If we could only get everyone to use a persistent user identity then we could solve this whole online agression problem, right? As Randi Zuckerberg, sister to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg once put it:
“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.”
Tracie Morrissey’s latest article for Jezebel provides a stark contrast to Zuckerberg’s assertion that persistent identity can act as a behavioral policing mechanism. In the article, Morrissey unapologetically names 12 teenagers who posted racist remarks about the President on Twitter. These 12 students willingly made rude remarks unprovoked, under their real names. None of them felt the need to hide behind any mask of anonymity.
To be clear, Tracie Morrissey published already-public information. All you need to do is search Twitter for the words “Obama” and “n****r” and you’ll find people saying offensive things. Some use pseudonyms. Others are fully comfortable doing so under their real names, and many of them are minors.
While nearly anyone is fully capable of using Twitter to find real-life racists being racist under their real names, Morrissey took vigilante justice into her own hands. In addition to their names, many of the teens also listed the schools they attended and the sports teams they played for. So Morrissey contacted the school administrators and coaches to report the students’ conduct. Simply alerting the administrators was reasonable enough, but the way Morrissey publicly shamed these minors is at the very least a moral gray area. Read More »