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Trolls: The True Privacy Killer

Privacy is dead. Long live true online ID.

Blame the trolls.


No trolls in squeaky clean America!

When I say trolls, I don’t mean just the trolls that work under the auspices of the NSA. I mean Internet trolls: anonymous commenters that toss all decorum to cause chaos, despair and hurt, all for the sake of nothing more than the empty lulz. As a few billion more people come online, some of them participating in an honor culture (as opposed to cultures of law), the anonymous option will go away. Honor culture types will want to know who just insulted them, and cultures of law people will want to sue the trolls for libel. Parents all over the world will want to know who bullied their babies. Senators will want to seem like ball-busting heroes. Google and Facebook will want to sell more ad space to actual customers. No Anonymity will seem like the wholesome, honorable and safe choice, like banning sales of cigarettes to minors or imposing curfews in violence-prone city districts.

Tides are turning. The day of the anonymous online ID is coming to a close. It follows that the day of the anonymous in-real-life citizen will also come to an end. We will be under legal obligation to carry “papers” with us at all times. We will be obligated to tell our names to the police. We will have to register our presence everywhere we visit. We will need identification above and beyond our signature to be able to vote.

Because the folklore logic will go like this: If you need a valid ID to make a comment on a blog, you need a valid ID to vote. If you can’t click “Like” on Facebook without two-step, real-ID verification, you can’t expect to shop anonymously. And if you can’t even watch a youtube video without Google knowing about it, then of course you can’t read a newspaper article without agreeing to be tracked everywhere you go, online and in real life.

Everything will make sense. The overwhelming majority of people will welcome the End of the Troll. The sell will be “safety” and more importantly, “convenience.” The lexicon and sales copy will vilify the lurker and celebrate the squeaky clean renaissance citizen. The revolutionary will be doxed. The concerned good samaritan will be (unwillingly) sainted. All to throw the baby trolls out with the bathwater. And we will celebrate. The pundits will praise how real ID will mean more civil participation. Accepted terms and definitions of words will homogenize across cultures so we can all understand each other. No misconstruing. No vitriol. No hate. A no-bravery-necessary new world. And how peaceful it is, we’ll all say, as we look up from our phones for just enough time to pat each other on the back.


Photo credit: Boston Public Library


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