Randi Zuckerberg's Ill-Timed Statements About Anonymity Online

Adam Clark Estes
August 3, 2011
Randi Zuckerberg's Ill-Timed Statements About Anonymity Online

Randi Zuckerberg is quitting her job at Facebook to start her own social media consulting company, but it looks like she'll fight an uphill battle to win over the industry. Last week, she made some pretty strong statements against anonymity on the Internet. “I think anonymity on the Internet has to go away,” said Mark Zuckerberg's little sister according to The Huffington Post. “People behave a lot better when they have their real names down. … I think people hide behind anonymity and they feel like they can say whatever they want behind closed doors.”

RELATED: The U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right

It turns out that a lot of people deeply disagree with Zuckerberg's sweeping condemnation of anonymity on the internet. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a watchdog organization for digital rights, scolded Zuckerberg in a blog post that said, "Not only is uncivil discourse alive and well in venues with real name policies (such as Facebook), the argument willfully ignores the many voices that are silenced in the name of shutting up trolls: activists living under authoritarian regimes, whistleblowers, victims of violence, abuse, and harassment, and anyone with an unpopular or dissenting point of view that can legitimately expect to be imprisoned, beat-up, or harassed for speaking out." They said that her mandate "is guaranteed to be a disaster for freedom of expression." As if to prove the EFF's point, an anonymous blogger wrote on Network World, "Zuckerberg's argument to stop cyberbullying by doing away with digital anonymity could open the door to bullying and stalking in real life." 

RELATED: Google+ Will Now Let You Get Creative with User Names

These kinds of rebuttals fall in line with what experts have long said about anonymity online. Mathew Ingram  remarked on GigaOm just a couple of days before Zuckerberg's comments that "gay, lesbian and transgender advocacy groups have also noted that many users may wish to go by pseudonyms when they are online for personal reasons" and "someone else said that she has been the victim if sexual abuse and is worried about her family members being able to track her down." Christopher Poole, founder of the anonymous forum 4chan featured in the TED Talk below, argued earlier this year that "anonymity is authenticity, it allows you to share in a completely unvarnished, unfiltered, raw way and I think that's something that's extremely valuable." Commenting on the trend away from anonymity last year, Arianna Huffington said simply,"Anonymity is just the way things are done."

RELATED: Zuckerberg's Sister Quits Facebook to Start New Firm

Regardless of the critics, Zuckerberg is charging into the social media world to make her mark. "Now is the perfect time for me to move outside of Facebook to build a company focused on the exciting trends underway in the media industry,” she said in her resignation letter.

RELATED: Silicon Valley Doesn't Want Us to Know the Truth About Its Bro Culture