This post is Appendix 10 of Kaliya’s NSTIC Governance NOI Response – please see this page for the overview and links to the rest of the posts. Here is a link to the PDF.
Who is Harmed by a “Real Names” Policy?
This is a reformatted version of http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Who_is_harmed_by_a_%22Real_Names%22_policy%3F – please go to that wiki for the most recent version of that document.
From the Geek Feminism Wiki:
The groups of people who use pseudonyms, or want to use pseudonyms, are not a small minority….However, their needs are often ignored by the relatively privileged designers and policy-makers who want people to use their real/legal names.
For the groups listed below the costs for using a real name can be quite significant, including:
- harassment, both online and offline
- discrimination in employment, provision of services, etc.
- actual physical danger of bullying, hate crime, etc.
- arrest, imprisonment, or execution in some jurisdictions
- economic harm such as job loss, loss of professional reputation, etc.
- social costs of not being able to interact with friends and colleagues
- possible (temporary) loss of access to their data if their account is suspended or terminated
Privilege is described as a set of perceived advantages enjoyed by a majority group, who are usually unaware of the privilege they possess. A privileged person is not necessarily prejudiced (sexist, racist, etc) as an individual, but may be part of a broader pattern of *-ism even though unaware of it. A good article to understand this is “Check my what?” On privilege and what we can do about it.”
This lists groups of people who are disadvantaged by any policy which bans pseudonymity and requires so-called “Real names” (more properly, legal names).
Marginalised and endangered groups
- experience up to 25 times as much online harassment as men, if they use feminine-sounding usernames.
- may be taken less seriously in certain fora if their gender is known.
- may feel they have greater responsibility or have less confidence in certain fora if their gender is known (“girls suck at math”).
- if they are mothers or intending mothers, may face additional hiring, pay and promotion discrimination.
- are of a transgender history, who are forced to use male birth names.
LGBT people, especially:
- LGBT teens, 50% of whom experience bullying online.
- LGBT people in regions which do not have anti-discrimination policies or where homosexuality or transgender behavior is outlawed.
- Young people are often advised to use pseudonyms online for their own safety (sometimes by the same institutions that impose “real name” policies!).
- Children are vulnerable to abuse or harassment by their parents or carers if they are discovered to be discussing views that disagree with their carers’ religion or ethical system.
- Children of well-known figures, who may wish to preserve their privacy.
Parents and carers at risk or caring for children at risk
- parents and carers with non-mainstream views, especially religious, or practices, especially sexual relationships and sexuality.
- parents and carers trying to protect dependent children from abusers.
People with disabilities
- people who may not have disclosed their disability for privacy or for fear of discrimination
- job hunters or employees who may be discriminated against for actual or perceived need for workplace accommodations.
- people with a mental health condition who may be considered dangerous or irrational if revealed.
- people with disabilities are less likely than abled people to be financially secure and some are dependent on carers, and thus more vulnerable to abuse or harassment based on any disclosures they may make online.
People from certain racial, national, ethnic, cultural or religious backgrounds:
- Anyone named “Mohammed”, who might fear harassment/discrimination as a Muslim.
- Names which identify people as African American, Asian, Latino/a, etc., which might lead to overt or subtle racial discrimination.
- Members of any non-majority religion (or of no religion), who may experience discrimination or persecution in the real world if they disclose their religious beliefs online.
People with names that are associated with being from a poor or lower class family or background.
People with names that are associated with a particular (often older) generation.
Victims of real-world abuse and harassment.
- Survivors of domestic abuse (most often women and children) who need to not be found by their abusers.
- People presently experiencing domestic abuse, especially but not only those actively seeking help or planning to leave.
- Survivors of harassment and stalking, and people currently experiencing harassment and stalking.
- Victims of crime or private people associated with a newsworthy event (like the unusual death of a family member), who may be harassed for information by news media or the general public.
- People accused or convicted of crime, who might be harassed by victims and friends, the news media or the general public or face opprobrium from the community they wish to join.
- People who have had an attack on their real name where someone has mounted a smear campaign to trash their public identity.
Anyone in a marginalised group who might be “outed” in some way
- maliciously, by someone trying to hurt that person by putting a rift between them and friends, family, employer, clients, etc
- innocently, by a friend inquiring after their health or their new partner, etc, in a venue (especially a searchable one) associated with their real name
Political activists and related groups
- Political dissidents, such as those involved in the 2011 “Arab Spring” uprisings
- Those involved in highly contentious political activity, around issues such as abortion, civil rights, etc.
- Whistleblowers or those involved in exposing government and corporate corruption
- Anyone with political views (however mild) that may be unpopular or discriminated against
Health and Disability:
- People with physical or mental health issues seeking support, where knowledge of their health problems may lead to embarrassment, insurance difficulties, employment discrimination, etc.
- People with, or recovering from, substance addiction
Sex and Sexuality:
- LGBT people, especially those who are coming out
- People who speak frankly about sexuality
- People who wish to find out information about marginalized sexual practices
- People who want to know more about LGBT issues to help find out if they are LGBT or to support others.
- People involved in BDSM and sexual fetishes who choose to keep their sexual practices private but need to be able to ask for help/advice/safety information
- Polyamorous people or those involved in other styles of non-monogamy
- People, especially children, seeking information on birth control or abortion
- People seeking sexual partners, especially those seeking casual or extra-relationship sex.
- Authors of erotic fiction (amateur or professional) whose day jobs or family stability could be threatened by the disclosure of these works, and/or who don’t want members of their readership seeking them out.
- People with religious views that may be unpopular
- People who are questioning their religion
Abuse and harassment:
- People who discuss personal experiences of harrassment, rape, and other sexual or physical abuse
- People who discuss current or past drug use or other illegal activities
- People who write Fan fiction, make Fanvids or remix or mashup video or audio, which may fall into a legal grey area
Discussions about people where identities are not disclosed:
- people who discuss difficulties with their relationships
- people who discuss their children
Mocked or looked down hobbies:
- Fan fiction authors,
Innocuous hobbies without link to real world identity impinging on the discussion:
- say Michelle Obama wanted to join a gardening forum
Separate interests under separate accounts:
- for the convenience of their friends/followers who may be
- offended, by some of their interests
- fear anger from or harassment by some in other fields
- People who wish to discuss or seek advice about or simply vent about problems they are having in their workplace
- Jurors or witnesses in a high profile trial
- Job-hunters, who do not wish employers to see their personal information and activities, or who might wish to discuss their job hunt without alerting their present employer
- Union activists
- People threatened with “I’ll contact your employer” blackmail by online opponents or harassers
Those who use professional pseudonyms, including:
- Rock stars such as Lady Gaga, Prince, etc.
- Novelists and other writers using pen names.
- Sex workers
- Members of religious orders (eg. Mother Teresa)
Those whose employment means they need to not be found online:
- Social workers, mental health workers, etc.
- Judges and others in the legal profession
- Serving members of the military, those currently deployed, etc
- Journalists or publicity people who may not want to be contacted by anyone and everyone
- Academics, who (in some fields and jobs) face some pressure to not speak on subjects on which they aren’t published experts
- People working for intelligence agencies
- Clerics and other religious leaders
- Public employees (who often are “protected” by laws forbidding them from discussing candidates for office)
People with employers who place restrictions on online speech:
- Those with excessively restrictive employment contracts which forbid any publications (even, say, blogging about something completely unrelated)
- Those with professional or ethical guidelines restricting online activity even if not banning it entirely.
- More informal pressure against being seen as “speaking for their employer” (often applies to, eg, people who work for well-known large companies)
- Company owners and CEOs who are usually not allowed to have a private opinion – all their online activity is considered speaking for the company.
People with Employers that publicly searchable online directories:
- (such as members of state or city bureacracies, or universities and public hospitals) who do not wish to be contacted at work–or have their supervisors contacted–by people who want something that is totally unrelated to their work.
People whose “real names” are more complicated than you think
Names outside the norms:
- People whose names are longer or shorter than your system permits.
- People whose names contain strings that your system has been programmed to reject, eg. “porn” (a common sequence in Latin character transliteration of Thai names)
- People (often non-Westerners) whose legal given names do not look like “real names” to people not familiar with them
- People whose legal name “seems like” a pseudonym because it is a common noun in English, or a Western name not used widely by cultural natives, for example Kermit, Rainbow, Ping
- People who legally have only one name (a mononym), as is common in certain cultures/countries such as Indonesia and Afghanistan
People who legally have three or more names:
- people with suffixes, such as “Jr.”
- people from cultures with have multi-word patronymic or matronymic names, or other styles of multiple surnames.
- people who use one-word honorifics (eg. “Mrs Smith”, “Reverend Smith”), or more complicated honorifics as are common in Burma or religious or cultural honorary names
- people with Western names who have middle name(s) or initials that they consider an integral part of their public/usual name (in the Western world, none of the following forms of best known name is terribly rare, especially in written address: “John Quincey Smith”, “John Q. Smith”, “JQ Smith”, “J. Quincy Smith”)
People who are known by a subset or modification of their full legal name:
- People who go by their middle names
- People who go via a shortened or diminutive version of their legal name except in the most formal of contexts (eg. “Sue”, “Susie”, or “Suzi” instead of “Susan”)
- People, most commonly women, whose parents legally named them with a name which is often considered a nickname (eg. “Patti” or “Suzi” rather than “Patricia” or “Suzanne”), who as young adults reclaimed the formal version of their name for professional use but did not legally change their name out of love for their family
Names that use characters that your system doesn’t permit:
- People whose names are written in a character set other than the Latin alphabet
- People whose names contain apostrophes, hyphens, periods, spaces, multiple capitals, etc.
- People who have legally changed their name to something unusual, which might not look like a “real name” to you, but legally is (e.g. names containing numbers, like 3ric Johanson, or names without capitalised letters)
People who are married, if…
- They legally changed their name when they married, but continue to do certain things under their birth name (eg. use it professionally, due to accrued reputation)
- They chose not to change their name when they married, but may do certain things under their partner’s surname or a combined surname
- Their marriage and/or related name change is not recognised in their jurisdiction
People who have different names in different countries/legal systems:
- People whose name is written in different character sets or is spelled differently in different jurisdictions
- People whose name is considered difficult to spell or pronounce or seem, who have adapted their name to their new culture (eg. Piotr to Peter, Ivanova to Ivanov, as well as adapted names which may be less obviously related)
- People whose name is not recognised as valid in some jurisdictions
- People whose marriage and related name change is not recognised in some jurisdictions
People who live under a certain name, but not changed their ID to match it.
This is accepted under common law in many countries, as long as not done for fraudulent purposes. For example:
- Transgender people in the process of transition
- People whose cultural or everyday names almost never appear on their ID (for example, 90% of the population of Hong Kong use their English rather then Chinese name)
- Anyone preparing to change their ID in a common law country, because often they must provide evidence of being known under their new name before name change decrees are issued
- People from places where people have multiple names depending on context or speaker
- People who do not like their given name, or do not feel it represents them as accurately as their chosen name, who may not have changed their ID due to, eg, cost or family pressure or inability to do so in some jurisdictions
- People who have ID in more than one name, which is possible in some jurisdictions
- People whose name is regularly mistranscribed or misspelled even by officials, and who thus have different spellings or variations of their name on their IDs.
People with long-standing pseudonyms
- in some countries, such as Japan, online pseudonyms are the norm in all circumstances
- People who have used a name for so long that members of their social circle think the name when they think/speak of/meet/discuss the person
Open source software developers
- who often use persistent, long-term nicknames in their development work
Gamers and other Immersive Online Space
Extremely common or extremely rare “real names”
- People with common names (eg. “John Smith”), who might want to use a more distinctive nickname or pseudonym so people can find them more easily.
- Baby name fads (“Susan”) result in adult name clusters (often in college) so extreme that all common nicknames and combinations of initials are quickly exhausted, leading to creative pseudonyms. Without the use of the nyms, communication within the community breaks down. Those nyms often stay on (as the problem follows each individual through hir life) and becomes hir true name.
- People with rare names, who don’t want their every little online activity to be blindingly obvious and connected to their legal identity.
- People who share the name of someone very famous or renowned, who at best may face silly jokes (“Bill Clinton huh?”) and at worst may be repeatedly confused with the famous namesake (including facing hostility for their actions) or banned for impersonation
People who are comfortable using their uncomplicated “real names”
- People who use their “real names” most of the time, but who also wish to use less-traceable identities to discuss particular subjects, as outlined above.
- People who are comfortable using their “real names”, but who wish to communicate with family or friends who are not.
- People who are comfortable using their “real names”, but wish to be exposed to diverse, “taboo”, or marginalised ideas, which may not be as available in a community with a “real names” requirement.
- People who simply do not see their offline identity as relevant to their online identity, or who are looking for a safe space to experiment with their identity, either because they are uncomfortable with it, or because they are interested in observing how they will be treated if they present as a different gender, race, etc.
- People with substantial assets or power, who are particularly enticing targets for identity theft and fraud, and therefore wish to keep their legal identity away from activity that would improve the success of social engineering attacks on themselves or their close friends and family.
This post is Appendix 10 of Kaliya’s NSTIC Governance NOI Response – please see this page for the overview and links to the rest of the posts. Here is a link to the PDF.
This is the section before: Anti-pseudonym bingo
This is the section after: Protocols are Political