Weighing in on the contentious decision that will change the opinion landscape
The internet is a free-for-all, where anyone and everyone has unlimited time and space to share their lives through social media. Minimal rules apply for who can post what, which allows for everyone to engage with the world online. The freedom to post things anonymously also allows people to act and post without judgements or repercussions from their social or professional circles.
While some may abuse this power and post hateful or threatening things online, the ability to allow people to start a discussion or anonymously post things should not be limited by the few who try to spoil it for the many.
Unfortunately, on March 17 the CBC announced it’ll be banning the use of pseudonyms on their website if individuals choose to comment anonymously. Now anyone who wants to comment will be required to use their real names. The CBC made this decision because of complaints of anonymous users posting hate speech and other things that violated the CBC’s online guidelines. When and how this change will be implemented is still undecided.
This brings into question if our right to free speech and privacy in public forums is being taken away by the CBC, or if the CBC is acting within its right to protect its employees, which is well within its duty as an employer. As a federally funded national public broadcaster and a trustworthy news source are they not responsible to the public they serve, and should allow that public to comment online in any way they choose?
According to Canada’s Criminal Code, the only time our right to freedom of speech can be hindered is when one projects words of hate in targeting race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity, mental or physical disability.
When individuals are asking for anonymity it is likely because they want to share their thoughts and opinions but fear any backlash which could put them in danger or be embarrassing socially. Take for example someone who wants to speak up as a rape survivor, but doesn’t want to share their identity while bringing forward their valuable contribution to the online conversation. Shouldn’t they be allowed to post anonymously if they choose to? If people are forced to identify themselves every time they will stay mum, and this is when our right to freely express ourselves, as well as the dire need to speak about important topics, dies.
Our perspectives on certain topics represent a large part of who we are, as well as how we go about our lives, and yet they are also thoughts we consider acceptable, rather than unacceptable.
We may not be able to digest other perspectives we read about online easily. Having the freedom to engage in conversations about different ideas is what opens the doors to understanding one another. Nevertheless, the fear of sharing our personal opinions for any number of reasons is why we use anonymous names online.
Some are afraid for their jobs and others are ashamed of what they post. Some fear judgement while some just don’t like revealing their personal identity online. Nevertheless the greatest fear people have towards providing personal information is a potential risk to their safety. And while the CBC is trying to protect its employees and their safety too, the public’s right to anonymity is more important. By prohibiting the public to speak openly on certain topics without reassurance that they are protected conversations will die down, and the conversations which lead to creative solutions, or simple online exchanging of opinions may as well.
Engaging in conversation is like free education. We learn from each other and develop a better understanding of the world we live in, and even develop a sense of awareness to the things we may not have even experienced.
Sadly, this is obviously not the perspective the CBC has taken, claiming it is for the safety of the people. The CBC needs to work on enforcing posters compliance with their online commenting rules before broadly blocking all anonymous posts. Understandably, safety comes first, but when it possibly hinders public connectivity one must wonder if it’s the right decision.