Jillian C. York on why the current corporate backlash against online pseudonymity is misguided:
There are myriad reasons why an individual may feel safer identifying under a name other than their birth name. Teenagers who identify as members of the LGBT community, for example, are regularly harassed online and may prefer to identify online using a pseudonym. Individuals whose spouses or partners work for the government or are well known often wish to conceal aspects of their own lifestyle and may feel more comfortable operating under a different name online. Survivors of domestic abuse who need not to be found by their abusers may wish to alter their name in whole or in part. And anyone with unpopular or dissenting political opinions may choose not to risk their livelihood by identifying with a pseudonym.
As Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens put forth in deciding McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission,
Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation—and their ideas from suppression—at the hand of an intolerant society. The right to remain anonymous may be abused when it shields fraudulent conduct. But political speech by its nature will sometimes have unpalatable consequences, and, in general, our society accords greater weight to the value of free speech than to the dangers of its misuse.
Just as using “real” names can have real consequences, mandating the use of “real” names can too, excluding from the conversation anyone who fears retribution for sharing their views. While one added value of requiring real names might be increased “civility” of the conversation, it is most certainly to the detriment of diversity.
This. I’d also point out that there’s a complete disregard/willful indifference on the part of FB & Google muckety-mucks to the fact that many (cough) have established pseudonymous online personas — or have published/performed under pen/stage names — with a greater public profile than what might officially appear on one’s birth certificate. Any social media service that would prevent Sam Clemons from IDing as ‘Mark Twain’ can suck my left one.