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Why proposals to ban anonymous Twitter accounts are misguided


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Labour MP Martin Whitfield and SNP MEP Alan Smyth have called for the banning of anonymous Twitter accounts.

This quite frankly, is an appalling idea. 

Firstly, we're going to put ourselves on a rather slippery slope if we give the government control over the internet and an independent privately owned company. 

There, is, of course, certain things which are wrong and should be banned from the internet of course - such as arms and drugs dealing as well as paedophilia. 

But, when it comes to this, it is a freedom of speech issue. If people genuinely feel that what they are writing is true - why should they be banned? Who decides what is right or wrong? Who decides the difference between abuse and a genuine argument?

Sometimes, people use anonymous accounts because they're whistleblowers; they may go into harm's way by revealing their identity when tweeting certain information, so a complete blanket ban would not make sense. And then, again, who decides, who should be banned or not? 

This twitter account, @Raqqa_SL, exposes life under ISIS rule - do Whitfield and Smyth really think it would be appropriate to ban this account and reveal the identities of those running it? 

Anonymous writings have long been used to protect people standing up to oppression, these people will be in so much danger if they did otherwise. 

The Federalist Papers played an important role in forming the independent United States of America and was published anonymously. 

Yes, there is an issue with trolls and no-one should have to face them, but, as someone who has had some not-so-pleasant encounters with anonymous trolls online in the past, I think it's still misguided.

The simple way is to block them from contacting you, don't engage with them. 

You can remove them from the internet if you want, but that won't stop people from thinking those things. It is akin to just burying your head in the sand and praying the problem will go away. That's foolish - it just won't work.

There's an often discussed debate on forums, in pubs, in classrooms - are there more trolls around or does Twitter allow them to be more open?

I have severe doubts that it is the former. As a second generation born British Indian, I have genuinely never experienced racial abuse from an individual who is White British. I know for a fact, from listening to people older than me, that wouldn't have been the case if I was born in the 1960s and 1970s.

Britain's community cohesion is not perfect but the point is people are getting to know other groups a lot better and can live together a lot easier than in decades gone by. More and more people are attending Pride events for example.

I think it's the latter, and if it is, then I think that it's actually a good thing. By giving them a platform, you can identify these people. If you can identify these people, you can deal with them, debate them, show how their opinions are wrong or misguided. 

You cannot do this if you don't know who they are. You would basically make the problem a lot worse. Almost, literally, forcing them to loiter in the shadows, waiting for them to pounce on you when you least expect it.

For all the above reasons, banning anonymous Twitter accounts is misguided. It creates such a slippery slope; it can prevent genuine political activism and protest in oppressive countries and it's not dealing with the problem. It's pretending it's not there, denying it's a problem. 

Which is why it won't stop hateful trolls. If you leave cancer untreated, it will grow and spread. Banning them just makes them go underground - it will not stop them.

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