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    Mandatory Real Names policies aren’t about civility at all. The OP does a good job of debunking that argument.

    Real Names policies exist because users are the product and users with offline identities attached are worth more to advertisers. End of story. It has nothing to do with making people more civil. People who want to be trolls will create plausible-sounding identities (“John Smith”).

    A secondary use for them is that they give carte blanche to the site’s management to ban people whom they consider inconvenient.

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      Side comment: I posted this because I found it extremely interesting (the way it seriously engaged with social science research was a plus), but I didn’t find many relevant tags at submission time (design could have fit but the textual explanation say “visual design”, which is not the kind of design we are talking about here; I just noticed the tag privacy that would arguably have been a good fit). Does this mean it is a bad fit for Lobsters? I’m not sure what is a good fit for lobster, and this topic does not seem farther away from the core technical topics that are most common on lobster than some other tags like “philosophy”, “finance” or “law”.

      If you do think it’s a reasonable fit for lobster, here are some tags that I think I could have had a use for: “user interaction design”, “social sciences”, “social processes”, “online communities”.

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        I’d have gone with privacy, culture, and practices. The privacy tag generally trends a bit less technical as does culture, but both are reasonable buckets for your submission.

        Thank you for taking the time to reflect on and question your use of tags!

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        I think it’s much more straightforward than that: “we” (for a much more recent, very non-academic definition of “we”) thought anonymity led to bad behavior because the highest concentration of assholes was on 4chan. Now we don’t think that because Facebook has proven that people are 100% willing to say unbelievably terrible things with their real name and a photograph of their face attached. That’s the reasoning I’ve gone through, at any rate.

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          It’s not identity that’s the problem. The problem was outlined by economists and game theoreticians a generation ago. It’s interactions, specifically our sense of future actions.

          Take a Prisoner’s Dilemma game. The rational strategy is to defect- if you’re only playing the game once. If you’re playing the game a fixed number of times, you should always defect on the last iteration (and since your opponent knows you’re defecting on the last iteration, you should defect on the n-1 iteration too, etc.). But when you’re playing the game with an unknown number of iterations, the strategy flips- the dominant strategy becomes cooperation.

          The Internet, as the world’s largest public space, turns a lot of our interactions into one-offs, and in a one-off interaction, defecting and being an asshole is a dominant strategy. Real names won’t change that reality.

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            I have a contrary theory that also isn’t about identity.

            I think the internet brings us all into contact with people we would otherwise never talk to, due to ideological differences. If I accidentally met an internet asshole in-person and they somehow heard me talking about personal things, I would expect them to feel entitled to my attention and possibly to physical violence, in just the same way as random assholes online seem to. But I don’t, because the physical world doesn’t facilitate such interactions - even if someone hears a short snippet of something highly personal that they dislike, they can’t instantly access the last two hours of conversation in convenient written form.

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              OT: are you Remy from TDWTF?

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                I am.