An enforced 'real names only' policy forces people to advertise things

December 12, 2022

One of the ever popular ideas for a 'better Internet' (or a better service of some sort) brought up by potentially well intentioned people is that you should have to use your real name instead of any pseudonym. There are many, many problems with this idea and you can find it thoroughly answered (and debunked) in various places. But recently on the Fediverse I had an additional thought about it:

One of the not 100% obvious problems of a genuinely enforced "real names only" policy is that it forces a number of types of people to immediately broadcast various changes of status by renaming themselves to their new 'proper name'.

In re this rundown of other issues and how it's a bad idea in general:

If a place has a true, enforced "real names only" policy, it follows that you must not only use your real name when you create your account but also promptly change the real name for your account if your normal or legal real name changes. Interested or nefarious parties can then watch for such changes in name to detect interesting (to them) changes in status. Did you get married and change your last name? Broadcast that. Did you get divorced and change your last name back? Broadcast that. Did you decide to legally cut ties with your abusive family and change your name in the process? Again, you get to broadcast that.

(Of course, there are additional and more sensitive reasons to change a name, reasons that the person doing it may well very much not want to broadcast.)

Of course, if you don't update your real name, in practice the place will not automatically know that your listed real name is now incorrect and you're out of compliance with its policies. But this makes life dangerous for you, because by being in violation of policies you're handing any enemies a means of attacking your account; if they know of your change in status through other means, all they have to do is file a complaint.

(This is of course related to the issue that login names do change, as kind of the flipside of it.)

Comments on this page:

By Chris Barts at 2022-12-14 00:34:46:

This is a case of well-intentioned people being "useful idiots" for those who want a real name policy so they can harass and, quite possibly, kill anyone they think shouldn't be alive. I mean, this is something Internet people figured out in the 1990s, when the Internet moved out of large organizations, and I can't attribute good intentions to everyone who wants to make stalking easier.

Written on 12 December 2022.
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Last modified: Mon Dec 12 21:05:57 2022
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