After three years, Google finally got it. Google now admits it was wrong to require real names on Google Plus, and it’s apologized for taking so long, causing “unnecessarily difficult experiences for some of our users.” Too bad it had to learn the hard way, but better late than never.
Interesting to see Google Plus (which, is that still a thing?) finally allow pseudonymity. Anne Rice & Co have sought to strip pseudonymity from reviewers at Amazon, and it is bad idea for all the reasons laid out: small towns, closeted lives, unpopular political opinions, etc. But more important, as we are beginning to learn, is that forcing people to use their real names doesn’t result in better online behavior, it results in less online behavior.
“There are plenty of examples of Facebook users engaging in hateful behavior under their real names, however. Research about online identity shows that “real ID” policies are not as effective as their proponents claim. Disqus, an online commenting platform, conducted an informal analysis of about 500 million comments by 60 million users and found that pseudonymous users wrote better comments (and more of them) than those who were using their real names, with anonymous users being responsible for the bottom-feeder-quality comments." [emphasis mine]
You can find the original study here. (And just because the pseudo-scientist in me can’t stand not say this: it’s likely that some of the people counted as using pseudonyms were posting under their real names, but because their account wasn’t linked to facebook, they are not counted as such. And likely some facebookers are using pseudonyms, like a whole mess of people I know, including myself.)
And so, in sum, stripping users of pseudonymity isn’t just a bad idea because of all the social and legal implications, but because it also just doesn’t work. Unless what you’re interested in doing is stifling your detractors, then it might work like a charm.