I’ve been outspoken in that regard. When one pseudonymous blogger decided for reasons that I still do not understand to go after me and try to make my bloggy life miserable, one of the things he did was to attack the way I presented my C.V. on my blog …. actually, he attacked the fact that I presented my educational background, rather than the way I presented it. So we had the opportunity to duel it out… what ways were our backgrounds relevant or meaningful or whatever whatever. But since he was a pseudo, he had no background. He claimed to be have a higher degree form a valid institution and to have an important job as a highly respected institution, and on the basis of these claims, attacked my background and my institutional affiliation. That was not fair and it was not appropriate and I and many others who observed that maneno lost respect for that particular pseudonymous blogger, and many because distrustful of pseudonyms. In fact, I was treated so egregiously that many looking on assumed that I had developed a bitter attitude towards pseudonymity, even though I did not, and I had to go through more than a little bit of trouble convincing people that this was not the case.

That was an example of a person using a pseudonym for valid reasons (because of his job and its conflict with his blogging) but who abused it sufficiently that he could very legitimately been tossed off a social networking system like Google+. But not because he was a pseudo… rather because he was a troublesome ass.

So, no, Google, pseudonymity is not associated with bad behavior. It is very often associated with a means of people having a voice who otherwise could not or who otherwise could have a voice only with an undue risk. Banning the use of pseudonyms is a means of shutting those people up, and that is why the policy is evil.

It is also important that pseudonymity and … I guess we’ll call it nymity … are not as distinctly different as Google+ and many other seem to think. Lots and lots and lots … maybe most … of the Google+ users have declared their name to be something other than what is written in full on the face of their credit cards or associated officially with their bank accounts. Most Jims are James, most Mandy’s are Amandas, and most Kiki’s are …. whatever Kiki usually is. Many people have a middle (or other third) name that is officially part of their name, but don’t use it normally so it is not part of their Google+ name. So what you say? Well, if part of the reason Benno and Google want everyone to use their real name is so that they can be held responsible for what they say, then using a name like Mandy Smith is totally inappropriate and should be banned. If you are a member of Google+, go to the search box and try it. Go ahead. Type in Mandy Smith and see what you get. Mandy Smith might as well be Person X.

And no, I do not allow the Beta Excuse. Several people in defending Google+ have noted that Google+ is in Beta.

Seriously?

So, does this mean that a driver in beta … a student driver … can ignore driving etiquette? Does this mean that Google+ can implement what is ultimately an inappropriate (read “evil”) policy for several years as long as the word “beta” appears somewhere on the product? You do remember, do you not, that Goolge Docs was “Beta” from its inception until just a few months ago. Sorry, Beta does not buy ethics.

Google. Get it together please and do the right thing. Don’t be a -1.

___________________
1See:
Google Plus: What’s in a (Pseudo)nym?
Pseudonyms A Pseudo Controversy With Google+
Google’s gormless ‘no pseudonym’ policy
Does Google+ hate women?
Why does Google+ insist on having your real name?

Comments

  1. #1 Kevin
    August 1, 2011

    My knee-jerk reaction was that pseudonymous people can just refrain from using google+ but the more I think about how interwoven social networks are into our internet life, the more I realize this “argument” doesn’t cut it.

    But I really don’t want to have to protest g+ it’s so much better than facebook…

  2. #2 Stephanie Z
    August 1, 2011

    I don’t understand why Google doesn’t understand this after Buzz. If privacy and safety concerns killed one of your products, wouldn’t you make sure you understand the issue before your next big thing?

  3. #3 Tony Sidaway
    August 1, 2011

    I think this is overblown. Nobody is forced to use Google+, any more than I am forced to use Facebook or Twitter (I deleted my Facebook account but am still an active and enthusiastic Twitter user).

    For anonymity, the best option is probably to create a throwaway email address through a tor proxy and then use this to obtain a Twitter account which you can also operate through tor.

    Google+ is supposed to be a much more commercially-based community. Basically they hope to draw in users and perform data-mining on their actions. This probably isn’t consistent with the aims of anonymity, so those who expect to use it in an anonymous way are fooling themselves.

  4. #4 anthrosciguy
    August 1, 2011

    I’ve been involved in a forum discussion for quite some time now and one and only participant uses his real name. He is by far the most obnoxious and abusively insulting person there, and consistently so. The argument against pseudonyms just doesn’t match the facts. That’s the biggest reason Google’s stance doesn’t “cut it”.

  5. #5 anthrosciguy
    August 1, 2011

    In the above should read “one and only one participant”.

  6. #6 Charles Sullivan
    August 1, 2011

    That was quite informative. I hadn’t really thought through the reasons in favor of anonymity. You’ve convinced me.

  7. #7 Pierce R. Butler
    August 1, 2011

    I’ve never had enough interest to research the company’s early history, but didn’t the original Google business blueprint rely on revenue from advertising interests?

    Unless everyone has wildly over-rated the founders’ intelligence, how could they plan to serve their users to advertisers and marketers without knowing their project depended utterly on greed, manipulation, sexism, lies, and the whole Dark Side panoply?

  8. #8 Benno Hansen
    August 1, 2011

    Dear Greg,

    I stand by my comment, (which I’d appreciate if you at least quoted in it full (short) length now you have written an entire blog post about it). As for calling me a moron, that’s just childish. But calling me a misogynist is a bit over the top. Especially since my brief comment was nowhere near addressing gender issues.

    I agree there can be a need for gay teenager to act online without their parents finding out, which seem to be one of your concerns. I myself have earlier used a pseudonym (to be rude and act like a hacker, not to flirt with boys). I agree there can be situations where anonymity is warranted. But I don’t see why it’s important to single out Google+ and force them to allow it!?

    It was a conscious decision on my part to star using my real name online. I could feel I was acting a bit different than when people knew who I was, and vice versa. Interactions between anonymous people are so often in downwards spirals, not constructive. I know there are people out there who act like idiots, are psychos ets – but they should be pulled out in the open as much as possible too, held accountable for their views and actions.

    My belief was recently restated by the AI, Webmind, in Robert J Sawyers “WWWonder”: “With anonymity there is no accountability, and without accountability there is no need for reason, or reasonableness.” So, we need everyone to grow up and be reasonable. And part of being grown up and reasonable is being tolerant of, say, teenagers who question their sex or whatever.

    I would suggest then that people insisting on using pseudonyms could do so provided their profiles had a big pink blinking warning sign all over it. Or else, make your profile private. The only moron here is the oxymoron of anonymous social networking.

  9. #9 daedalus2u
    August 1, 2011

    Non-anonymous data is much more valuable than anonymous data.

    I suspect that places like China, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Russia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia won’t allow an anonymous social network (for obvious reasons).

    How Google should respond to that is a difficult question.

  10. #10 Greg Laden
    August 1, 2011

    Benno, I think I quoted as much of your comment as I needed to, but clearly your comment was public and people can certainly read all the other dozen or so words as they wish. I left of the last bit because I thought it made you look a little childish, and that was a distraction.

    Actually, I think calling you a moron is a bit over the top becuase you probably aren’t, but the point was still made: Yeah, you didn’t look that smart to me blowing off the entire issue of what a significant number of people in your social network sphere need and want because it does not happen to apply to you. You weren’t thinking when you wrote that comment, but it is the kind of comment that can hurt.

    Yes, your comment was very much addressing gender issues. Sorry, you don’t get to say something that supports what is ultimately (in part, in large part) an anti-women policy and then claim that since YOU didn’t identify it as a gender issue that it isn’t. Were’ cycling back to that moron idea here…. you do not know what is being talked about here, apparently!

    I agree there can be a need for gay teenager to act online without their parents finding out, which seem to be one of your concerns.

    That specific concern had not occurred to me but I’d add it to the list.

    But I don’t see why it’s important to single out Google+ and force them to allow it!?

    A number of people, it would seem agree with you. There are three reasons.

    1) This: http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2011/07/google_inc_is_a_different_kind.php

    2) Because I personally won’t use G+ if they don’t change their policy. I’m only one person, but I am probably not the only one who works with or associated (on line) with people who won’t be able to use G+ and thus wont’ find it useful. IN truth, I’ll use any avaialble automatic posting service to serve my content to G+ but it will be there for consumption only, not interaction. I’ll interact elsewhere. The fact that Google CAN make a rule that makes me not want to affiliate with it does not mean that I should not suggest that they DON’T make the rule. The argument that since they can do what that want, I should shut up (and the others should shut up) …. is interesting. Show me where you’ve applied it to other people expressing their opinions about how G+ works.

    3) They asked me. Google asked me what I thought and Google told me they wanted to serve an open and diverse community. Google does not want to do what you say they are doing, and Google is rather interested in my opinion, even if you would prefer that I not express it.

    It was a conscious decision on my part to star using my real name online. I could feel I was acting a bit different than when people knew who I was, and vice versa.<>

    Me too.

    Interactions between anonymous people are so often in downwards spirals, not constructive.

    I agree that this is very true. I did address that in my post.

    “With anonymity there is no accountability, and without accountability there is no need for reason, or reasonableness.”

    This applies to established pseudos no more than it applies to people with real names, and certainly, one could ask how it applies to people who have real names that look real but aren’t. Please refer to the post above. The two people I talked about … one has a crazy zany fake name and the other a pseudo that looks real enough, you would probably not recognize it as a pseudonym. Technically, they are both not allowed on G+. One stuck in, one got thrown out .

    So, we need everyone to grow up and be reasonable. And part of being grown up and reasonable is being tolerant of, say, teenagers who question their sex or whatever.

    I agree in principle with what you are saying here but what you need to understand is that this is a form of argument that is misleading and inappropriate. It’s like saying in the us that the civil rights act was passed in 1969 and everybody understands that racism is bad so we dont’ have to make any adjustments regarding racism because we all know it’s bad. Ought is not is. Depending, of course, on what is is.

    I would suggest then that people insisting on using pseudonyms could do so provided their profiles had a big pink blinking warning sign all over it.

    Like a yellow star? Seriously, Benno? Come one, man, where is your sense of historical perspective?

  11. #11 Tom Singer
    August 1, 2011

    Greg, you’re Elevatorgate trolling your own blog now? Was it your intent that your comments about Benno (and presumably myself, because I agree with him or her) being a moron and a misogynist come off as uncomfortable humor, a la The Office? To me, they came off as overblown, offensive reactions to a reasoned comment.

    It seems to me that one of your arguments for anonymity is that people who try to be anonymous online occasionally get found out and occasionally suffer bad things. The only way I can make sense of that is that you think Google will do a better job of preserving anonymity than other services, but even that strikes me as a weak argument – I suspect that revealing identities happens more through social methods (hey, my buddy Greg is Greg Laden’s Blog!) rather than through compromising technology, and I don’t see a good reason that Google would be immune from hacking.

    So, taking away your strange attacks and an argument that I don’t understand (at this time), I’m left with “maybe you can’t speak freely because of your job” (or, presumably, because people might harm you or leave a flaming bag of dog poo on your doorstep, or whatever). Okay, that’s a valid point. But it doesn’t have much bearing on Google+, which, at least as I understand it, is basically a social networking site. If you want to blow the whistle or vent about a colleague or say something that would otherwise get you in trouble if it was tied to your actual identity, the internet provides you with a million ways to do that. Google actually already provides you with a means of doing that – you can create a blog on their Blogger site.

    The other thing you bring up is that the policy is difficult to enforce, and is as a result poorly enforced. That’s true. But that doesn’t mean Google shouldn’t give it a shot (and who knows, they might come up with something creative), and it doesn’t make them evil for doing it. It’s their network, and as long as they’re up front about what they’re doing, and you have the choice of using their service, where’s the evil?

  12. #12 Azkyroth
    August 1, 2011

    Google+ is supposed to be a much more commercially-based community. Basically they hope to draw in users and perform data-mining on their actions.

    So they’ve gone beyond simply abandoning “don’t be evil?”

  13. #13 CanadianChick
    August 1, 2011

    I don’t understand why people are having trouble understanding this concept.

    I have been CanadianChick on various comment sites for a very very very long time. While there may be other CanadianChicks out there, I’m the only one with my email address, which Google could certainly verify.

    I have a LOT of reasons for using a pseudonym. I don’t want to be found out IRL by crazy people – that’s already come close to happening. I have a job that is very sensitive and requires public contact in a representative role – I do not want my comments to be either used against me at work OR used to imply that I represent my employer in the things I say or do online. I am a woman who has already had to deal with misogynistic jerks IRL, don’t need that online.

    I’ve been online anonymously (pseuonymously?) since 1996. I haven’t killed the internet yet. I promise, I’ll be good on Google+.

    No, I don’t have to use Google+. And I won’t until I can be there using a pseudonym. I refuse to join under my IRL name too, even though I do have an almost real name presence too.

  14. #14 StevoR
    August 1, 2011

    Well said, Greg Laden.

    I was thinking of the mis-use of data and singling out of dissidents by totalitarian states on one extreme down to scammers and identify theft on the other as valid reasons but the level of truly creepy, nightmarish misogny like this :

    The discussion group was a semi-private but not very well hidden forum for a group of racist white supremacists operating within driving distance of Mary’s home. This chatter involved plans to find her, track her down, and rape her. They had discovered her by trolling around on the Internet, via her set up but not yet used blog.

    Yikes! :-O

    Hearing stuff like this – and the whole “Elevatorgate” explosion after Rebecca Watson’s entirely reasonable point detonated into such a firestrom of misoynist hatred and unreason has me increasingly realising how very sheltered and priviledged I’ve been in my life so far.

  15. #15 StevoR
    August 1, 2011

    This discussion also has me again reflecting how much the internet is certainly a double edged, multi-faceted technology, like so many Human inventions capable of being used for so very much good ..and so very much evil too.

    Stating the obvious I guess but still.

  16. #16 Rorschach
    August 2, 2011

    I’m not sure I understands Google’s reasoning here. What would they prefer, that people who require privacy or anonymity for various reasons would create a fake name account, or that they use a pseudonym the whole internet has known them under for years ?
    How about Lady Gaga, 50 Cent, Orac, Doctor Oz ? There are 2 Coca-Cola profiles on G+, but I can’t use my internet ‘nym ? I’m not going back to G+ unless this gets remedied, I’m not registering under a fake name either, which would be the only option to get back right now, and I’m not sending Google my passport.

  17. #17 Greg Laden
    August 2, 2011

    You could be Joe Rorschach.

  18. #18 Azkyroth
    August 2, 2011

    Benno, did you miss the part about women being stalked and threatened with rape simply for stating their views online?

  19. #19 John S. Wilkins
    August 2, 2011

    I wonder if there is an undercurrent of libertarian philosophy in play at Google. It’s something that those who are fortunate enough to gain market dominance early on tend to fall prey to, and so I’d not be surprised if this is what is driving this silly policy. Moreover, it has been suggested that they wish to be able to sell proprietary information about users to corporate customers, such as buying habits, and this, too, would explain it.

  20. #20 Benno Hansen
    August 2, 2011

    Notice the vile attacks I’m getting… from anonymous handles!?

    Most of my additional points have been made by Tom Singer above, thanks Tom. Like you said, if anyone wants to subject their contacts to Tea Party rubbish, Nazi rubbish or whatever, they can write anonymously on a blog, then post on G+ to exactly the circles they want. Millions of choices. You don’t even need to reveal who you have encircled on G+.

    When you complain that women can get raped you are not discussing the subject of anonymity. You are complaining that your society is evil and messed up. I must say, knowing people should now have slept on it, I was expecting some polite back paddling on calling me a ‘hater of women’. Oh well…

  21. #21 Vihar Georgiev
    August 2, 2011

    Dear Mr. Laden,

    I find your language on Benno Hansen unacceptable. I know Benno personally and he is a very sensible and tolerant person. I demand that you remove this insulting phrase (“he’s a moron”) from your post. In case you fail to do so I will address the management of ScienceBlogs LLC.

    Kind regards,

    Vihar Georgiev

  22. #22 Rorschach
    August 2, 2011

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    I find your use of “moron” to describe Benno Hansen and his naive and utterly wrong, if not retarded views on pseudonymity on the internet highly offensive. Hansen appears to be far more stupid than your average moron.

    Kind Regards.

  23. #23 Philip
    August 2, 2011

    I’m not sure where people get the impression Google isn’t evil. Years ago, gmail added chat. And added frequently-emailed contacts as chat partners automatically. And suddenly I could see when people I was no longer in contact with were online. Whether people I was in contact with had read my email and decided not to respond (yet) or not yet read it. When professional contacts went to bed and woke up. The scenario that was playing out in my head was that of a divorcee suddenly receiving all that information about their former spouse, based only on the fact that shared custody requires frequent email contact (which, in this case, is not equivalent to friendship). To exaggerate a little, Google decided to share your location with your stalker because you sent him a restraining order by email.

    (Personally, I’m not being stalked, but I have caught myself thinking that if someone signed on and obviously saw my email and didn’t respond right away, that’s somehow rude. Which I admit is my problem, not Google’s, but that I might have put other people in the reverse decision at some point between Google’s decision to enable the chat thing for everyone and my realization that data about me was being shared upset me.)

    Then there was the Buzz thing. Then there is the GeoIP thing, which I literally couldn’t disable sometimes because it required knowing the language google.com defaulted to for the country my IP was in. And, of course, “this video is not available in your country”. Then there was China. And their attempt to kill pseudonymity. And their putting “publicly like this as ” buttons up all over the web, including in places that I don’t want my real name ever to go anywhere near, nevermind one-click near.

    At the moment, Google appears to be allowing people, at significant effort, to do non-personalized non-geoip web searches (but if you print out or save the front page, you’ll reveal which country your IP is in. That’s a screenshot that can cost you your job. The same is true of the BBC News website, which provides, last I checked, no way not to be totally geoip-based), but they only fixed it a few weeks ago, and I have no doubt it will break again.

    I hope this campaign is successful (and hope it will also include gmail), but even if it is, the pattern will still be there: Google does not seem to understand that anyone might have more reasons not to share their identity than a privileged Google employee who never needed a second chance in their lives.

  24. #24 baldywilson
    August 2, 2011

    Benno, you may or may not be a moron, but on this subject you most certainly are ignorant on the issue of anonymity. Of course, as has been pointed out many times, on many subjects, ignorance can be corrected if you’re prepared to listen.

    “When you complain that women can get raped you are not discussing the subject of anonymity. You are complaining that your society is evil and messed up.”

    This, you see, is an ignorant statement. What you are saying is that people being threatended with rape for daring to write words on a blog is simply a societal problem, and anonymity online does not play a part in the discussion. This is ignorance. It is a societal problem that *can be addressed at least in part* through pseudonyms and anonymity. To ignore the fact that pseudomys can play a part in addressing such a serious issue, frankly, undermines your credibility as a commentator on the issue enormously.

    So you’ve brushed aside legitimate concerns about banning pseudonyms, out of ignorance. But what about the other side of the coin: what use is a “real name” anyway? My real name is John Wilson. It’s a stupidly common name. Identifying myself online as “John Wilson” is an exercise in futility. My “real name” is only useful in a local social context where I am the only person known by the name “John”. To identify myself online, I instead use one of two pseudonyms: “Armchair dissident” and “baldywilson”. These pseudonyms are unique identifiers (more or less) – you can find out far more about me by googling “baldywilson” or “armchairdissident” than you can by googling “John Wilson”.

    Google denying people the opportunity to identify themselves by their pseudonyms, denies them both the (albeit limited) security that those pseudonyms provde, *and also* denies them the opportunity to link up with people who know them solely through their psedonyms (I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to recreate a Twitter follow list on Google+: it ain’t easy). The policy is not just evil: it’s stupid.

  25. #25 badgersdaughter
    August 2, 2011

    I’ve been using this ‘nym online for over 18 years now, since I used it to sign up for a fairly early Hotmail account. That makes it older and better attested than quite a few real names being used by real people. Kiss my *, G+….

  26. #26 maureen.brian#b5c92
    August 2, 2011

    Benno Hansen,

    Stop being a whiny child and come out from under that carefully constructed bubble of ignorance.

    In the real world we have slightly more complicated things going on. The surname you’ll see at the bottom of this is comment is on my credit cards, pension statement, passport even yet it is one I never acquired “legally” – though I use it legally because where I am custom and practice makes it legal.

    In fact, I adopted it to escape for a moment – or so I thought – a particular social pressure and then discovered that the world seemed programmed to hang on me the name of the bloke I was living with rather than to let me go on using my birth surname.

    I have been using that name for 43 or 44 years now and it still does not feel like “my” name.

    If you cannot accept the basic premise that social pressures operate differently on women (and persons of a particular status or profession) the you are probably misguided to hang out on the blog of an anthropologist.

  27. #27 Richard Eis
    August 2, 2011

    My friend works at a company who has recently clamped down somewhat on “unprofessional behaviour” on FB. The general rule is that if you are seen to have behaved outside of work in a way not befitting to your job then you will be punished and possibly lose your job. But of course, these rules are naturally vague.

    Here’s the problem, FB is a huge central resource for keeping track of your friends and getting invites to events. It is much easier than sending mutliple individual emails out so has become the norm. But other people can tag you in pics and things like that. You don;t control the data about you. Not even close.

    So my friend is stuck. Without FB her social life is physically diminished (trust me i went off FB for a short while and I missed loads of invites to things) but she can’t risk her job over some accidental drunk picture or something from said events.

    Google+ and her company’s (I think) illegal policies together would effectively trap her and anonymity would fix that.

    When I removed my old account and started again with a reduced output of postings and more control of my info my friend thought at first i was nuts. Now… not so much.

  28. #28 Greg Laden
    August 2, 2011

    Tom, a moron is someone who is shown a very clear argument with real world consequences to other people, fully ignores the argument and then makes a counterstatement that applies only to themselves and insists that it is suitable for everyone.

    Did you read the part of the blog post where the woman was threatened with violent rape before she had even written one blog post because local badly behaved men were trolling the interent for such women? She had not said a word and people started planning to threaten her. And by the way, she has been blogging since then and her blog posts are apolitical and in no way inflammatory, yet she continues to have this sort of threat hanging over her head. But it is mitigated because she does not use her real name on her blog.

    Do you see what you are doing? You are insisting that people in her position, a position YOU CAN NEVER, EVER BE IN, should suffer real world risks because you are annoyed by obnoxious anonymous commenters. Not only are you ignoring this argument, but you are also ignoring the difference between anonl. and pseudo.

    You and Benno both have valid internally consistent arguments, but these arguments ignore very important specific facts. My blog post had one objective: To point out, illustrate, and underscore those facts. The two of you have systematically ignored these facts and you’ve added your own straw man. Did you even read the post? Benno clearly did not.

  29. #29 Jason
    August 2, 2011

    So if you think that it is a good thing for some social networks to allow pseudonyms but don’t necessarily think every social network should, then you support silencing women and rape? Non sequitur. There are, as in cases like you brought up, a definite need for fora for voices to be heard anonymously. There are also advantages to networks of real-name people. Creating a network that is the latter is not inherently ‘being evil’. Just out of curiosity, why does, say, Facebook- which I believe you use- get a free pass despite much worse ethics violations?

  30. #30 Greg Laden
    August 2, 2011

    Jason, was that comment directed at me? I’m thinking not, but if so let me know.

  31. #31 Stephanie Z
    August 2, 2011

    Jason, in what social networks do you think real names are so important that it’s worth forcing women (and others) to give up the protections of privacy?

    And who said FB got any kind of free pass? Talk about non sequiturs.

  32. #32 Tom Singer
    August 2, 2011

    Greg, I’m not ignoring your argument (and I don’t think Benno is either, although that’s for him or her to say). I did read the story about Mary (and I assume Jane, although it wasn’t explicit) being threatened with rape. I agree that there are people who desire anonymity for any of a variety of reasons, many of which are quite valid, as in the case of Mary and Jane. Even in the case of reasons I don’t judge to be “valid”, I have no desire to force those people to give up anonymity.

    But I do not see how you’re connecting your argument to Google+. Google is providing a social networking site, that you are not required to use, and are not required to exclusively use. If Mary or Jane or Rob the Neo-Nazi or Jeff the transsexual or Emma the Republican discover that the things they post on Google+ under their real names have real world consequences that they don’t like, they’re free to stop using Google+. If they’re concerned about it enough that they would desire anonymity up front, they’re free to not start using Google+.

    I’m not sure Google’s reasoning behind requiring a real name to tie to the account, but if I were taking that action, my reasoning would be that I want people to behave the way they do when their names are attached to their words. I don’t think that makes me anti-woman, or anti-Neo-Nazi, or anti-transsexual, or anti-Republican. It doesn’t make me anti-anything but the way many people tend to behave when they’re anonymous. I think it’s ridiculous for you to characterize me, Benno, and Google as misogynist based on this. We all may very well be, but this isn’t evidence of it.

    Please tell me what straw man I’ve constructed. I don’t think I have misrepresented any of your arguments. I boiled your blog post down to:

    1. People who desire to remain anonymous on the internet have had their anonymity compromised, and bad things happen, so Google+ should allow anonymity. (I don’t see how that follows.)

    2. Given that people have legitimate needs for anonymity on the internet, Google+ should provide it. (I don’t see why Google is under any obligation to do so for this particular service, given that there are any number of other ways to remain anonymous on the internet while still having a voice, including ways provided by Google.)

    Am I misrepresenting the arguments you made? If I have, it’s unintentional, and I’d welcome clarification.

  33. #33 Raging Bee
    August 2, 2011

    But I don’t see why it’s important to single out Google+ and force them to allow it!?

    Because after one has identified a specific activity as harmful or evil, the next logical step is to identify who is doing that harmful or evil thing, and try to get them to stop doing it.

    Dude, that argument is so stupid you might as well say, “We’ve identified murder as being wrong, but why is it so important to single out this Dahmer guy and force him to stop?”

    So, Benno, what other painfully simple and obvious points do you need us to belabor for your benefit? Greg can speak for himself here, but in my opinion, he was right to call you a moron.

  34. #34 Dunc
    August 2, 2011

    Benno? You expect me to believe that’s somebody’s real name? Yeah, right…

  35. #35 EricJ
    August 2, 2011

    btw,
    Google has promised to “rectify” the issue according to InfoWorld:

    http://goo.gl/OhLPO

    But more importantly, if Google is really serious about not wanting to be evil, why did they ban the Shatner?

    http://goo.gl/PqWYW

  36. #36 Greg Laden
    August 2, 2011

    But I do not see how you’re connecting your argument to Google+. Google is providing a social networking site, that you are not required to use

    That is absolutely correct, but they are also claiming that they want to know from us what we think about how it should work, have taken many suggestions already, and I am in fact a member of a community that won’t use it any more than I use, say Linked In, because of this issue simply making it impractical.

    Regarding facbook (Jason has not said yet to whom he was speaking): Facebook has had a similar stupid policy, we have similarly complained about it, and in fact they seem to allow pseudos now as long as you have a valid email address. Certainly all the pseudo’s I know who were thrown off G+ are on Facebook.

    they’re free to stop using Google+.

    Technically, yes, but then there is this: http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2011/07/google_inc_is_a_different_kind.php

    Google wants to be “the internet” and “the system” (this is explicity in their words and actions). So, no, you actually are wrong about that FROM GOOGLE’S POINT OF VIEW. They do sell a computer that is based entirely on using google as the OS and the APPS and everything else.

    1. People who desire to remain anonymous on the internet have had their anonymity compromised, and bad things happen, so Google+ should allow anonymity. (I don’t see how that follows.)

    Well, now you do.

    2. Given that people have legitimate needs for anonymity on the internet, Google+ should provide it. (I don’t see why…

    Well, now you do.

    BTW, “straw man” is not = “misrepresent .”

    And besides, as Eric points out, I was right in both asking for this change and suggesting that Google would want this change.

    Now, the question remains, why do some people NOT want this change that protects women and repressed minorities? What is their motivation?

  37. #37 Tom Singer
    August 2, 2011

    Greg, that you don’t think the service is as useful as it could be is fine, and I respect that part of your opinion. I take issue with you representing the preference to require real names as misogynist. I would love to see major newspapers require real names for commenting, for example, simply to reduce the patently offensive remarks that distract from the conversation.

    Google can be “the internet” and “the system” and continue to provide services that allow for anonymity. I’m not aware of anything that indicates there’s a company policy of moving toward requiring real names with all of their services. So, in fact, I still don’t see how #2 follows. And I don’t think you’ve even begun to address #1.

    I’m pretty sure that “constructing a straw man” means assigning arguments to someone which they did not make, for the purpose of easily refuting against them (presumably rather than refuting the better arguments they actually did make). I summarized what I understand your arguments to be. If I didn’t misrepresent what you actually said (either through exaggeration, omission, or addition), I did not, in fact, create a straw man.

  38. #38 Stephanie Z
    August 2, 2011

    Tom, the ways in which forums encourage civility are well known, and they don’t have anything to do with using legal names. (Consistent names, yes, but that doesn’t preclude pseudonyms.)

    Even if it were true, you appear to be saying that the utility of increasing civility in news site comments outweighs the utility of allowing people frequently targeted for violence, including women, to participate in the discussions there. Is that a correct description of your views?

  39. #39 MadScientist
    August 2, 2011

    No, no – the world is perfect ™. Only the anonymous are evil! Oh, wait … I must have been dreaming I was in bizarro world.

  40. #40 Tom Singer
    August 2, 2011

    Stephanie, I agree that there are many ways to encourage civility on the internet. One of those ways is to require real names – Greg himself noted that pseudonymity can be linked to uncivility; although he later backed off and said it wasn’t because the “one pseudonymous blogger” was anonymous, but because he was an asshole, I suspect that if you take EITHER one of those away, his behavior would be different.

    So, yes. I think it is true. As for whether the concern of civility in the comments to a news website outweighs the concern of violence being done to the commenters as a result of their participation, I’d say that in that case, it does. Both are certainly valid concerns. But I have no doubt that for every person who is targeted for real world violence as a result of their presence on the internet, there are orders of magnitude more discussions on those news sites that are derailed by trolls. Note that requiring real names does not *disallow* people frequently targeted for violence from participating. Not even implicitly – the vast majority of women, gays, or what have you who use their real names online are not targeted for violence. I grant that it may discourage. Which does more damage? In my admittedly imprecise calculus, it’s the drop in the level of discourse. So, the answer to your question is, if you change “allowing” to “not discouraging”, then yes, you gave a correct (albeit incomplete) description of my view.

    The thing about it is, I’m free not to use websites that allow anonymity, and you’re free not to use websites that disallow it. We both have many options. But I think it’s a serious mistake to characterize a desire for a particular mode as moronic or misogynistic.

  41. #41 Stephanie Z
    August 2, 2011

    Tom, the “link” you refer to is the same sort of link that can be made between earthquakes and hot weather. You know, it was hot once when there was an earthquake. Greg didn’t back off. He pointed out that the link was spurious.

    Your suspicion that this particular ass would be less of an ass if he were using his real name is disputed both by the ass in question and by those who have met him under his everyday name. So perhaps you should pay attention to those things that, as I pointed out, have already been demonstrated to meet the ends you claim to want.

    All you’ve given so far are hunches in support of your idea that it’s worth requiring names, no matter the consequences that several people have told you result, including de facto exclusion (which is not freedom). Would you care to find and point us to that magical place where civility results from only the use of real names? Or are you just going to rest on your unfounded confidence some more?

  42. #42 Stephanie Z
    August 2, 2011

    This is how you foster good discussion online: http://news.community102.com/a-5-minute-framework-for-fostering-better-con Note that it mentions registration, but note that it says nothing about using real names.

  43. #43 anthrosciguy
    August 2, 2011

    I’ve been using this ‘nym online for over 18 years now

    My online moniker is far more unique than my real name, which is shared by well over 10,000 people in the USA alone. And that’s assuming Google could spot a real vs. fake name.

    Benno, I’m thinking of a person and calling them George Johnson; is that the real name of the person I’m thinking of?

  44. #44 anthrosciguy
    August 2, 2011

    Benno, now that you’ve answered my above question with a yesr or no, explain how you know your answer is correct.

  45. #45 Garnetstar
    August 2, 2011

    I was stalked (in reality) for seven years. Fortunately, the guy considerately ended it by getting himself incarcerated.

    But I’ll never give him or anyone any ammunition by letting them know what I think or how I feel. I won’t use my real name on the internet, period.

    My friend has an atheist blog. He doesn’t use his real name on it because he knows for a certainty that his property will be vandalized and he’ll be ostracized, threatened with violence (maybe even experience it), and lose his job.

    Google can do as they damn well please, but they’re excluding a large number of people and a wide variety of views. They’re certainly not going to succeed in their goal of becoming “the internet” that way.

    And yes, it is misogynistic. Why not just be honest and state upfront that women should not participate?

  46. #46 Tom Singer
    August 2, 2011

    Stephanie, the relationship between anonymity and behavior has been well-studied. I’m not a psychologist or sociologist, but I managed to find a couple of papers:

    http://www.chantastique.net/imgstr/PSYCH%20395/Research/The%20positive%20and%20negative%20implications%20of%20anonymity.pdf

    http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:FObasr9MrXIJ:doi.apa.org/journals/psp/33/2/178.pdf+Effects+of+deindividuating+variables+on+stealing+by+Halloween+trick-or-treaters&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESjaPldIOvdogi7bd1aN89QulfRSlGupiLv9m5ZBxxsEo4BH0UjBizz5LNOVlUO9uCe4G-sdl6ngO23c_mH5iV0tpcniZE-iDg8wNitber9Plg0p9sSw6usl5t99jQo1PSyU-w54&sig=AHIEtbTCt29tB17eXBgzC60juRyDr-V83g

    It’s admittedly impractical to implement and enforce a rule against anonymity at the scale of something like Google+, but that doesn’t make it wrong, or evil. And I don’t think it has anything to do with misogyny.

  47. #47 Tom Singer
    August 2, 2011

    Garnetstar, women participate in Facebook and use their real names. As do atheists, gay people, and people from any number of groups that might attract unwanted attention. Many of them distinctly proclaim their membership in those groups. How does requiring real names equate to Google not wanting women to participate, or to misogyny?

    And Stephanie, I don’t know the details of the ass in question, so I’ll take your word for it that anonymity didn’t come into play in his behavior towards Greg. But that doesn’t change the fact that many people that engage in “bad behavior” on the internet would behave differently if they thought the behavior would be associated with their “real world” selves.

  48. #48 Stephanie Z
    August 2, 2011

    Tom, now all of a group has to be hindered from participation before the hindrance is real or worthy of attention?

    Both of those papers addressed the effects of “deindividuation,” which aren’t applicable when a stable pseudonym is used. A pseudonym does detache one’s physical self from one’s online self to a degree. However, in any system that consistently uses a single name, whether that name came from someone’s birth certificate or not, reputation accrues to that name.

    The more that life is lived online, the more important that reputation becomes and the less anonymity of any sort there is while using a pseudonym. This is particularly important to pay attention to, because the internet has allowed many people who have historically been excluded from public conversations to finally have a voice.

    Also, I’m still waiting for that super civil online site that requires real names in order to exist.

  49. #49 rork
    August 2, 2011

    Using real names will limit discussion, sure. Maybe some folks need a sterile environment – let them have it.
    I use my real names in some fora where it helps give my opinion some gravity (he fantasized), but it puts a giant ox on my tongue.

    Advice: don’t think your anonymity is very secure. Even if exceptionally good, with nary a breadcrumb on the trail (extending for years), it’s just a hack away. If you use your real name anywhere, time-stamp mining can perhaps unmask you too, if the subject area is a very narrow one.

  50. #50 Tom Singer
    August 2, 2011

    Stephanie, in my experience, Facebook is much more civil than, say, Pharyngula, or the Washington Post comment pages. When I signed up, they required my real name (although I don’t think they have any means to check that, other than maybe comparing my name with a list of words that it recognizes as names). I’m not sure if that’s still the case.

    Granted, I know more of the people I see on Facebook than I would on the Washington Post comment pages, even if they did use their real names. So there is social pressure beyond just the actual name. But as far as I know, Google+ is more or less the same thing, so I think it’s a relevant example, if not perfect.

    Even when using a stable pseudonym, if your online persona is divorced from your real life persona, I think you still get many of the important effects of deindividuation, because there’s still a big distinction between the online and real worlds. And if you can easily generate a throwaway account, then you can deindividuate at will.

    And, no, not all of a group has to be hindered before the hindrance is real or worthy of attention. I contend that if a small enough portion of the group is hindered that the benefits of the policy that result in the hindrance outweigh the effect of the hindrance. Of course, it’s not necessarily a binary choice, and there may be other ways to get the benefits. I’d be surprised if Google hasn’t weighed those options, and settled on this as their way (one of perhaps multiple implemented ways) of achieving their goals profitably.

  51. #51 Greg Laden
    August 2, 2011

    I take issue with you representing the preference to require real names as misogynist.

    Well, you’re simply wrong about that.

    The straw man comes in your continuing to represent Google as something other than what it is, and in fact, which goes nicely with the side show of defending a position Google has that it doesn’t. At this point it looks like it’s you against me and Google.

  52. #52 Greg Laden
    August 2, 2011

    Also, I’m still waiting for that super civil online site that requires real names in order to exist.

    Now, THERE’s a challenge if I ever saw one.

    Anybody up for it?

  53. #53 Greg Laden
    August 2, 2011

    Advice: don’t think your anonymity is very secure. Even if exceptionally good, with nary a breadcrumb on the trail (extending for years), it’s just a hack away. If you use your real name anywhere, time-stamp mining can perhaps unmask you too, if the subject area is a very narrow one.

    I think that this is true, however, it is also true that no lock can really keep robbers and rapists out of your house, but if a person was robbed or raped in a home with no locks there would be a certain amount of victim blaming.

    In the cases I site in the post pseudonyms both worked and didn’t work. I can think of at least two pseudos who maintain their anonymity where some people know the name because of a hack, but the hack did not turn into everyone knowing the name, and one of those individuals is in a business where people are regularly directly harassed, their property damaged, etc.

    So yes a person should assume that their identity is knowable, but that is not the same thing as a pseudonym being inevitably transparent.

  54. #54 Greg Laden
    August 2, 2011

    Stephanie, in my experience, Facebook is much more civil than, say, Pharyngula, or the Washington Post comment pages.

    Pseudonyms are quite common on facebook. Since individuals can be blocked, it should not matter at all. This may be against policy, but I’m pretty sure even the most inbred and geeked out techies working behind the scenes in these social networking systems would know that “God” and “Satan” and so on are pseudonyms. And, I point out again, the singling out of individuals on G+ and tossing them off because they have a pseudonym is quite arbitrary as long as Grrl Scientist is not allowed on but Jucie Lucie or Jamie Wamie or Amanda Hugenkiss are on G+ (Those are psuedonyms, JICYDK)

  55. #55 Comrade Carter
    August 2, 2011

    “Stephanie, in my experience, Facebook is much more civil than, say, Pharyngula, or the Washington Post comment pages.”

    Yeah, you apparently the Pharyngula pages with a chip on your shoulder. You should try to get rid of it.

    By the way, that’s my Gmail address, it’s not my name. Wow.

  56. #56 Greg Laden
    August 2, 2011

    “Stephanie, in my experience, Facebook is much more civil than, say, Pharyngula, or the Washington Post comment pages.”

    This makes me laugh. In a bad way. One of the people I mention in my post is CONSTANTLY being treated like shit by mainly 18-31 year old white males in a way that would get ANY ONE OF THEM banned on Pharyngula.

    Check your priv, Tom. Check. Your. Fucking. Priv.

  57. #57 Chris Winter
    August 2, 2011

    When I began participating in computer bulletin board systems (BBSes) back about 1983, I noticed that rude comments, persistence in false statements and other bad behavior were strongly correlated with anonymity. When I started my own BBS in October 1984, therefore, I insisted that everyone use their full, real name.

    After some months I relented on this. A user explained to me the very sound reason he needed to avoid using his real name: his job would be at risk if opinions he expressed online were tied to his real name. At that time it was probably the principle reason; few women were online.

    Things are different now. Software is much more sophisticated, and there are ways to enforce proper online behavior that don’t depend on users not being anonymous. Many of these are automated. While I’m sure we all have horror stories about how automated policing of comments can screw up (AOL anyone?), there’s no inherent reason it has to be that way.

    My point is that there are multiple reasons to allow pseudonyms online, and plenty of options to control any bad behavior that might arise because of allowing this.

    I almost always use my real name online, because that’s my preference. But I don’t expect that my preferences should apply to everyone.

  58. #58 hotshoe
    August 2, 2011

    My point is that there are multiple reasons to allow pseudonyms online, and plenty of options to control any bad behavior that might arise because of allowing this.
    I almost always use my real name online, because that’s my preference. But I don’t expect that my preferences should apply to everyone.
    Thank you, Chris.It’s so simple.

    No need for morons – like Benno and Tom, perhaps – to defend their exclusionary prejudices which harm actual human rights.

    No need to be more evil – just be smarter.

  59. #59 Renee
    August 2, 2011

    Its. ITS. ITS. ITS.

  60. #60 hotshoe
    August 2, 2011

    Quote fail, sorry, Chris. I think you can tell where Chris’s comments leave off and my reply begins.

  61. #61 Greg Laden
    August 2, 2011

    I noticed that rude comments, persistence in false statements and other bad behavior were strongly correlated with anonymity.

    I think that is still true.

    job would be at risk if opinions he expressed online were tied to his real name. At that time it was probably the principle reason; few women were online.
    Things are different now. Software is much more sophisticated, and there are ways to enforce proper online behavior

    exactly

    I don’t expect that my preferences should apply to everyone.

    I wonder why so many do.

  62. #62 DuWayne
    August 2, 2011

    I am more than a little irked about this, as much as anything because I honestly really like the underlying philosophy of google. I would really love to live in a world where, when I am confronted by advertising, it’s for shit that I actually might want. But I am not ok with this policy and am very seriously considering cutting the google loose altogether.

    Don’t get me wrong – I loved the google. Google did some very useful things for me and made it possible for me to do a lot of other cool things. There are a great many things that I love about google still. THe thought of leaving really sucks – not the least reason being that I really love gmail and don’t want the hassle of changing email addresses.

    But – in spite of being absolutely not anonymous myself, I take the anonymity of those who are very seriously. There are enough very good reasons – some of which Greg mentioned, for everyone to be ardent supporters of it. I am going to go ahead and write to the google with my gmail account and wait a week to see if mine and the many other emails they get will get them to reconsider this idiotic policy. I really hope so – I want to love the google again.

    Tom Singer –

    Are you honestly that fucking stupid, or are you just pretending so you can piss people off? Here’s a tip – throwing papers out there doesn’t inherently equal evidence. Why not consider what people are saying and find evidence that suggests that what they are actually saying is wrong?

  63. #63 Tom Singer
    August 2, 2011

    I’m not sure why I bother.

    Greg, first you say strawmanning is not the same as misrepresenting. Now you say that my strawmanning was misrepresenting Google as something. Here’s what I’ve said about Google:

    “I don’t see a good reason that Google would be immune from hacking.”
    “… Google+ … at least as I understand it, is basically a social networking site …”
    “Google actually already provides you with a means of [posting anonymously] – you can create a blog on their Blogger site.”

    “Google is providing a social networking site, that you are not required to use, and are not required to exclusively use.”
    “I’m not sure Google’s reasoning behind requiring a real name to tie to the account, but if I were taking that action, my reasoning would be …”
    “Google can be “the internet” and “the system” and continue to provide services that allow for anonymity. I’m not aware of anything that indicates there’s a company policy of moving toward requiring real names with all of their services.”

    What, if any of that, misrepresents Google?

  64. #64 Tom Singer
    August 2, 2011

    By the way, there was supposed to be (Strawman accusation) after the Blogger quote.

    I agree, pseudonyms are common on Facebook. But if we discount the people who actually use their FB name in the real world, pseudonyms are, in my experience, a small minority. Facebook is dominated by people who make a connection between what they post on FB and who they are in real life (at least to the people they have friended).

    I don’t doubt that there are people who are abused on Facebook. There are people who are abused everywhere, and I certainly don’t think FB is some utopia where people are immune, nor do I think FB is perfect at addressing such abuse – in fact, I don’t even know that they try to. But the problem is much more widespread in anonymous comments to news websites. There’s a balance to be struck between the benefit to society of widespread reasoned discourse on important issues and issues of privacy and abuse. We have to weight these things somehow. What is the level of balance where it won’t be assumed that I’m a misogynist?

    To Comrade Carter, do you really want to say that the discussion there on the Elevatorgate issue was the same conversation that would have happened if all of those people met in real life? I kind of doubt it.

    I guess you’ve got your anecdotes, and I’ve got mine, and we’re probably both suffering from confirmation bias.

  65. #65 Tom Singer
    August 2, 2011

    And, just to be clear, if Google is changing course and allowing pseudonyms for registration with Google+, congratulations to Greg and the people who signed the petition and made other noise for making their preferences heard (honestly – that’s not necessarily an easy thing to do), but that has no effect on whether their previous reasons for requiring real names, or my preference for a forum with real names, have anything to do with misogyny.

  66. #66 DuWayne
    August 2, 2011

    But the problem is much more widespread in anonymous comments to news websites.

    And many news sites actively refuse to allow anon comments. I am all about their right to do so, as they aren’t generic, large scale networks. But we aren’t talking about a news wedsite.

    There’s a balance to be struck between the benefit to society of widespread reasoned discourse on important issues and issues of privacy and abuse.

    Social networking sites aren’t really the place to strike that balance. They are there for, you know, social fucking networking. One of their most important uses is for promoting one’s “brand” as it were. For a lot of people that brand is pseudonymous – but just as legitimately who that person is as if they were using their real name.

    Consider, if you will, people who are involved in sites that provide important services that also foster a need or desire for anonymity. I am trying to finish putting together a web site for people who might, might know someone or who are just plain curious about substance abuse and addiction. One of my biggest challenges is finding ways to provide members with a great deal of confidence in their anonymity. There are also forums for battered women – many users and often enough the admins have a very important need for anonymity.

    The problem with your assertion that “they don’t have to use it” is that in many cases they might not “need” to, but their doing so makes it possible to reach more people who need help.

    We have to weight these things somehow.

    One thing that I haven’t found challenging and I can’t imagine the motherfucking badass that is google would either, is making it very easy to filter language a given user would rather not see and to kill-file users. I can ensure that every comment every user makes leaves a tag that when clicked will produce a screen asking if you want to permanently block that use and clicking “yes” will not only remove all fo their posts from your sight, it will also prevent their posts from showing up on threads you started.

    In simpler terms that I can be sure you will understand; You don’t have to balance shit. If you don’t like it, don’t pay attention to it.

    What is the level of balance where it won’t be assumed that I’m a misogynist?

    When you shut the fuck up and actually pay attention to what is being said. Bottom line, stop arguing for a position that supports the abuse of women and it won’t be assumed you support the abuse of women.

  67. #67 Tom Singer
    August 2, 2011

    I think people should be allowed to buy steak knives, DuWayne. To a certain extent, steak knives enable murdering people. Do I support murdering people?

    There is a balance to be struck.

    Even badass Google might have a hard time designing a good filter for things that might be offensive. I might post, “I had a good time with your mom last night! ;-)” Is that offensive? “Hey, Jon, how was your date with Steve last night? You’re going to Hell.” Does that offend? “I know where you live, BlagHag.” Is that abusive? Sure, you can delete the posts, and block people that make them, but they happened once. How many people saw it before you deleted them? How many throwaway accounts can be made with the purpose of posting things like that? If you support that, do you support the abuse of women, gays, and people with moms?

    I don’t think this stuff is as easy as you make it out.

    I’m not sure what your point is regarding a network for battered women or substance abuse victims is. Those are places where anonymity is highly valued, and there is a much bigger threat to safety. Strike a balance appropriately. I don’t think we disagree about that.

  68. #68 Marion Delgado
    August 2, 2011

    I think what Google+ does is unappealing, and I’m not a female. Anyone can get death threats, stalking, and repeated attempts to get you fired. The latter in particular often works.

  69. #69 Marion Delgado
    August 2, 2011

    Pseudonymity is still an identity. It’s 4th-grade Internet to dispute that.

  70. #70 Jen
    August 2, 2011

    I am a domestic violence survivor. I have spent the last 6 years making every effort to stay hidden from my ex-husband. The ability to be anonymous online, including the use of pseudonyms, allows my kids and me to stay safe, while still participating in the online world. It is easy enough for someone without these concerns to say, “Just don’t participate in Facebook/Google+/whatever if their rules complicate/endanger your life.” It is much tougher to explain to my adolescent children that they cannot socialize online with their peers because their bio-father is a nutjob, or to give up the communication with our friends, family and colleagues/classmates that it allows. I like Google and use many of their services, but I think they are off base with this one. I hope the feedback they are receiving on this issue will change their minds. There are many of us that need the security pseudonymity provides – not allowing for that excludes us from participating.

    I wrote a short-lived blog about domestic and sexual violence. Without the ability to do it anonymously, I would never have written the blog (the inability to be anonymous online would prevent many people, especially marginalized individuals, from sharing their experiences and opinions). The amount of abuse I received for sharing my experiences, including threats of physical harm and rape, from men that didn’t even know me were frightening enough that I discontinued the blog. While these anonymous men would likely not have said those things in person, or if their real names had been attached to them perhaps, the behavior and the attitudes behind it are what need to be addressed, not the anonymity they hid behind. What is it they say about the baby and the bathwater?

  71. #71 DuWayne
    August 2, 2011

    I’m not sure what your point is regarding a network for battered women or substance abuse victims is.

    So you actually are that fucking stupid…Got it.

    The point is, dumbass, that social networking sites are the place that most of the people who need those kinds of sites find those sites. They rely on anonymity on social networking sites to help people.

    And there are all sorts of examples of sites that do the same thing, relying on the ability to be anon. You have mental health forums, addiction forums, forums for people with any of thousands of problems that they can get help for – if they know that the help exists.

    I know…You’re probably thinking, why not just fucking google it? The advantage to social networking, over searches is that social networking is a passive source for shit that might be useful. People might not realize that reasonable help exists, that they too can take advantage and in many cases, that they even have a problem – I run into the last one a lot, dealing with people who have substance use disorders.

    The problem with G+’s restrictions, is that it is exceedingly possible that G+ will do to Facebook, what Facebook did to MySpace. But lets say they don’t. Lets say they just take a third of the market share. That is still a fuckton of people who aren’t as likely to be exposed to something that might be of critically important help to them.

    All because people who should fuckingwell know better, believe that anonymity on the internet is only used by those who have nefarious and usually illegal intent. Give me a break.

    You asked when that balances out to you not being a misogynist prick? When you stop arguing that Jen should just shut the fuck up, if it might endanger her.

  72. #72 DuWayne
    August 2, 2011

    Sure, you can delete the posts, and block people that make them, but they happened once. How many people saw it before you deleted them? How many throwaway accounts can be made with the purpose of posting things like that?

    And I can still do that at G+, if I so desired. I could be any of thousands of fake names that sound like real names and fuck with people to my hearts content. What they are going after is pseudonyms that are obviously pseudonyms – the sort people often like to use because it becomes a (relatively) unique identifier that they can build their life online around.

    You will never block the assholes entirely and the system that G+ is using, while surely blocking a few random assholes, is mostly going to block people who are using a nym that people are likely to recognize as them – for whatever reason. Meanwhile, the assholes can still generate throwaway accounts around bullshit, but “real” sounding names and do the same old shit.

  73. #73 Rick Pikul
    August 3, 2011

    I’m amazed at the magic some people grant to forcing the use of names which look real.

    In all my time online, my experience has been that almost all of the most abusive people have been posting under real looking names. In many cases it went beyond that, with their names having been confirmed as being accurate and in a few cases they had made finding their RL contact information trivial[1].

    [1] One had his address and phone number available through a simple whois of his server, one ran a online/mail order business[2] and one was a would-be municipal politician[3] who would reliably show at certain kinds of meetings and protests.

    [2] I will grant that he was strictly professional when it came to business, but other than that he is an utter asshole.

    [3] Although given that he couldn’t even get the donkey vote, he wasn’t a very good one.

  74. #74 travc
    August 3, 2011

    There is a simple solution for Google+… persistent pseudonyms.

    If spam accounts are a serious issue (I haven’t tried Google+ yet, so I don’t really know what is or is not an issue to deal with), then require some sort of meat-space referenced ID to register (generate a one-way key from the ID info and just store that to compare against and keep people from registering multiple times).

    If a pseudonym is compromised or needs to be changed for some reason, then that can be done via a quick “customer service” transaction. Not easy to automate 100%, but maybe a fully automated change allowed once or once a year to handle 90+% of the cases. Otherwise, just tell a real person “I’m X, and I need to change that to Y for Z reason.” Easy peasy.

    And Google needs to start being more responsive to complaints like this in general. I like Google and think they do a pretty good job at “don’t be evil”, but they are stupid (clueless is probably a better word) every so often.

  75. #75 Richard Eis
    August 3, 2011

    I think misogynistic is really the wrong word to bandy about since EVERY minority-group can be put off by this policy. It’s not even deliberate, it’s just accidental evil caused by trying to solve another problem…badly.

  76. #76 Benno Hansen
    August 3, 2011

    Thanks, Tom. Great job!

    Greg, I didn’t bother commenting on your two examples of sexual harassment because what I’m basically saying is “your petition is lame”. I did that in a comment to your post that was basically a link to that and certainly didn’t expect you to write up a whole new blog post solely for attacking me.

    G+ doesn’t stop people from creating online content anonymously or under pseudonym. G+ actually helps people sharing online content with just the people (Circles) they are comfortable with. If harassment does happen wouldn’t it be better if the perpetrator has to sign with his or her real name? There, your examples addressed.

    G+ have deleted the account of Mashable because they are still in beta and doesn’t allow brands yet. When they do those who want to advertise a pseudonym can probably just create a ‘brand profile’.

    So, there is no issue. Only misunderstandings, paranoia, erroneous logic and, I have now seen on this page, reptilian manners. The petition is lame and of no significance.

    If I’m misogynist then Sergey Brin is a rapist (sic!).

  77. #77 anthrosciguy
    August 3, 2011

    Check your priv, Tom. Check. Your. Fucking. Priv.

    “In my experience”, when I got off the TTC in Toronto at 10pm I could get off either at Main Street station and take the shorter back streets, or at Victoria Park and cut across the park without feeling nervous. In my girlfriend’s experience those were not options.

  78. #78 Raging Bee
    August 3, 2011

    One thing that needs to be mentioned here is that Google is a big business, and as such, it needs to respond to its biggest customers and potential customers (including the brutal totalitarian Chinese regime), not its smallest. And its biggest customers have no interest in letting uppity individuals stand up for themselves with impunity. Their advertizers, corporate clients, and surveillance-happy governments are more important to them than women and atheists trying to speak up safely. They’re demanding users’ real names for pretty much the same reasons as the Chinese government demands the real names of all their critics.

    As for whether the concern of civility in the comments to a news website outweighs the concern of violence being done to the commenters as a result of their participation, I’d say that in that case, it does.

    Google may not be misogynistic, but that rationale sure is. You really think that avoiding trolls on the Web is more important than women avoiding violence in the real world? Fuck you.

  79. #79 Raging Bee
    August 3, 2011

    One thing that needs to be mentioned here is that Google is a big business, and as such, it needs to respond to its biggest customers and potential customers (including the brutal totalitarian Chinese regime), not its smallest. And its biggest customers have no interest in letting uppity individuals stand up for themselves with impunity. Their advertizers, corporate clients, and surveillance-happy governments are more important to them than women and atheists trying to speak up safely. They’re demanding users’ real names for pretty much the same reasons as the Chinese government demands the real names of all their critics.

    As for whether the concern of civility in the comments to a news website outweighs the concern of violence being done to the commenters as a result of their participation, I’d say that in that case, it does.

    Google may not be misogynistic, but that rationale sure is. You really think that avoiding trolls on the Web is more important than women avoiding violence in the real world? Fuck you.

  80. #80 Aratina Cage
    August 3, 2011

    @MadScientist

    No, no – the world is perfect ™. Only the anonymous are evil! Oh, wait … I must have been dreaming I was in bizarro world.

    Exactly. Using real names never did stop a war or any other evil thought or deed written or enacted by humans. People who argue that anonymity is what breeds Internet trolling are essentially trolling themselves.

  81. #81 DuWayne
    August 3, 2011

    Benno –

    G+ doesn’t stop people from creating online content anonymously or under pseudonym. G+ actually helps people sharing online content with just the people (Circles) they are comfortable with. If harassment does happen wouldn’t it be better if the perpetrator has to sign with his or her real name? There, your examples addressed.

    If you are stupid enough to believe that you have somehow addressed Greg’s examples, or anyone else’s concerns, you are a complete and utter moron.

  82. #82 MartinM
    August 3, 2011

    If harassment does happen wouldn’t it be better if the perpetrator has to sign with his or her real name?

    Yes, I’m sure the men who were planning to rape Mary would have signed up under their real names and said ‘hi, I plan to rape you’.

  83. #83 Tom Singer
    August 3, 2011

    Raging Bee, I contend that there is some benefit to our society to having a reasoned discourse, and that requiring real names to be associated with online behavior would increase the ratio of reasoned discourse to unreasoned discourse. (Just to be clear, I think a big part of that benefit is in politics – we get politicians and commentators shouting at each other because that is how people are used to communicating.)

    There is also some benefit to our society from protecting the identities of people who wish to remain anonymous. That’s been well-covered here, and I don’t disagree with it.

    There is a balance to be struck between those two benefits. Part of striking that balance is weighting the benefit of each to an affected individual, and counting the affected individuals. The first benefit is overall less important to an affected individual than the second, but affects more individuals.

    Of course, this is much more rigorous than what I’m doing internally, but it’s my basic thought process. But you seem to be saying that giving any weight to the first benefit is automatically misogynist. I don’t accept that. Remember, I’m not advocating that the entire Internet, or even a large portion of it, prohibit anonymity – if I were, it might be reasonable to denounce that as misogynist.

    And Greg, I’d appreciate a response regarding the strawman discussion.

  84. #84 Stephanie Z
    August 3, 2011

    While we’re looking for responses, Tom, where is that that super civil online site that requires real names in order to exist? Where is that proof that real names are what it takes?

  85. #85 Raging Bee
    August 3, 2011

    The benefits of banning anonymity won’t be anywhere near what you seem to expect: those who feel secure enough to do so will continue to behave as badly as they want to on the Web, while those who are less secure, due to being unarmed or part of a hated minority or whatever, will be prevented from showing up at all, manners or no manners. It won’t deter bad behavior by everyone, just the weakest and/or least secure of us. The rich, the powerful, the connected, and the unscrupulous bullies will still be able to be bothersome trolls — and they’ll probably still be able to use fake names, which makes Google’s policy all the more ridiculous.

    So all in all, it still looks like the benefits of banning pseudonyms — the real benefits, not the imagined ones — are seriously outweighed by the costs borne by innocent people. And that’s assuming such a policy really would work at all — an assumption that doesn’t appear to square with observed reality.

  86. #86 Raging Bee
    August 3, 2011

    The benefits of banning anonymity won’t be anywhere near what you seem to expect: those who feel secure enough to do so will continue to behave as badly as they want to on the Web, while those who are less secure, due to being unarmed or part of a hated minority or whatever, will be prevented from showing up at all, manners or no manners. It won’t deter bad behavior by everyone, just the weakest and/or least secure of us. The rich, the powerful, the connected, and the unscrupulous bullies will still be able to be bothersome trolls — and they’ll probably still be able to use fake names, which makes Google’s policy all the more ridiculous.

    So all in all, it still looks like the benefits of banning pseudonyms — the real benefits, not the imagined ones — are seriously outweighed by the costs borne by innocent people. And that’s assuming such a policy really would work at all — an assumption that doesn’t appear to square with observed reality.

  87. #87 Tom Singer
    August 3, 2011

    Stephanie Z, Facebook. I already mentioned it. I know it’s not uniformly real names, but, at least when I registered, that was the stated requirement. I noted that, in my experience, at least, it’s more civil than a heated Pharyngula post or a politics article from the Washington Post. Real names are obviously not the only thing at work – I have at least some social connection to all of the people I interact with on Facebook. But that’s my example.

    Here’s another, a local newspaper in WA: http://myedmondsnews.com/2011/02/my-edmonds-news-introduces-new-comment-policy-full-name-required/ I’m not a regular reader, but from browsing a couple of articles, the comments seem civil.

    The Times in the UK has apparently required real names for comments since the middle of last year. I don’t have access to their articles to get a sense of the tone of the discussion, and I’m actually surprised I couldn’t find much online (with a cursory Google search, but still…) reviewing the effects of that policy.

  88. #88 Stephanie Z
    August 3, 2011

    Tom, Greg already told you Facebook ain’t the place. Since you apparently need more evidence or something, try “An Open Letter to Those Who Think Real Names Solve the Civility Problem.” The Edmonds News policy was not put in place for civility, but for transparency in affecting local politics, and an exception was offered to a long-time commenter almost immediately.

    Now, where is that place that actually relies simply on real names for civility and achieves it?

  89. #89 Tom Singer
    August 3, 2011

    Stephanie, I disagree with Greg’s dismissal of Facebook. I thought I’d made that clear; see comment 64. Again, it’s all anecdotal data. I’d be interested to see a study. I don’t claim that the use of real names eliminates the problem, just that it reduces the problem.

    I admit to language fail. I’ve occasionally said civilty when what I really mean is more like “elevating discourse”. Transparency is part of that. I apologize, I know that seems like I’m moving the goalposts.

    The exception wasn’t offered, it was floated. The publisher asked the community what they thought. The community seemed split, and the proposal didn’t reach a resolution that is apparent in that thread. If it was offered, it doesn’t look like it was accepted.

  90. #90 Raging Bee
    August 4, 2011

    I noted that, in my experience, at least, it’s more civil than a heated Pharyngula post or a politics article from the Washington Post.

    So is this place, even though pseudonyms are allowed. So whose anecdote wins? In my opinion, the anecdotes of the women and atheists who have demonstrated good reason to feel threatened by the publication of their real names on the Web, are the ones that win.

    From the open letter Stephanie cited:

    Ah, you say, but there will be consequences! Because, y’know, bosses and stuff will know who’s saying what, and they’ll get caught, and everything will be happiness and rainbows.

    Yeah, and you know what else will happen? Bosses and stuff will also be able to identify, fire, and blacklist employees whose real names appear over opinions the CEO and company owners consider “class warfare.”

  91. #91 Stephanie Z
    August 4, 2011

    So, Tom, where do you think the Federalist Papers fall on the scale of “elevated discourse”?

    No, we’re not just talking about anecdotes. I’ve already presented you a case study (which contains far more data than a simple anecdote) about what works in creating civil discourse. Permanence of identity within the forum was a part of that. Legal names was not.

    No one points to Facebook as an example of someplace where civil or elevated discourse routinely happens. There are, in fact, a number of sites devoted to pulling out the hilarious or egregious examples of how Facebook fails on this score. They routinely present screen shots with the names of the participants blanked out, because using these people’s names invades their privacy.

  92. #92 Tom Singer
    August 4, 2011

    Greg Laden’s Blog: More Civil Than Pharyngula.

    Greg, I think you ought to copyright that.

    But I’d note that calling people you disagree with morons and misogynists, and suggesting that they shut the fuck up is not the most civil way to make an argument (although I respect Greg for being willing to tie his words to his real identity, and I note that Greg has not asked me to shut the fuck up). Nor is it a good way to convince those people of the validity of your point. It is a reasonably good way to discourage dissent, but I appear to be anecdotal evidence that it’s not perfect.

    RB, I get the impression that you think I support tieing everything anyone says online to their real identity. I do not. Even if I did, I don’t think it’s feasible. If you want to anonymously or pseudonymously write an opinion that you know your boss won’t like, there are still (and I imagine always will be) many forums for you to do that, and I respect your right to do that. Note that I also respect your boss’s right to fire you if your anonymity is compromised, and he or she finds out that you’re advocating things that are contrary to the interest of their business (excepting whistleblowing, of course).

  93. #93 Raging Bee
    August 4, 2011

    RB, I get the impression that you think I support tieing everything anyone says online to their real identity. I do not.

    You don’t have to support it for other people to actually do it, and thus possibly do serious harm to undeserving parties. Whether you support it is irrelevant.

    If you want to anonymously or pseudonymously write an opinion that you know your boss won’t like, there are still (and I imagine always will be) many forums for you to do that…

    That’s not an excuse for anyone to do something that is demonstrably harmful to innocent people. Just because other people are good, is no excuse for you to be evil.

    And the fact that you’re now resorting to this “free market” dodge proves you know the action in question cannot be justified any other way. So why not just admit you can’t justify it?

  94. #94 Tom Singer
    August 4, 2011

    Stephanie, I haven’t claimed that pseudonymity or anonymity prevents people from behaving well. Or that “nymity” prevents people from behaving poorly. I’ve enjoyed some of the websites that repost embarassing things from Facebook. But I also doubt that a website that reposts non-embarrassing behavior would be very popular. Do you agree that there is selection bias at work?

    The article you linked to is interesting. I note that they do not give a single solution to the problem, and they note that there are downsides to some of the strategies they offer. They also don’t mention using real names, either postively or negatively.

    I really would be interested in seeing a rigorous study of behavior on Facebook, or on the Times comments since they’ve been requiring real neames. I would be surprised if one hasn’t been done.

  95. #95 Raging Bee
    August 4, 2011

    The article you linked to is interesting. I note that they do not give a single solution to the problem…

    Other solutions have been mentioned here; and you have failed to address them. Pointing out one alleged deficiency in one article cited is just an evasion on your part.

  96. #96 Stephanie Z
    August 4, 2011

    Uh, Tom, what problem do they not give solutions to? The whole article is a case study in increasing civil discourse.

  97. #97 Tom Singer
    August 4, 2011

    When I said they do not give a single solution to the problem, I meant that they give more than one, not that they give zero.

  98. #98 Pseudonym
    August 4, 2011

    OMG. This is like arguing that a law restricting your freedoms is okay because only the guilty will be caught. If you have nothing to hide, then you won’t get caught…if you aren’t guilty, then this law will not affect you. Etc.

    Canna, Tom and Benno need to buy a clue.

  99. #99 Pseudonym
    August 4, 2011

    Vanna, not Canna.

  100. #100 pornonymouspublius
    August 4, 2011

    Stephanie–you are arguing in favor of anonymity, correct?

    Without the Federalist Papers, there would be no America, and this discussion would not be taking place.

    What don’t folks get about that?

  101. #101 DW
    August 5, 2011

    I will not be using G+ for the same reason I will not use gmail; Google has already jumped the shark )and they are already evil).

  102. #102 hoary puccoon
    August 6, 2011

    It seems to me that Tom Singer and Benno Hansen are the people acting like trolls here. This is a very clearcut issue.

    1.) Some of us have reasons for not wanting to use our real names. My own is not very admirable: I just don’t want to tick off my bible-thumping, far-right in-laws more than I already do. (And while it’s true they *could* find out I’m “that awful woman” by hacking, the fact is, they have no particular reason to associate me with this pseudonym.) Other people– like Jen, above, have truly life-and-death reasons for remaining anonymous.

    2.) People who are part of an ongoing group, and use consistent names, are less likely to be offensive trolls, whether they use their own names or not.

    3.) Therefore, simply banning sock-puppetry (as so many sites do) instead of insisting on real names strikes a good balance between protecting those who want or need anonymity and protecting the site from being overrun by trolls.

    When Tom Singer and Benno Hansen argue on-and-on-and-on over what seems like a very clear point, it actually convinces me that requiring real names is worthless in preventing trolls from derailing threads.

  103. #103 Alan
    August 7, 2011

    Greg @36 – BTW, “straw man” is not = “misrepresent .”

    Sorry but wtf? – A strawman argument is an invalid form of argument precisely because it’s an attack on a misrepresentation of the opponent’s position. The ‘strawman’ IS the misrepresented argument.

    As for the subject at hand. Personally I don’t use sites that demand real names, but calling the requirement ‘evil’ does nothing but trivialise the meaning of ‘evil’.

  104. #104 Greg Laden
    August 7, 2011

    Alan, the term “evil” is a direct reference to a statement by Google.

    And yes, I know what a straw man is.

  105. #105 Oran Kelley
    August 7, 2011

    Since I write under a pseudonym myself, I obviously don’t think pseudonymity is such an out and out bad thing as others may. But I think it’s more than a little weird to take the attitude that Google+ MUST adopt a particular standard on the issue.

    One of the great things about the Internet is that different entities can try to build communities and businesses on the different bases as they choose. There is no one attitude toward pseudonymity that MUST reign everywhere on the Internet. Will Google’s attitude toward real names make it more difficult to have a rape victim’s network on Google+? Maybe, but so what. There are many other opportunities to form such networks involving other entities that have taken up different attitudes toward pseudonymity. And the problem is easily solved simply by setting up a falsely-named gmail account. voila. Pseudonymity.

    In 6 months, Google+ will just be another in the scrapheap of google’s failed attempts to get its nose into Facebook’s trough and none of this will mean anything. So relax.

  106. #106 Greg Laden
    August 7, 2011

    Oran, I do address your issue in this and other posts (see links) and Google by and large agrees with me and is changing their policy to come into line with what is slowly becoming best practices on the internet.

    And no, Google can’t actually do what they claim they want to do without doing it right, and right = allowing pseudonyms.

  107. #107 Alan
    August 11, 2011

    Greg, I’m aware of Google’s mission statement but it has nothing to do with the point I made. I’m also confused as to why you claimed a strawman is not a misrepresentation, when clearly it is?

    Put more simply, I don’t like hyperbole and misinformation in my science blogs, and I know you can do better than that.

  108. #108 Greg Laden
    August 11, 2011

    Alan, I have provided you with neither hyperbole nor informational. You, however, have just told me what you do and don’t like me to do in “your” blog. Are you always this annoying?

  109. #109 Roman
    August 12, 2011

    Re: “Why Google Has Broken Its Promise To Never Be Evil”

    Greg, did you ever take this slogan seriously? Google are a for-profit corporation. They are *meant* to be evil, money-grabbing douchebags. That’s what capitalism is about.

  110. #110 seomaster440
    August 14, 2011

    Promoting google+ votes is becoming a very hot business. Using these types of services could have negative or positive affects on SEO.
    We just have to see how google treats them. Another place to buy google plus votes is bulkones.com
    Will be interesting to see how this evolves over the next few months.

  111. #111 Tom Singer
    August 15, 2011

    Alan, bloggers and commenters are the Alanis Morissette of logical fallacies.

    And Greg distracts from the strawman thread by calling you annoying. Isn’t that ironic?

    (I’m starting to think this is intentional humor.)

  112. #112 Raging Bee
    August 15, 2011

    Alan, bloggers and commenters are the Alanis Morissette of logical fallacies.

    Tom, your analogy is like Hitler at an ice rink.

  113. #113 Greg Laden
    August 15, 2011

    Alan, bloggers and commenters are the Alanis Morissette of logical fallacies.

    I completely fail to understand the meaning of this sentence.

    (I’m starting to think this is intentional humor.)

    It may not have started out that way, but it certainly has gotten to that point. The funniest part to me is that Google has officially agreed with me, yet there are those proudly defending their original incorrect position. Now, THAT’S funny.

  114. #114 Tom Singer
    August 16, 2011

    Greg, Alanis Morissette notably misused the term “ironic” in her song of the same name. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ironic_%28song%29 The meaning of the sentence is that you’ve misused the term strawman, and, in a larger sense, I’ve noticed that people in a certain class of internet forums are quick to throw out the names of logical fallacies that don’t really apply. Strawman is especially popular.

    Also, I’m not sure you and Google agree as closely as you think. I’m relatively certain that Google hasn’t said they think requiring real names is misogynist (which is at the core of what I am arguing, regardless of any company’s policy). Further, unless something has changed since Friday, Google+’s real name policy is still in force. http://www.google.com/support/profiles/bin/answer.py?answer=1228271 http://gizmodo.com/5830471/googles-real-names-policy-is-evil You might want to sign another petition.

  115. #115 Greg Laden
    August 16, 2011

    Tom, you presented a straw man argument in your first post. I have not in this case or in any other case ever misused the term straw man. I know the term quite well. In fact, I even know the subtleties of the possible origins of the term, which are rather interesting.

    Also, I’m not sure you and Google agree as closely as you think. I’m relatively certain that Google hasn’t said they think requiring real names is misogynist

    I didn’t say that. I’ve referred to their policy, not what you think I think they think of their policy.

    Further, unless something has changed since Friday, Google+’s real name policy is still in force.

    I was referring to what sounded like consolatory statements being made by Google, but it is starting to look like they are digging their heels in.

    Which is evil. The part about a) being evil, then b) saying they don’t want to be evil and that they’ll try to change then c) waiting a while then d) digging in the heels.

    Now, go back to your very first comment on this site. “A straw man is a component of an argument and is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position.”(Wikipedia)

    You provided a misrepresentation of what I’ve said (“The only way I can make sense of that is that you think Google will do a better job of preserving anonymity than other services”) followed by immediate disreputation of what you claim I’ve said but didn’t (“but even that strikes me as a weak argument bla bla bla stuff about why the argument that I never made is wrong…”)

  116. #116 Tom Singer
    August 16, 2011

    In the bit you quoted, notice that I said “the only way I can make sense of that…”. You made an argument for why Google+ should allow anonymity based on an anecdote about two people you know who had their anonymity compromised, and had subsequent troubles. I made clear – multiple times, in my first post at 11, and again at 32 and 27 – that that was my understanding of what you were arguing, and that I wasn’t sure that it was correct. That doesn’t misrepresent you. That gives you an opportunity to clarify. That’s part of discussion – making sure that all parties understand what is being talked about. I’d still appreciate a clarification, since you’re saying that’s not what you meant. How does an anecdote about compromised anonymity make an argument for a service such as Google+ providing anonymity?

    You’ve also said that strawman =/= misrepresent (which is technically true, but it’s a poor response to my question about what I had misrepresented), and that “The straw man comes in [my] continuing to represent Google as something other than what it is.” So even if I concede for the sake of argument that my summary of your anecdote qualifies as a strawman, I still maintain that you’re throwing the term around carelessly.

    Google agreeing with you is different from Google thinking that it’s good for business to satisfy you.

  117. #117 Tom Singer
    August 16, 2011

    In my previous comment, “… 32 and 27 …” should have read “… 32 and 37 …”.

  118. #118 Greg Laden
    August 16, 2011

    That gives you an opportunity to clarify. That’s part of discussion – making sure that all parties understand what is being talked about. I’d still appreciate a clarification, since you’re saying that’s not what you meant.

    Generally, the part that I didn’t say is not the part that I meant. I didn’t actively not mean it, I just didn’t say it. The question of Google’s Abilene to maintain privacy is never something I’ve commented on. Do you actually think that if you say something as though I said it in order to disagree with it and I call that a straw man that you need me to hold your hand through the process of understanding that I’m not taking responsibility for stuff you said that I said that I didn’t say?

    Why don’t you just admit that you set up, perhaps inadvertently but quite clearly, a straw argument to demonstrate that I was wrong?

    So even if I concede for the sake of argument that my summary of your anecdote qualifies as a strawman, I still maintain that you’re throwing the term around carelessly.

    Yes, yes, I get that you have no interest in taking responsibility for pulling some idea that never occurred to me out of your own nether regions, attributing it to me, then calling me on it. Too bad, because it is actually an intereting question! Had you just asked it or brought it up, rather than making an ass out of you and me (but mostly you) this could have been an interesting discussion rather than a bunch of trolling.

  119. #119 Raging Bee
    August 16, 2011

    You made an argument for why Google+ should allow anonymity based on an anecdote about two people you know who had their anonymity compromised, and had subsequent troubles. I made clear – multiple times, in my first post at 11, and again at 32 and 27 – that that was my understanding of what you were arguing, and that I wasn’t sure that it was correct.

    What part of Greg’s argument wasn’t “correct,” Tom? Are you saying the anecdotes were false? That the threats weren’t real? That Google’s policy isn’t connected to the threats?

    I notice that in all your (diversionary) crying about “strawman” this and that, you completely ignore other substantive responses to your arguments; specifically my comment #91 and hoary’s comment #100, at least.

  120. #120 pornonymous
    August 16, 2011

    Tom, you are wise to not respond to Raping Bee; conversation with him (he is a rape apologist and a supporter of Sheriff Joe Araipo in Arizona–he also likely suffers brain damage from excessive drug use as he states on his pathetic blog) is a walk in a troll droppings cesspool.

  121. #121 pornonymous
    August 16, 2011

    ooops Raping Bee supports Sheriff Joe ARPAIO, not Araipo..

  122. #122 Raging Bee
    August 16, 2011

    Porno-boy, you keep on insisting you’re done with me, you’re never gonna respond to me anymore, you’re gonna take your balls and go home where no one else can play with them…but you keep on coming back to respond to me, and now you’re even following me onto threads where you hadn’t participated before. You’re easily goaded and distracted, you have no self-control, you can’t stay away from me no matter how many times, or how fervently, you say you wish you could quit me. Your attraction to me is bordering on the kind of helpless infatuation that’s starting to look both amusing and pitiful. It’s perfectly obvious you have HUGE unresolved issues, your life has become unmanageable, and you need professional help, not another soapbox for your unhealthy delusions.

    Bus since you’re here, and you’re so desperate for my attention, why don’t you humor us by citing direct quotes that prove ALL of the allegations you just made about me in your comment #120? Direct quotes and citations, please, or admit you’re a pathological liar.

  123. #123 pornonymous
    August 16, 2011

    TOM, look @120. And never mind the strategic positioning here over ‘dialectic’ dialogic spaces. Just never mind.

    Bee-Yotch: O.K. Bee-yotch, my little old blog girlfriend: If you notice, my comment was directed at TOM.Not BEE.

    Can you see the difference there? Are you equipped–hindered as you are with pathological narcissism–to see that their is a difference between a comment to TOM, and a comment to you?

    O.K., work on that could you? Good boy. Now roll over, take your medication, and work on constructing readable paragraphs over at your ranting, redundant blog.

    And just a question, because I am concerned: are you relapsing little stinger?

    Are you back on that cocaine?

    Does your sponsor know that you have relapsed? Might be time for that phone call!

  124. #124 Raging Bee
    August 16, 2011

    It doesn’t matter who you’re talking to, you sad little twit — you’re still a pathological liar, and it’s still obvious to everyone here.

  125. #125 Tom Singer
    August 16, 2011

    Greg, I didn’t say you made a particular argument. I very clearly noted that what I was saying was my understanding of your argument and have asked you to clarify it if it was wrong. I explicitly asked at 32 if I made a mistake in my summary of your arguments – “Am I misrepresenting the arguments you made? If I have, it’s unintentional, and I’d welcome clarification.” You still haven’t clarified. I’m interested in the discussion. It’s not trolling. By the way, I’m not familiar with the term “Abilene”. Could you clarify before we begin to discuss it?

    RB, any time an entity provides a service and attaches rules to that service, innocent people get hurt. If you want to ride a bus with a no food or drinks policy, and you just went to McDonald’s, you have a choice to make. You can comply with the rules and use the service, or you can not use the service. That’s demonstrably harmful to you – you either throw away your food (actually, in the case of McD’s, that’s maybe not so harmful), or you don’t ride the bus. That doesn’t mean the bus company hates hungry people. That means they’ve made a business decision based on the costs and benefits of allowing people to ride while eating and drinking. Sure, YOU weren’t going to spill your soda.

    Disney World builds a roller coaster and says you must be this tall to ride. They would love for everyone to be able to participate, but they balance that with the desire to provide an entertaining experience for their customers, and do so with limited resources. (It’s not critical to my point, but there’s a parallel between the balance they’ve come up with – offering a mix of rides targeted at a mix of different audiences – and the balance that Google seems to be making with services that offer anonymity in combination with services that do not.)

    Innocent people are hurt by decisions every day. In and of itself, that’s not evil.

    I’m not sure how to respond to hoary puccoon at 100. I agree with points 1 and 2, and partially with 3. But, while I agree that banning sockpuppetry strikes a balance between a need for anonymity and limiting trolls, I don’t think it’s the only way to strike the balance, nor that it’s necessary that the need for anonymity be accommodated on every forum on the internet. I’ve made that clear multiple times. I’m not sure why that qualifies me as a troll.

  126. #126 Raging Bee
    August 16, 2011

    Oh, and do you really think Tom, or anyone else, needs a sad pornocentric wanker like you to tell them how to argue, or who with? I’m sure Tom is grown up enough to speak for himself.

    Self-important troll is self-important.

  127. #127 Raging Bee
    August 16, 2011

    If you want to ride a bus with a no food or drinks policy, and you just went to McDonald’s, you have a choice to make. You can comply with the rules and use the service, or you can not use the service.

    First, that’s a bad a analogy: neither fast food nor riding a bus involves the disclosure of personal information.

    And second, you’re not addressing my point, which is that “the free market” does not justify behavior that may be harmful to innocent people. If a particdular action is wrong, then it’s wrong whether or not everyone else is doing it too. Your “free market” rhetoric is nothing more than a dodge.

    Here’s a better analogy: a man waits in a particular place to assault and rape any woman who passes by. When people complain of his harmful behavior, he says the women have alternate routes they can choose to take, therefore there’s no need to hold him accountable for his actions. Do you agree or disagree with that reasoning? Because that’s pretty much the excuse you’re making here.

  128. #128 Tom Singer
    August 16, 2011

    I have a number of issues with your analogy.

    The dude waiting doesn’t own his spot on the street. The bus company owns their bus and can set the conditions for riding. Google owns Google+ and can set the conditions for interacting.

    I’m not sure if your rapist is advertising his condition for walking past his spot, but the bus company and Google are making their policy clear.

    But the primary thing is, the rapist is specifically intending to do something illegal and that causes harm directly. The bus company isn’t trying to starve you to death, and Google isn’t trying to rape you or get a brick thrown through your window. That’s a pretty major difference, and it’s at the heart of why I disagree with his reasoning.

    If he were playing a game of softball on a field in a public park, and it prevented people from playing their own game of kickball, and there was an open field right across the park, and he says he’s not going to stop playing because there’s another option for the other folks, then I have no problem with that. If he invites you to play softball, but wants to know your name and phone number so he can send you a schedule of the games and run a background check to make sure you’re not standing on a street corner raping women before you join the coed league, I have no problem with that, either. You want to remain anonymous? There are other softball games.

  129. #129 Stephanie Z
    August 16, 2011

    Tom, as has been pointed out to you repeatedly, there is nothing about the service Google offers that requires your legal name. They won’t be running a background check, and they already have all the information they need to send you an email. That’s the massive failure of your analogy.

  130. #131 pornonymous
    August 16, 2011

    Tom @ “You want to remain anonymous? There are other softball games.”

    So how do you feel about being labelled a troll up there?

    And how do you propose we should handle a situation where, even though you play in that softball game, there is always this person on that field who throws a ball across the street and tries to hit you with it?

    Or, suppose that there is this ball field where you play sometimes, but then when you leave, there is this troll that says “mean things” about you? Do you come back to that field, and play again? Or do you avoid that field?

    And Tom, note @126 especially notice the flagrant use of the word troll here on this blog these days. That makes three of us now–in one blog

    Not only is it an attempt to limit discussion, it is also an attempt to confine a dialogue into “narrow” and “narrow-minded” parameters.

    Especially note how RB consistently dodges and ducks substantive issues of character. His form of trolling in the disguise of sycophant; argument by ad hominem.

    Agree or else! Or else what? YOU WILL BE LABELLED! But don’t say I didn’t try to warn you about that old drug dealing pedophile.

  131. #132 Raging Bee
    August 16, 2011

    The dude waiting doesn’t own his spot on the street.

    How much of the electronic infrastructure needed to access Google from anywhere on Earth does Google own?

    I’m not sure if your rapist is advertising his condition for walking past his spot…

    If he’s predictably acting the same way at the same spot, and the news spreads, then that’s a little like advertizing.

    But the primary thing is, the rapist is specifically intending to do something illegal and that causes harm directly.

    And Google is specifically intending to do something that they now KNOW will harm people directly, whether or not it’s legal.

    …and Google isn’t trying to rape you or get a brick thrown through your window.

    No, they’re trying to force people, through dependence on their services, to give up their right to privacy.

    My analogy still holds. Please explain why you have not answered the simple question I asked when I posed it.

  132. #133 Tom Singer
    August 16, 2011

    Stephanie, I’m sure Google has their reasons for requiring full names. Some of them are probably related to them being able to sell your data to advertisers. Some of them may be related to the content in their forum. You can say they’re going about it the wrong way, but that’s really up to them.

    What you can do, and what Greg has done (you may have as well), is express your opinion to Google and try to convince them that their policy is bad for business. But that doesn’t make it evil, or misogynist, or what have you.

  133. #134 Raging Bee
    August 16, 2011

    What you can do, and what Greg has done (you may have as well), is express your opinion to Google and try to convince them that their policy is bad for business. But that doesn’t make it evil, or misogynist, or what have you.

    No, the fact that it harms innocent people makes it evil. That’s more important than whether it’s good or bad for “business.”

  134. #135 pornonymous
    August 16, 2011

    Tom, your points are consistent, but I don’t think you understand the millenniums long joke that is the word “evil.”

    Evil is a pretty strong word. How about degenerate? Or “patriarchal-ly degenerate?”

  135. #136 Tom Singer
    August 16, 2011

    RB, Google owns the one thing that is key to accessing Google, and that is the Google servers. But I imagine they own very little of the electronic infrastructure necessary to access the larger internet.

    If your rapist is advertising his spot and his intentions, that that’s a point in favor of his argument. It’s vanishingly small, and it doesn’t change the validity of his argument.

    Google requiring real names doesn’t specifically harm anyone any more than Disney requiring you to be this tall specifically harms anyone. They’re not forcing you to use their service. In order to force people to give up anonymity through dependence on their services, they need people to actually be dependent on their services. That’s not the case. If they rolled out Google+ allowing for anonymity, and then changed the rules after people had established something of value, you might have an argument there. But that’s not the case.

    The reason I haven’t answered your question (you’re referring to whether I think the rapist has a right to stand on the corner and rape women, yes?) is that I understood it to be rhetorical. Obviously, my answer is no, that’s not okay. But given that your scenario is distinguishable from the discussion at hand, my answer to that isn’t really relevant.

  136. #137 Stephanie Z
    August 16, 2011

    Wow, Tom. Way to entirely ignore comment 130.

  137. #138 Tom Singer
    August 16, 2011

    Sorry, Stephanie. My eyeball troll filter wrote that off as something from someone else.

    I don’t disagree that there’s a cost to not using Google+, or any other service. I just don’t think it’s particularly high, and I don’t think it’s anyone’s place to dictate to Google how to weight that cost in their decision making.

    I wonder how your argument would apply if Zuckerberg and Co. decided to shut Facebook down (Facebook being more widespread). Do they have an obligation to continue to make it available, because people use it for interaction? What about if Facebook manages to worm their way into financial transactions? Is Facebook a public good? Was Myspace? Was Western Union? Are/Were they too big to fail? Should the government step in and take over if Zuckerberg decides to close the doors? Which government?

  138. #139 Raging Bee
    August 16, 2011

    If your rapist is advertising his spot and his intentions, that that’s a point in favor of his argument. It’s vanishingly small, and it doesn’t change the validity of his argument.

    In other words, by your own admission, his actions are wrong regardless of what choices other people have. And they’re wrong because they are observably harmful in thenselves. Right? Well, the same goes for Google’s actions, for the same reasons: forcing people to use their real names in public discourse does more harm than good, therefore it’s wrong. Period. It’s wrong if only one small company does it, it’s wrong if one huge company that has no serious competition does it, it’s wrong if a whole bunch of companies each do it on their own steam, and it’s wrong if a bunch of companies agree to do it. It’s wrong because it causes predictable harm, which is pretty much how we calculate what’s right and wrong in the first place. Glad to see you finally agree to Glen’s original point.

    Google requiring real names doesn’t specifically harm anyone…

    That assertion is contradicted by the anecdotes related here. Your premise is false, therefore your conclusion fails.

    They’re not forcing you to use their service.

    Just like a rapist isn’t forcing anyone to end up in a place where they find themselves vulnerable. That is totally irrelevant to the wrongness of the rapist’s actions. “They’re not forcing anyone” is just another form of victim-bashing and childish dodging of responsibility. No one’s ever forced to come to any of my parties; does that mean I have no responsibility to behave decently toward my guests?

  139. #140 Stephanie Z
    August 16, 2011

    Tom, drop the “government regulation or nothing” crap and try to be less hopeless. Try to think outside your own life, particularly when people are trying to help you, as they are here. There are significant costs to being shut out of any social arena, particularly when groups of people are being shut out systematically. The fact that you can’t see those costs only means you’re not shut out, so you’ve never had to experience them. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist–merely that you’re ignorant.

    That you’ve stayed ignorant despite a bunch of people telling you exactly what their problems are, however….

  140. #141 Tom Singer
    August 16, 2011

    “In other words, by your own admission, his actions are wrong regardless of what choices other people have. And they’re wrong because they are observably harmful in themselves.”

    Correct.

    “Well, the same goes for Google’s actions, for the same reasons: Forcing people to use their real names in public discourse does more harm than good, therefore it’s wrong.”

    I disagree, for two reasons. First of all, when a rapist rapes you, he’s responsible for his actions. When a rapist rapes you because you’ve chosen to participate in Google+ and had to use your real name to register and he was able to track you down, he’s still responsible for his actions. Not Google.

    Second, harm vs good are much less subjective in the case of a rapist raping any particular individual than they are in the case of a company like Google requiring real names. If very bad things happen to a very small portion of the population, how do you weight that against a minor good thing happening to a large portion of the population? That’s the issue I see here. At 82, I said to you, “… you seem to be saying that giving any weight to the … benefit is automatically misogynist. I don’t accept that.”

    We’re going in circles.

  141. #142 Greg Laden
    August 16, 2011

    Raging Bee: No, the fact that it harms innocent people makes it evil. That’s more important than whether it’s good or bad for “business.”

    YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND ANYTHING!!!11!!

    The free market is natural, the free market is good, all that the free market dictates is natural and good.

    And good rhymes with ood.

  142. #143 Tom Singer
    August 16, 2011

    Stephanie, what government regulation or nothing crap? I’m trying to see where your argument leads.

    I don’t discount the fact that there are costs. I wasn’t part of the “in crowd” in high school (I know, shocker, right?), and was shut out of the dominant social arena. That had costs. That’s not the same as being black and not able to eat at a restaurant, and it’s not the same as being a woman who doesn’t want to be located by an abusive ex. But I’m not ignorant.

    As I told RB, I simply don’t accept that I’m required to give overwhelming weight to the costs.

  143. #144 Raging Bee
    August 16, 2011

    Second, harm vs good are much less subjective in the case of a rapist raping any particular individual than they are in the case of a company like Google requiring real names.

    Bullshit: as you’ve already seen, we have plenty of anecdotes to show that the harm done is both real, significant, and likely given a certain set of actions by Google or other providers. If a service provider requires real names in public discourse, there is a reasonable chance of harm being done, therefore it is wrong and should not be done.

    If very bad things happen to a very small portion of the population, how do you weight that against a minor good thing happening to a large portion of the population?

    Easy: the minor benefit to the majority does not justify the major harm to a minority. (And just how big does the minority have to be before their basic rights matter to you?) Just like killing Nancy Grace is wrong because the minor benefit to everyone else is outweighed by the lawless taking of one life.

    We’re going in circles.

    That’s because you’re refusing to understand a basic moral point that the rest of us learned in grade-school: your convenience is not more important than the basic rights of others.

  144. #145 Raging Bee
    August 16, 2011

    Tom, drop the “government regulation or nothing” crap and try to be less hopeless…

    Speaking of government regulation, WHY NOT? The Constitution gives all of us a right to free speech, and a right to privacy; and the US has the power to make any laws “necessary and proper” to uphold and enforce our rights; so a law guaranteeing privacy to people who post their opinions on the Web would be perfectly within the bounds of both reason and the Constitution.

  145. #146 Greg Laden
    August 16, 2011

    Tom, this is Check Your Privilage time.

    A few moments ago I got a phone call from a female friend who related a story of fright and horror in which a number of women were attacked and harassed by one crazy man with two somewhat less crazy male friends with him, just a few minutes ago, until security people happened on the scene and chased them off. The woman who called me said that she was in the middle of it and was afraid to pull out her phone and dial 911. It was a nightmare. As we speak, interviews are being done with the police, security cameras checked, etc.

    It seems as though this was just another example of men being bad to women. Happens all the time . All the time, Tom. All the fucking time. And you have no clue.

    YOU do not get to decide this. YOU do not get to say that the costs are not worth it. YOU do not get to determine that it is OK for other people to live in fear because it does not bother you. You do not get to say that BIG FUCKING CHUNKS OF SOCIETY like schools, even private ones, or grocery stores, or pedestrian malls, or shopping centers, or parking lots, OR SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES DEVELOPED FOR EVERYONE TO USE (and be exploited) are off limits to people who are not like you because you don’t have a personal stake in this.

    Why do you not understand why this is misogynist? You really thin it isn’t, don’t you? OMG.

    Do you even GET what privilege is? You’ve got privilege in this case because you’ve got a dick between your legs. Do you really not get that? Did you miss why I picked two run of the mill average stories about two run of the mill average WOMEN and not men, women who were getting harassed by men, to illustrate my point, and not some shit-for-brains clueless pointy-headed dork such as YOU? Do you get that?

    You. Do. Not. Get. To. Evaluate. The. Cost. What you need to do, Tom, is to understand that this is a fact, and to understand why.

    This is not academic, my friend. Don’t tell me on a day like this that you get to evaluate the costs to other people of your own kind being what they usually are.

  146. #147 Raging Bee
    August 16, 2011

    If very bad things happen to a very small portion of the population, how do you weight that against a minor good thing happening to a large portion of the population?

    Would you think that way if you found yourself in the minority? If oil was discovered under your neighborhood, would it be okay to plow up your house, pollute the only water that’s available for you to drink, poison the soil you grow your ash-crops on, and leave you with nothing, just so the rest of us could benefit from a “minor good thing” like a two-cent-per-gallon drop in gas prices?

  147. #148 Tom Singer
    August 16, 2011

    Greg, I’ve very sorry to hear that. This is your blog, and if you’d prefer that I refrain for a time from discussing the topic at hand out of sensitivity to your friend, I’m happy to do so. Let me know.

  148. #149 Raging Bee
    August 16, 2011

    Personally, FWIW, I’d just prefer that you admit that you have no idea what you’re talking about and don’t really care, and should probably leave the talking — and decisions — to people who do know and care.

  149. #150 Stephanie Z
    August 16, 2011

    I’ll go farther than Raging Bee, Tom. I’d like you to sit down and think about the fact that you know about preventable harm being done to others and you don’t give a shit, even though you can’t actually point to even a tiny good that reliably comes out of it for anyone. That’s evil.

  150. #151 pornonymous
    August 16, 2011

    Tom, take the troll filters out of your privileged eyeballs, go have a good cry, and then commit suicide–that’s the social prescription for middle aged privileged white men.

    First thing I read here that makes any sense:
    “There are significant costs to being shut out of any social arena, particularly when groups of people are being shut out systematically. The fact that you can’t see those costs only means you’re not shut out,”

    Definition of incredibly dangerous, been tried before and failed, incredibly SLIPPERY SLOPE:
    “you have no idea what you’re talking about and don’t really care, and should probably leave the talking — and decisions — to people who do know and care.”

    Makes me wanna holler!BUt not quite loud enough to shut anyone else up…hypocrites, and fascists UnITE!

    A little bit like a prayer meeting–converted yet? On your knees before JaHeeesus!

  151. #152 Edward
    August 16, 2011

    I disagree that Google has broken its promise. You point out yourself that people are currently using pseudonyms on Google+. So there’s an ill conceived rule, it would seem, but it is being “selectively” enforced, which makes all the difference in the world, does it not?

    The point being, consider the actual effect the selectively enforced rule is having. It’s encouraging people to use their real names, but if someone is highly motivated not to use their real name, they can still use the service but only after investing in a particular type of pseudonym (i.e. a pen name and not a cartoon name).

  152. #153 Greg Laden
    August 16, 2011

    Well, Edward, that’s spoken like a true evolutionary biologist. You may be unduly accustom to the idea that everything that is adaptive is in some other way broken!

  153. #154 Jac
    August 19, 2011

    Edward: you appear to be unaware that selecting a “pen name” only allows a person to create an account and use it until it is reviewed. If, on being reviewed, the account holder cannot produce a legal ID (Drivers Licence/Passport) which verifies the account name to be genuine, the account holder either has to change the name to one for which they do have the ID, or let the account be deleted.

    Note that this foils people who want to create a persistent pseudonym, but not trolls, stalkers, spammers and the like.

    Also, people who require a pseudonym because they say controversial things (Like, say, “Benno is a misogynist”) are at a high risk of having their account maliciously reported as being fake.

  154. #155 Matthew Brown
    August 19, 2011

    Since Google does not at present do any kind of identity verification unless a name doesn’t seem normal-looking or someone complains, and (as proven by experiment) incredibly fake documentation is accepted as factual by any case, Google’s names policy is not, actually, providing any of the benefits that a Real Names policy could possibly give. You have no extra surety about another person on the service than if they could call themselves anything they want.

    What it is doing is (a) preventing people from using long-established, well-known pseudonyms from being identified by their acquaintances, and (b) keeping out anyone who wishes to be pseudonymous but is too honest to lie about it.

    I don’t see a benefit to either of those.

    Furthermore, it’s encouraging people to abandon pseudonymity who might perhaps be making the wrong decision for their personal safety.

    Fundamentally, the policy provides only cosmetics; it satisfies those who have a distaste for “handles” and prefer seeing real-world-looking names. Even if they could be just as pseudonymous. Those who worked for Google during the period when the policy was adopted who have spoken out have said that the policy was largely a determination of a few senior people, was not based on research (very much against Google’s normal “show me the numbers” culture), and was impervious to argument or discussion.

  155. #156 Jac
    August 19, 2011

    Benno, you are not a deliberate, conscious hater of women. You are just casually dismissive and obliviously negligent toward them.

    Women are, however, really, really hated by a certain portion of society. Irrationally. Relentlessly. Passionately. Heat of a thousand suns stuff. “Comply or die” territory.

    There are subcultures in which it is believed that women need to be shown their place, and some of the people in these groups only discuss the need to subjugate ‘uppity bitches’. Some act on their beliefs by trolling and threatening women who are visibly not complying with the male-supremacist world view. There are some individuals and groups who take it further, and carry out those threats.

    Women have three options:

    1) Remain silent and invisible. This is simplest, and the only option endorsed by people like you, Benno, whether you realise it or not.

    2) Speak up under their real life name and put themselves at risk of being attacked, and at risk of being told that it’s her fault that she was attacked.

    3) Speak up pseudonymously, inserting a layer of obfuscation between their real life identity and casual misogynists.

    Yes, yes. There is still a risk in taking the third option. (Please resist the urge to explain this to me.) It’s not about an attempt at maintaining a Wikileaks level of anonymity. Honestly, I do want the authorities to be able to find someone if they, say, make death/rape threats under a pseudonym.

    It’s about my ability to engage in a comment thread without having my home address bob up in a Google search made by some insanely irate mouth-breather who can’t even spell “rape your daughters” correctly.

    But somehow this is not as important to Google as the aesthetic of people having wasponyms. I guess the mouth-breathers will have to make throwaway accounts under aesthetically pleasing Western sounding names in a [first name] [last name] format to post their abuse make their threats there.

    I don’t expect that my input will have any impact on your opinion. You see people like me as a handful of isolated crackpots with extreme views, because you don’t see the myriad others who have taken option 1.

    Google+ removes option 3, which makes it a space where misogynist concepts and harmful obliviousness can be perpetuated relatively unchallenged.

    I’m going out on a limb and using “option 2″ here, as you seem inclined to class people’s remarks to you as insults if they are made under a pseudonym.

    However, as well as exposing me to the possibility of reprisals, it comes with the added bonus that you, on seeing that my name is that of a woman, will give substantially less weight to what I have written. It’s not just you; there are studies…

    Jacinta Reid

  156. #157 Jax
    August 19, 2011

    You don’t have to be female to collect a stalker. It’s just easier that way.

  157. #158 Raging Bee
    August 19, 2011

    I’d just like to add that authorities have just managed to catch a certain death-threat-spewing troll despite the fact that he was using multiple pseudonyms. That alone should tell us that Google’s policy is unnecessary at best, if not totally fucking useless.

  158. #159 Olafur Skorrdal
    August 20, 2011

    I have read this post and it’s comments, and the only conclusion I have reached, is to stop using Google+, Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar and what not. Been there since the beginning – or almost. It will be a lot of work, but I think it’s the best thing to do. Google won’t miss me anyway; they just don’t care.

  159. #160 snaxalotl
    August 23, 2011

    in east germany, nobody was forced to use telephones. i don’t know why people still complain that their excellent government listened to phone conversations. in fact, i can barely understand why people argue about social rules ever. after all, nobody forces you to interact with society. most people can stay at home and grow food in their back yard, and people without homes can easily gather food in the forest and eat road kill. i think there are a lot of complainers who should jolly well join alternate societies, move to preferable countries, or wait for people to found countries more to their liking. obviously, nothing is a monopoly unless it is an absolute monopoly, and only a really idiot would think partial or near monopolies should bear proportionate moral responsibility for the consequences of its rules. sorry i couldn’t post in the caps appropriate to my genius, but my caps lock key has broken for some reason

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