I have been hearing about how some states, in an attempt to prevent fraud and cyber bullying, laws have been or are being considered to stop people from creating fake accounts or accounts that impersonate someone else. While I applaud the goal, the method they are using to stop it has a chance of really putting a dent into the internet.
Depending on the wording of these bills, Mr. Shock for all intents and purposes could be considered a fake account, a fraud. For me however it’s a nom de plum, an alter ego if you will. He’s the wizard and I’m the dude behind the curtain that is generally ignored. Mr. Shock is my voice to say the things that I would find difficult to say. Mr. Shock is the one with the guts to actually write all this and post it for the world to see, not me.
I would say there’s many, many bloggers out there who feel the same way about their online personas. We are not out there to try and hurt people, we are out there to find answers and maybe even give some to others. We are just trying to find our voices and tell our stories. To be recognized for what we do and write, not who we are by name.
I have to wonder how many of the bullied have alter-egos out there on the internet or just here on WordPress. Just how many of them turn their pain into a blog post, poem, story, a tweet or even a Facebook post? A law like that above could shut down their outlets for release. Then where do they go? Do they turn back to the people who likely ignored their pleas for help before?
I also have to also ask, what about the people with secrets? Those who have a reason to keep something from friends, parents and others. Do we shut down their ability to communicate? Could this law end up causing more people to be bullied instead of less? Do we force the people who are supposed to be helped by this bill, to repress their inner thoughts more than they have to on a daily basis? Their alter-egos are out there trying to find answers and support, and they usually do. Why take that away from them?
What about the bullies? Will this actually stop them? Come on, you know as well as I do it won’t. Just like with everything else, they’ll believe they can’t be caught, they won’t pay for what they are doing and let’s face it, they are likely right. There are already consequences for the behavior of these bullies, but rarely are they made to pay them in full. It’s generally only their victims who pay at their hands or words.
I do oppose cyber-bullying. Considering the overall diversity of the online world, how sad it is that it has become a real problem. My problem is with the methods they are trying to use to stop it. I’m afraid these laws could be twisted in such a way as to end the use of aliases altogether and end up causing a major hurt to the internet as a whole.
We already have seen where businesses have taken people to court over reviews they’ve posted. How long will it be after those laws get implemented that sites that allow aliases for their posters get taken down because, let’s say a Hollywood Studio’s movie gets panned by the online community? Could those reviewers and that site get labeled as cyber-bullies because of it? I realize that’s an extreme, and likely silly example, however it is a question that needs to be asked.
It is said that the internet is the one place that real freedom of speech actually exists. The internet is also a place that was built from aliases and alter-egos. It’s part of the heritage of the net, at least I think so. I will also add that with the way the internet is today, true anonymity is basically an illusion anymore. I don’t pretend that I’m anonymous because Mr. Shock posts for me. I’d even love it, if one day I didn’t need him to do so. But, until that day, I don’t want to lose him because some law considers him and I frauds or bullies.
I am a writer lacking the right amount of self confidence and an immense shyness, to place my real name on what I write. I figure that if Mr. Shock succeeds or fails with my words, then it’s on Mr. Shock not me. To put it simply; Mr. Shock is a Nom de Plume, not a fake account and not a bully. Mr Shock is real, because he is me and I am him.
Getting rid of him and other aliases is not going to get rid of the problem you’re looking to get rid of. It very well could make it worse.
Originally published January 8, 2013