How important is strong pseudonymity for democracy?

Anonymity and and pseudonymous accounts – are needed to support whistleblowing, and to make sure that people do not avoid getting the information they need (e.g. on homosexuality, aids) because they want to avoid embarrassment or worse.  > cannot find information – loss for all of us).  We have some valid concerns about big brother (government or marketing).

There are real and obvious costs to anonymity or pseudonymity done wrong- security, fraud (dummy accounts), child porn etc.  – these need to be addressed.

Currently most pseudonymous (and anonymous) accounts and actions are treated as low assurance, in other words, if an account or transaction cannot be publicly tied to the attribute ‘legal name’, then it is suspect. There is certainly some truth to this perspective, however in some other sense – it is disturbing.

There is a need for anonymity, but also pseudonymity in political speech.  It would seem that any pseudonym that is weakly or not authenticated is subject to spoofing.  If democracy really does depend upon voices that cannot be silenced by mechanisms of power one of the ways to silence, is to spoof, more specifically to impersonate known and respected (even if pseudonymous) voices in a way that weakens, distorts or contradicts their message.

Democratic systems need to establish, not only anonymity and pseudonymity are protected for most speech and actions on the net.  More importantly if there are reasons where it is legal authorized to break the veil of pseudo or real anonymity, these reasons must be clearly defined in the legal system.  For example, if incitement for violence or child pornography are valid reasons, these must pass some kind of test of the judiciary system – so we don’t suddenly see these mechanisms used against say incitement for digital piracy.

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