Online transparency versus anonymity

Not a week goes by in the Bang the Table office where we don’t have heated discussions on the pros and cons of online transparency versus anonymity when it comes to the world of online community engagement. So when this infographic from (via popped into my Facebook feed discussing the very topic, I thought it worth sharing on this blog…and adding my two cents.

So in the great debate between online Transparency and Anonimty, where do I sit?

On the fence on this one. Here’s why and I am going to frame it very much in line with our work in this space and the advice we give to many of the organisations we work with.

My two cents on Transparency:

As an organisation or government body trying to engage with your community on a specific issue, being transparent about the processes and what is at stake for the community is imperative! People need to know who they are dealing with and whether their contributions to the debate will make a difference. Enough said!

My two cents on Anonymity:

Much respect to the creator of Facebook and online Transparancy advocate, Mr Mark Zuckerberg, but I have to disagree with him when he states, “by presenting more than one version of your complete self, you are being inauthentic and cowardly in refusing to disclose your identity as the statement-maker.” Wow. Strong statement, but to that I say:

  • What if someone doesn’t want to be a “statement-maker”? What if their contribution to an issue is simply agreement with someone else’s point of view. Does that make it any less valuable in the community debate?
  • What if someone has a different opinion from the majority (which is often a noisy minority) and is too nervous to speak up about it within that community. Does it make their idea or contribution less important?
  • What if someone is just shy? Should their opinion not count?

All this points to a strong argument for web anonymity in many circumstances. At Bang the Table we value the power of anonymity for its encouragement of authenticity, creativity and expression within a community debate! But we are also very conscious of the dark side of web anonymity (slander, bullying etc) and put measures in place to combat this evil!

Also very closely related to this debate, and another hot topic in our office, is the online behaviour people exhibit in the different spaces (transparent and anonymous). One day we’ll get to blogging about that, but for now…onto the infographic.

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