Should European countries end online anonymity?
The racial abuse aimed at the England team following the European Championship final has sparked new discussions on ending online anonymity.
Thousands of anonymous social media accounts attacked the three England football players that missed penalty kicks in the Euro 2020 final – many included the use of racist slurs.
As most of the abuse came from anonymous profiles, this has prompted a debate on whether online anonymity is doing more harm than good.
According to a survey by YouGov, 78% of the British public believe users should be required to share their real identity when signing up for social media accounts.
This survey also found that 37% of participants believe that the user’s real identity should be publicly available and visible on their profile.
A petition in the UK has also called for making ID verification a legal requirement for opening a social media account. The petition has now reached nearly 700,000 signatures.
The petition urges the government to, “Make it a legal requirement when opening a new social media account, to provide a verified form of ID.”
“Where the account belongs to a person under the age of 18 verify the account with the ID of a parent/guardian, to prevent anonymised harmful activity, providing traceability if an offence occurs.”
the official UK government response to the petition was, “The government recognises concerns linked to anonymity online, which can sometimes be exploited by bad actors seeking to engage in harmful activity.”
“However, restricting all users’ right to anonymity, by introducing compulsory user verification for social media, could disproportionately impact users who rely on anonymity to protect their identity.”
Those arguing for identity checks on social media argue that it’s easy to stay anonymous online at the moment, and this makes it easier for online abuse to take place.
However, those against it argue that ending online anonymity could remove people’s privacy. One MEP said, “Citizens should have the right to assume a different identity on the internet, due to for instance security reasons. We must be careful not to undermine freedom of speech, but more should be done to tackle illegal hate speech.”
Additionally, some groups believe that the user’s real name shouldn’t be available, but social media platforms should be able to identify users that break the law.
They point to the fact that social media algorithms are often fuelling the abuse as it’s “controversial content”, and these platforms need to do more to prevent this from happenin