Forced Identity On the Internet is the Undisputed King of Bad Ideas
Lately, I’ve read a lot of hand-wringing about the need for forced identity on the internet — to finally rid ourselves of the scourge of anonymous bad actors, trolls, and misinformation. This talk is even coming from people whose opinions I respect.
And I still respect those people, and their opinions.
But in this case, I believe they’re completely wrong. Because of unintended consequences.
Hackers, Thieves, and Miscreants
First of all, let’s not ignore just how impossible the concept of forced identity on the internet really is — how far out of the tube that toothpaste has been squeezed. I mean, the latest iteration of the internet — web3 — can’t keep any of its damn money where it’s supposed to be. Digital security is getting worse, not better.
Think about how many times sensitive information gets leaked or hacked. And here’s the unintended consequence. Imagine walking around Manhattan wearing a T-shirt with your name, your net worth, your social security number, your phone number, and your home address in big red letters. That’s what forced identity on the internet would feel like if we’re actually going to enforce it. Only 10 times worse, because you don’t have to be strolling around Times Square for hackers to see your shit.
Trolls, Bullies, and Liars
But here’s the real issue with forced identity: It doesn’t solve the problem it purports to solve.
On its face, forced identity on the internet sounds great. Just like world peace. No more anonymous trolls, no more cyber-bullying, no more misinformation.
And just to be crystal clear, I am dead-set against anonymous trolls, cyber-bullying, and misinformation.
If you want to solve the problem, you have to ask: Why are there such things as trolls, cyber-bullying, and misinformation in the first place?
The answer is not “society.” It is not “human nature” and it is not “the end of civilization.”