Internet anonymity can be defined as a feature which allow its users to make themselves untracable. It can be done in various ways, starting from using a Virtual Private Network (VPN)/ Tor to fake your IP address, to a simple exercise like creating fake accounts in social media or emails to scam people.
In our world today, we are still suffering from digital piracy, human trafficking, cyberbullying, and other electronically illegal activities. Internet anonymity protects our identity, but in the wrong way. Though there are some possible benefits come from it, but they will get outweighed by the long-lasting harms portrayed here.
Let’s start with a minor case, cyberbullying. We know exactly how bad it is to be bullied. Worse when we do not even know who said the mean things to us. Where is justice in this case? Who should we report to? Even if we report the fake ID to the authority, does the punishment would stop them from doing the same thing again? The answer would be no and totally applicable in all sorts of electronic crime. Here comes argument 1.
Argument #1: There is no justice on the internet.
In our real world, we can enjoy the benefits from the Criminal Justice System, which is upholded by government, as to fulfill their role in social contract. Crime may happened to anyone anywhere anytime, and obviously it creates a victim, who is usually innocent. Assuming our law enforcer is reliable, the crime suspect will soon be delivered a verdict. A verdict that caters the need for protection, rehabilitation, deterrence, and punishment, in order to bring justice. The story does not end here though. Justice plays a crucial role in society especially to bring order and achieve peace (though it is impossible to have peace, but at least it brings us steps closer to it). The flaw in internet law is that there is no actual deterrence effect and sense of protection for the victims. The possible punishment on the net, such as banning your ID/ IP address, will not prevent the crime from happening again. The untracable feature of anonymity will always let the criminal get away from his evil work. Hence, the cycle of digital crime is unable to be stopped and victims are just inevitable. It will only lead us to a space where only the strong (in this case, the villain) lives. Neglecting every human rights that you have.
That is it for argument #1 in justice. Moving on to next manifestation of digital crime: online piracy. Believe it or not, many of us have already enjoyed the products of digital piracy. Starting from your digital music library, movies you downloaded online,to the infamous cracked games/ software. Such piracy act has been going on for years and finally, just recently the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) managed to shut down one of the biggest torrent server, Kickass Torrent (KAT). Though it may be a good news for the people of order, but the damage caused by the torrent network is terrible. Many of the mirror servers are now starting to get online. Not to mention how other piracy-related site is still operating peacefully without even being known by the FBI/ authority. So, here comes argument #2.
Argument #2: It devalues things.
From the narrative above, we can conclude that right now they are playing hide and seek. Anonymity gives protection for the pirate (that is what they want to be addressed) to spread the illegal copies on the network. Generally speaking, piracy is driven by curiosity in knowing what are things inside the product (A better demo/ trial version). The best outcome is when you are satisfied with that the products offered, then you are going to buy it. However, what happened in reality is that, when you have already owned it illegally, why should I own it legally? The harm of such mindset is undoubtedly on the director/ developer/ artist/ other-digital-related profession. When an art is not being appreciated, for sure, it is going to demotivate the artists. Economically speaking, we are aware of how much capital does it need in order to create a masterpiece. The capital not only comes in money, but also ideas and artists dedication in making it perfect. Let us put ourselves on the shoes of the artist. The artists, are trying to make a living from their work. On the other hand, they spent much time to make it authentic and exclusive. In their own cycle of improvement, the experiences gained from one project is later improving the next project. Such professional development plays a crucial role in creating a better work in the future, especially in the digital creative industry. When we stole what they deserved, it will simply send a message to them that we do not value what they have done, because we are not willing to pay for your hardwork. That will be the time when artists quit their job, for their artpiece cannot feed them anymore.
That is it for argument #2. Major issues in the net still remain unresolved thanks to the anonymity feature, which makes the game hard to be won for the authority. Tracing back to our history, anonymity is first meant as a tool for privacy protection/ security, especially in spreading information like journalism. Today, we can concur that anonymity is a overly escalated privacy, which brings more harm than good. So here comes argument #3 for privacy.
Argument #3: The essence of privacy is no longer there.
Both privacy and anonymity share a mutual ground where privacy is meant to control certain information or action, while anonymity is to be unidentifiable. Although anonymity is part of exercising privacy, it is not the other way round. The nature of privacy is to create space between a person and his/ her environment, which is to limit the information flow. On the other hand, anonymity is to be given a power or privilege that can either be used for constructive or destructive purpose. A simple example of anonymity and cyberbullying can be seen on a certain social media such as Ask.fm where people without identity can simply throw hate comments which you do not deserve just to break you down. That is a point where anonymity has been exercised way beyond its main purpose.
Unlike Affirmative’s side of arguments which only condemn the misuse of internet anonymity, here is the other forgotten bright side. Just in case you have forgotten about the existence of state oppressing its citizen, anonymity is the only way to achieve or at least change the status quo. Here is argument #1.
Argument #1: Anonymity as a mean of protection.
Rogue state such as North Korea, have been oppressing its citizen with isolation from the world. None of them have their human rights not violated. It is worse when the world did not aware or notice of the dictatorship existence. This is the moment for social activists to achieve change by first reaching out to the international community for support. However, before the heroic act (read: treason) is executed, one has to secure one’s identity during one’s revolutionary act. By being unidentifiable, oppressive government would not be able to violate the freedom of speech any further.
Such privacy protection is also exercised and required in other areas, especially people in the journalism field. Journalists are crucial in information media for their specialty in educating people. Although they do a noble work, it does not mean that they are safe, particularly with people who is portrayed as antagonists in the news. We know precisely what bad things might happen when a villain know your identity, right? Therefore, argument #2 would be about journalists.
Argument #2: Anonymity to enforce freedom of expression.
By the previous characterization on the information hunter and the oppressed citizen, we can concur that fear is an issue. The fear of being punished or even hunted by the unsatisfied side, will not create a counterbalance of control and information. Furthermore, it is bad for democracy when a certain aspiration/ message/ truth is not being addressed to the surface. In every side of the world as long as human is still in charge, personal interest or hidden agenda will always come to existence for none of us are capable enough to not let our ego take control. It is worse when one party has more power than the other (read: Welcome to the age of tyranny). Obviously speaking, we know what the evil party are capable of, such as labelling certain group as traitor/ terrorist/ etc, which later serves as a justification in shutting them down. With anonymity, oppressive government will no longer able to keep bullying its people, and the check and balance in governing is exercised, at least. In short, government is no longer invincible. Lastly, such elaboration is also applicable in any sort of scenarios as long as it has bully and victim (LOL).
Argument #3: Anonymity actually helps to combat cybercrime.
Since the beginning, we have been hearing a lot of how anonymity is being misused. Now, let us show you how it is used accordingly by the law enforcers. For introduction, when government first decided to ban drugs, some people are unhappy and decided to start their own illegal business, which is known as the dark market. We know how hard it is for police to actually shut the whole operation down. They need a lot of investment and preparation, which is mostly dangerous. A classic Hollywood example would be: A police personnel is put on a mission that involves disguise and joining a criminal gang, which take a really long time for the strategy to proceed. Now that our world has gone modern and illegal trade is done first on the internet, anonymity made them able to compete more efficiently with the bad guy. Both of them are relying on the mutual unidentifiable platform. Nepotism or betrayal or organized crime are more unlikely to hamper the preparation stage. You know why, right?
Possible Response #1: Anonymity is not as bad as what Team Affirmative exaggerated, in the digital crime.
It is true that anonymity helps people in doing bad things. However, the problem lies not in being anonymous, but rather on how people do not possess the conscience or rational capacity to not harm/ steal from others. There are also ongoing affirmative actions done by our government in combatting the cybercrime. Results may not be significant yet, but for the very least, organic positive change is there. It is shown on how the FBI have successfully taken several pirates down.