‘Cleaning up the Comments’ on Youtube and Google+

Well, Google+ and Youtube are force integrated and it’s pretty much a user interface nightmare. But hey, it’s fresh and new and even though I totally hate everything about the change, I have to be real and acknowledge it’s not going to stay this bad. So usually I’d just grumble a bit on twitter about this until the site eventually became usable again, but there is an idea I hear echoed by people that I really don’t think is true…

“If people had to post with their real name, people would be a lot nicer” is a sentiment I hear often. I hear it most often from people in the tech sector with reputations, but still, I hear it often enough. Yet by all accounts, the comments aren’t better, at least in that way. Bad comments are getting shuffled down, but that has nothing to do with exposed identities.

Why would we expect this to happen? It’s as if the social media managers of the tech sector think that if someone misbehaves, they can look them up, find their name, call whatever tech startup they work for and get them fired. This is an idea that seems to be forwarded from career white dudes with reputations.

You can argue it doesn’t work because it’s easy to make false Google+ accounts (Though most hilarious, I’ve heard people suggest that this would be a deterrent as one would have to switch frequently between their troll and ‘real’ account, as if the real account would ever really exist). While that is likely part of it, at the core, the whole idea is flaws, because.

  • Most people don’t have a reputation
  • Most of the time, they don’t care anyways (hi facebook trolls)
  • What are you really going to do now that you know their name?

People always bring up the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, but what does anonymity in this case even mean? It implies pure anonymity but in practice, it does not require it. It’s the same way people will be dicks while driving cars. You can follow them and confront them for shit they do — they’re even less anonymous than they are online, risk wise, yet people can still be huge dicks because the risk is still relatively negligible. For a person working shitty part time work, or for a teenager in highschool or whatever, what are you going to do to them? What does it matter if you know their name? Can you even find the name of the construction company they work off the books at? Maybe you’ll tag a few middle class office workers, but is it worth it? How many people are going to bother? Each troll is indistinguishable from the last and unless they said something really nasty or vile or racist, can you really even get them in trouble for the things they say?

Of course this isn’t even addressing the morality of forced ‘real identity’ shit and how it effects people in very inequal and unjust ways and is just as likely to hurt someone innocent (if not more so) than it is to punish people for being bad. But that’s a different soap box.