Opinion | Your Say

Anonymity a critical element in campaign for social change

Bloggers who risk their well-being by discussing contentious issues deserve protection

  • By Sarah Mahmoud, Gulf News Reader
  • Published: 00:00 November 25, 2011
  • Gulf News

It is difficult to say whether forcing people to reveal their real names is a good practice or not. In terms of websites like Facebook, I think people should be asked to give their real names because it is a platform where you can access other people's profiles and pictures and, therefore, it needs to be secure.

But in terms of bloggers who might be discussing news and issues, I think it is really important to allow them to hide their identity, especially in places where they do not have freedom of speech.

Just this week I was trying to create a fan page on Facebook, but Facebook didn't let me create a new account. I think for safety reasons it is a really good practice to ask people for their real names. I know that a lot of users create fake accounts and add random people and sometimes harass them.

However, I was using a name that was obviously fake. When I used a name that sounded like a real person, they did accept it. So, it doesn't really prove to be an effective practice as they are not asking for any proof of identity.

Also, anonymity is really important in places where people do not enjoy enough freedom. I still remember when I was talking with a friend from Egypt before the January 25 revolution, he didn't want to say anything negative about the government because there was a fear that phones were being tapped and even if you were online, you could get prosecuted as it was a very sensitive issue back then. For this reason, it is crucial that people are allowed to stay anonymous.

We need those different opinions out there, we can't keep editing them out. Sometimes it is better that they are anonymous because that is the only way we are going to initiate change.

 

— The reader is a marketing student living in Sharjah

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