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Jillian C. York        

Director for International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

My name is Jillian C. York and I’m the Director for International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

I believe that the right to anonymity (and pseudonymity) is an important element of free expression. In the United States, we have a long history of anonymous and pseudonymous speech, from the Federalist Papers to Mark Twain and Dr. Seuss. Online, pseudonyms (or usernames, or handles) have long been the norm, with social networks only recently moving toward ‘real name’ policies.

Allowing the use of pseudonyms on social sites can broaden and strengthen discourse, allowing individuals who may otherwise fear speaking up to share their thoughts and engage in discussion. And while there are certainly drawbacks to online anonymity and pseudonymity, I believe that disallowing pseudonyms leads to an overall decrease in diversity and free expression.

I believe that we’re witnessing a global trend toward ‘real identity.’ Comments like those of Google CEO Eric Schmidt (“In a world of asynchronous threats, it is too dangerous for there not to be some way to identify you. We need a [verified] name service for people”) and Facebook Marketing Director Randi Zuckerberg (“I think anonymity on the Internet has to go away”), along with corresponding policies requiring ‘real names’ on the Google+ and Facebook platforms, signal a dangerous shift in thinking that could mean the end to online anonymity and pseudonymity.

Most current arguments against the use of pseudonyms revolve around the question of ‘civility’, suggesting that spaces in which ‘real names’ are required are more congenial places to be. Civility is important, but so is ensuring that people feel safe to speak up for their beliefs. Rather than implementing exclusionary policies to force civility, we should look to more comprehensive solutions toward changing the way we treat each other in online discourse.

News


The Web Psychologist | Podcast episode #32: Jillian C York - The ...

Apr 29, 2014 ... This week our guest is Jillian C York, the Director for International Freedom of Expression at EFF - the organisation that's suing the NSA.

Jillian C. York: Freedom of Expression, Social Media and Nonprofits

Nov 26, 2013 ... Editor's Note: Jillian C. York is Director for International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Before joining the EFF, ...

Go home NSA you're drunk - Jillian C. York about NSA, security and ...

Feb 25, 2014 ... Jillian C. York is the proud director for International Freedom of Expression at EFF, the Electronic Frontier Foundation. As an avid activist and ...

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