Like many people, I’ve long thought that getting rid of anonymity is a way to improve online discourse. If people know that it’s actually me who is responding to somebody then I’m less likely to call them a dunderhead, or so the thinking goes.
The thinking, alas, may be wrong. A study published last month in the journal PLOS One ( with the subtitle “Online firestorms in social media”) says that losing anonymity can actually make Internet trolls more trollish, not less. As reported by Quartz:
Indeed, for some trolls, online aggression is rewarded in their social networks, and is often a deliberate public signal. People are actually trying to enforce social norms against a perceived violation by a public figure or group. That means individuals are rewarded and perceived as more credible in their group once they are identified, argues Jurgen Pfeffer, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon.”In such structures it is very likely that, if somebody says something aggressive, the majority of the group says ‘Yeah,’” he explained by email.