[Editorial Analysis] Why internet anonymity is not the menace you think it is

Mains Paper 3: Security

Prelims level: Internet anonymity

Mains level: Challenges to internal security through communication networks

Context

• The world of internet provides a perception of anonymity.

• In the wake of several cases of cyberbullying involving death threats, trolls and violent responses capable of creating religious and social strife, there have been demands from several quarters to pierce this veil of anonymity.

Internet anonymity effect

• Several discussions that followed the #MeToo movement and those involving religious and political issues cross the limits of decency and civility.

• Several individuals and organizations have been forced to close down the comments pages of their sites because of the deluge of hate mails that have poured in.

• Despite many instances of its misuse online, anonymity has significant virtues and therefore, must be preserved.

• All of us subject ourselves to preference falsification.
• Pressure groups within any society will impose stiff penalties on anyone challenging the commonly held beliefs.

• So, the views and behaviours that are expressed by most of us in public are not always the real beliefs that we actually hold deep within in our hearts.

• Such public acts of hypocrisy to avoid public strictures is a universal phenomenon of human behaviour.

• People do not have any other avenue to express their genuine innate emotions.

• Thanks to the internet, policymakers and corporate leaders will have at least one avenue to know the real emotions of their constituents.

• A deeper content analysis of these responses will help unearth the factors that lead to emotional outbursts just the way that administering effective medication requires a thorough understanding of the micro organisms involved.

• The law enforcers should have the ability to cut through the anonymity and trace the source of a message if needed, like in cases that involve clear violations of law, terrorism, child pornography and fake news etc. where the intentions are clearly malicious.

• And while this facility does exist for the law-enforcing authorities, there is still no case for law-abiding citizens to worry about voicing their genuine views anonymously.

Conclusion

• We should not forget that anonymity is at the core of many of our democratic processes.

• The sign of a true democracy is the secret ballot the ability of the voter to express his preference anonymously without any sort of social consequence.

• So, for all its flaws, anonymity on the internet must still be preserved if digital platforms are truly to be avenues for truthful self-expression.

• That will be the true sign of a modern democracy.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to Bitcoins, consider the following statements:

1. The value of the Bitcoins is based on a basket of currencies.

2. In India, only the entities approved by the Reserve Bank of India can transact in Bitcoins.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: D

Mains Questions:

Q.1) Barring instances of malicious intent, internet anonymity allows exchange of views in a truly democratic style. Critically analyse the statement.

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