The Age of Anti-Privacy

Late 2014, Facebook were going through a phase of shutting down accounts of people using aliases, and this had followed a similar mission of Google’s in an attempt to bring sanity to the Youtube comment sections the year before. Google forced users of Youtube to have Google+ accounts before they could leave comments on Youtube videos. Google+ had a real name policy, and the company foolishly believed that people using their real names wouldn’t act like cocktards. Oh, how wrong they were. This was a complete failure and backfired on them badly, but even to this day, it has left a mess of people’s accounts.

Those who had separate GMail accounts and Youtube accounts found that they were having problems posting comments, even to their own videos on their own channels because of this uberfailboat. Content producers on Youtube couldn’t understand why they even needed Google+ accounts, and many of them were not technically savvy enough to wade their way through the confusing process Google had foisted on them.

youtube-suggestionsIn July 2014, Google gave up on their real name policy, realising that it and the new comment system of promoting upvoted comments were completely gamed by trolls and spammers. It’s a common failing of Youtube and Google in general, who are under the mistaken impression that popularity equals quality. If you think I’m missing the mark here, look at Youtube videos. They let people upvote and and downvote videos, but those votes don’t count toward what is shown in your recommended feed.

Look at the image here. What information does that show? A thumbnail, the length of the video, the title, the poster, and the number of views. To Youtube, number of views are all that matters. They matter because that’s how Google track ads, which is how they make their money.

youtube-searchNow look at their search results. See any mention of ratings, scores, or upvote/downvote ratios there? Nope. Just views. This has been constant for years. I’ve had a Youtube account almost since thee beginning, and I don’t recall a time when they showed ratings on search or recommendation results.

So I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark and channel 7of9 when I say, voting is irrelevant.

The only thing that up- and down-votes actually do in real life are boost the morale or hurt the feelings of the content producers. Not the commercial ones who already know that it’s all about the views, but those who are on the Tubes for personal reasons. Those in the vinyl community, the booktubers, the comic collectors, the gamers, and so on. Those who make videos because they enjoy the sense of community they have with others who share their hobbies.

There are cases, such as in the comic community I’m part of on Youtube, where trolls will continue to come back after every video someone posts and religiously downvote them. People naturally get upset and wonder why they’re being targeted. It’s cyber bullying, no doubt, but in the greater scheme of things, the downvotes are irrelevant. I tell my friends to brush it off because all the trolls are doing are increasing the view counts. And for those monetising their channels, this is a win.

I know, this is heartless, and this really does get people genuinely upset and emotional, but the drive-by downvoters don’t matter.

However… those who take it to the next level, who send private mail to Youtubers insulting them, slut-shaming them, sending them death threats, and actually mentally abusing them change the landscape. Youtube allows people to block accounts, but on the other hand, they make it so easy to create new accounts that an abuser just has to create another bogus account. It’s constant whack-a-mole.

With the freedom of the Internet, it’s possible to post anyone’s personal data anywhere on the web. There are forums frequented by trolls who post physical addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and other info about those who they feel have slighted them, generating an avalanche of abuse and death threats for the victims. It’s too easy to do, and the only real defense anyone has to that at the moment is anonymity. If a troll has instant access to a person’s real name, then they don’t have to do much work. A couple of Google searches and they can usually find a lot of info about someone, because, well, so many services we sign up to require our real names.

Hell, sometimes it doesn’t even take someone’s name. Take the recent case of this guy in Australia who took a selfie of himself near some children. The mother thought he was a paedophile taking photos of her children. She followed him, took a photo of his face and posted it on the shopping mall’s Facebook page. Naturally, this has destroyed his life. Some defend her and say she was just protecting her children, but I say: no way, she went too far. After talking to the mall authorities, she should have let them try to deal with it first. Instead, she jumped the gun and posted his face publicly, falsely accusing him of being a child molester. Posting defamatory comments on social media without the burden of proof is absolutely wrong.

People have to understand that there are repercussions for their actions. It’s at best antisocial to take the mantle of judge, jury, and executioner upon yourself. At worst, it’s sociopathic. The people who stalk others online, who send them abuse, or who motivate others to troll the victims on their behalf, those who post photos of other people online defaming them, are all sociopaths.

This is not behaviour that is appropriate or acceptable in modern society. Yet many get away with it, or we shift the blame, or we sympathise with them in some other way.

Fuck that.

So what about privacy, and this stupid notion that people should be using their real names everywhere? Personally I don’t care who a person is, I care about how they act. I run a dial-up style Bulletin Board System (BBS) over the Internet, and I recently disconnected from the oldest BBS message network, Fidonet, because of their insistence on using real names. They have very few users still on there, and a fair number of them are ageing fossils who act worse than children. They abuse each other openly and act like, frankly, complete cunts. It’s not a nice environment and it scares away new users, who are already few and far between. And you know what? They all use their real names. They simply don’t care. They are arseholes in real life, and that carries over into their online lives.

The claim of accountability by forcing people to use their real names is utterly worthless. I could even go so far as to say it’s a fraudulent claim.

Back in October 2014, I posted this to my Facebook feed:

A fairly high profile internet friend of mine is being forced off Facebook because his FB name is his online personality name. Facebook are demanding that he change to his real name, which he doesn’t want to do for privacy reasons, and they are going to leave his account shut down unless he ponies up with some ID.

So I just want to be on public record to say ‪#‎FUCKYOUFACEBOOK‬.

Facebook really fucking sucks. For example, what’s the point of following pages when FB has admitted that only 15% of followers will see the content in their feeds?

Why can’t we have more control over what we see on our feeds? Why can’t we see what we *want* to see, but never seem to be short of stuff we *don’t* want to see? What’s that Facebook? Oh, because that’s not in your financial interest?

And how have we got to a place where people and companies set up Facebook pages, and that’s their only internet presence?

Why, in a world where we’re fighting for our privacy, are companies like Google and Facebook trying their hardest to make EVERY FUCKING THING we do public, and traceable back to us?

And why are we all so complacent that we put up with it?

People/corporations seem to be under the mistaken impression that people will act like dicks if they are anonymous. Well, let me burst your ignorant bubble: people who are dicks will act like fucking dicks regardless. All you’re doing by repressing anonymity is pushing the world into a place where we can’t speak freely if we fear repercussions. And there are always repercussions for speaking freely.

What can you do about it? For a start, don’t sign up to everything with your real name. And when people demand your real name, tell them to get fucked. Think about who’s getting what. Does your bank, and your insurance company need your real name? Yeah, most likely. But do Facebook, Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, Youtube, and Twitter? No, not even remotely. They’re already monitoring your browsing habits to better serve you with ads, so they don’t need your personal data as well.

Fuck them all. Start standing up to this shit.


Has this situation improved? It seems not. Facebook have danced around the subject, much like politicians do, claiming that they they are doing everything for the best interests and the safety of their constituents, and even posting new community guidelines, but ultimately, nothing has changed.

So given that there is so much evidence that real names do not make people behave better, why do we still cling to it as a false utopia?

Personally, I have taken the stance that any new services I sign up to will not get my real data unless there is a legally binding contract of some sort between us, such as an online shop where they need my real name for my credit card or my physical address to deliver something. A good number of sites let you enter whatever user name you want, or use your email address (which is not great), and only need your real name when you enter your credit card details.

Why do you so gladly give up your personal data to sites and services who only intend to profit from you? If there is no legal reason to give your personal details, then you don’t need to.

Let’s stop doing it. Let’s stand up to those who try to force it on us. Isn’t it our right as human beings to expect to have some privacy and anonymity when we choose to do so?