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    As someone with a globally unique legal name, I find real name policies to be pretty awful. It’s a lot easier to find me than someone named John Smith. Regardless of what John Smith or I are doing, that seems really unfair that they get to be effectively anonymous, while I don’t. If we’re going to insist that people dox themselves to post online, we should go all the way, or not do it at all. “You have to use your legal name” is a cop out. Make folks post their whole IDs, including addresses and pictures, or let cyberspace personas be disjoint from meatspace ones.

    A system where people with unique names have to have way stronger personal opsec because they’re easy to Google is irritating and unfair.

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      An especially frustrating side effect of this, and of the digitization of society in general, is that people who have more contact with the state tend to have more of a digital trail. I’ve had issues with this a few times, and things like being a ham radio operator and buying a house have made me essentially trivial to dox in ways that I can’t really control.

      This becomes much worse when that contact is coercive and not consensual; one could certainly say that I should have simply chosen not to become a ham (although, as you say, that’s unfair on the uniqueness of my name), but one can hardly “make better choices” oneself out of being arrested in connection with a crime one didn’t commit and so forth.

      It also means that civic participation - commenting on proposed regulation, etc. - is actually punished by the network, and that sucks!

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        Ham radio callsigns are public information by design - you’re not supposed to be able to legally use the ham radio frequencies without identifying yourself in a way that can be tracked back to your real identity. This is in fact basically a network real-name policy made decades before the internet was invented, where the network is “the FCC-regulated amateur radio spectrum” rather than some company’s social media platform. I’m a licensed amateur operator in the US myself and I avoid giving out my callsign in any context where I wouldn’t give out my government name.

        There are good reasons why this policy exists for amateur radio - radio spectrum is a government-managed public resource, and the amateur spectrum in particular is a slice of spectrum set aside for public and noncommercial communication and experimentation by people who go to the trouble of getting a ham license. If not for the amateur bands, a private individual wouldn’t be able to legally transmit on most of the radio spectrum at all - most of the rest of it is set aside for military or commercial use where it’s not legal to interfere with the radio transmissions of the legitimate controllers of that part of the spectrum. It’s not legal for me to transmit on the same frequency as a commercial FM radio station, and the commercial entity who owns that station is not confidential either.

        That said, yeah, after growing up using the internet to routinely send encrypted and pseudonymous messages to people around the world, it’s a bit less cool to send out unencrypted radio transmissions where I have to legally repeat my call sign every 10 minutes.

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          Yeah, I think this is slightly missing the point. I absolutely agree with you, and the FCC, that hams need to be identifiable. The problem is that even without giving my callsign to anyone, Googling my name gives you my address & name change history in the ULS and I can never change or prevent that.

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      The Google+ Real Names Policy is the closest we have to a controlled experiment on the effect of these policies. They do not work to reduce bad behavior, and significantly discourage good behavior.

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        This. It’s very clear that the people with the bad behaviour have no problem with it, but the victims have every reason to avoid exposing themselves.

        It’s an entirely predictable outcome, that has the added negative of emboldening the abusers as they think that they make a larger proportion of the populace than they do (see GOP “silent majority” rhetoric in the US). They also say the opposite of the above: “if there’s no problem being/doing X why do they want to hide?” Without the remotest hint of self awareness.

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        It’s so painful how slowly this discussion unfolds..

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          I wish the first half weren’t there. The piece is not off topic though because the second half brings some good ideas to consider when writing large social platforms

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            Have you written a large social platform? If not, how do you know that the article’s advice is any good?

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              I wish the first half weren’t there


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                It is a political message that probably manages to not alienate, but seems to take a clear side of a political argument, instead of simply giving a justification and moving on to smarter ways of doing identity.

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                  instead of simply giving a justification and moving on to smarter ways of doing identity.

                  It is a justification. There are in fact many people in the world who would face physical violence or criminal prosecution or both for admitting openly to their sexual orientation or identity. This isn’t a “political message”, it’s a true and verifiable factual statement. And as a result, many such people feel an urgent need to avoid tying their “real identity” to anything having to do with their sexuality. Noting this also isn’t a “political message”, it’s a valid example of why “real name” policies have problems.

                  Nor is any of this a “dogwhistle” – there’s no hidden meaning or coded message that only a particular in-group is expected to pick up on.

                  The article appears to simply say what it means and mean what it says. There are, verifiably, many people for whom “real name” policies are a problem and for whom having their “real identity” “outed” in certain ways might expose them to anything from social to physical/legal punishment. The author simply seems to have picked an example with which they were familiar, and I’m not sure why that would be perceived as wrong or bad or inappropriate.

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                    Had the first half just been your first paragraph, I’d have no problems with it.

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                      I still don’t understand what the “problems with it” are.

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                        I think based on responses and non-responses elsewhere the “problems with it” are clearly that considering LGBT people to be, you know, people. You, I, and multiple other people in this thread have provided multiple opportunities for @Vaelatern, @Hail_Spacecake, etc to explain what concept is political or otherwise a problem that is not “do all people get to be considered people” there isn’t really an alternate interpretation.

                        To that group of homophobes, transphobes, etc: Many of the most horrific crimes in history came about as a result of some group deciding that another group of people were not human beings that have just as much right to exist as everyone else. You cannot say that “do this group get to exist?” is a political question unless you do not think that they are people.

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                    Observing that tech often ignores politics (and the people those policies impact) exist is exactly what is forming this author’s opinions on the technology argument. The first half is the “[simple] justification”.

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                      The problem is that actually engaging with the specific claims made by this article requires making strong political claims, and lobsters has a moderation policy of banning discussion the moderators judge to be too political. This is done for several reasons, not the least of which is that actually having a meaningful discussion about a politicized issue of computer technology often makes people extremely angry.

                      I agree with the author that it’s very important to build technologies that facilitate anonymous and pseuonymous online communication, and that the current landscape of large, privately-owned online communication platforms run by organizations that have an interest in enforcing a real-name policy is bad. In fact, I believe this more strongly than the author does - I think most of the ways in which he’s hedging against this point are invalid, and invalid for reasons that are strongly politicized in ways that lobsters moderators have historically banned discussion of. There are claims in this article that are flatly wrong, made for political reasons.

                      One method that might help is prohibiting amplifying any account in algorithmic feeds (e.g. Twitter, TikTok) unless identity is verified. You can follow anyone, but you won’t ever see a “suggestion” from a non-verified account, preventing their amplification effect.

                      What actually constitutes “helping” in the context of when and how to secure online (pseudo)anonymity is itself a political question. I don’t think a policy or technical solution that allows people to post (pseudo)anonymously but only allows posts by verified real-name humans to be amplified is a solution to any problem in this space I think is important. I might want to amplify specific posts from anonymous (or at least unverified) accounts myself, by sharing them with people i know or to anyone reading my content, and I would not want that sort of posting behavior to be curtailed by any platform requirement that anonymous accounts not be amplified.

                      Another might be stronger “liveness” testing. Some proposals already exist to make this better than the current captcha system. This could also utilize the biometrics that modern devices provide.4

                      I’m all for a better alternative to captchas if possible; but what I don’t want is to have to prove that I am a specific human being in order to read information on websites. If biometric-verification systems for gating access to websites were widespread, I would be extremely interested in finding ways to bypass them precisely because I don’t want the people running the system to be able to figure out what websites I’m reading.

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                        I could summarize it without the political dogwhistles it uses.

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                          Those aren’t dogwhistles (“use of coded or suggestive language … to garner support … without provoking opposition”) they’re just a normal, completely forthright, and explicit argument.

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                            This is getting off topic. It’s a dogwhistle, and I wish the first half of this article were not there, because until I had read the second half, I wanted to flag this as outright political.

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                              I don’t think you understand what dogwhistle means. It really doesn’t apply in this situation. The author is clear about the groups and policies discussed. There’s no wink, wink here.

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                                Then perhaps it’s comments that provoke outright opposition? The language use is clearly on one side of the political aisle.

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                                Repeating yourself isn’t a useful form of argument or comment here. And that’s literally all the above comment does. You’ve said you think that it contains dogwhistles in an earlier comment. You’ve said you wished the first half the article were not there in an earlier comment. You’ve said you view it as political message in an earlier comment.

                                What you haven’t done is justify why you believe there are dog-whistles in it, despite that being what people are challenging you on. They quoted a definition, and said what they think it is instead - responding by repeating the claims without arguing why they are true isn’t a meaningful response. It comes across as just trying to badger the people disagreeing with you into not doing so, and I’ve flagged it as such. I’m leaving this comment primarily to explain why I’ve flagged it.

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                              I think you are misunderstanding what a “dog whistle” is

                              which demonstrate why this would put marginalized people in physical danger, as I show below. Enforcing identity is great at reducing problems for you as long as you’re straight, white, male, and American. For others it’s not quite as clear cut. This has been extensively researched, and Jillian C. York maintains a list of a lot of that research.

                              Is not a dog whistle. It stating clearly and explicitly the issue.

                              A dog whistle is something like “urban youths” as a dog whistle for black people, “globalist” for jew, being “anti-family”, etc. The goal is to not use the known explicitly bad word so that way people can’t be quoted as saying something explicitly racist, anti-semitic, homophobic, etc. That’s what makes it a “dog whistle”: it has the message, but the message isn’t explicitly audible.

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                                Please do

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                              Are you suggesting that identifying types of vulnerable people so you can protect them or at least not harm them is political? Are you saying that acknowledging the types of malefactors who commit violence against vulnerable people is political?

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                                Yes this is profoundly political.

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                                  In that case, I’d say that creating a service that lets malefactor users harm vulnerable users is also political.

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                                    Yup - the question of what agents count as the malefactors, and what groups of people count as vulnerable in a meaningful way, are both very political. In the sense that different people will come to very different answers to them which will have mutually-incompatible implications about what software and software features should exist.

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                                      This is a super easy question: which group of people is saying that another group of people are not actual people?

                                      What you are saying is that “should some people be considered property rather than people?” is a political viewpoint, “should some group of people be allowed to exist?” is a political question, “can we exterminate all people in this group?” is a political question.

                                      We need to be very clear here: it isn’t a “political” opinion if it denies the right of some group to exist, or have the same freedoms as others. If you say that the right of some group to exist is a political opinion, that means that you explicitly do not consider that group to be people.

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                                    To be clear you are saying that you believe that the right of minorities to be free from abuse simply for existing is a political statement?

                                    You really need to be clearer in your comments here as you are making it sound like you think that “should lgbt people be considered people?” Is a political question.

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                                  Where was the political content?