Most of the FAQ material concerning anonymous postings to the Usenet
news is advice about why and how to do it. Some such links are
included at the end. However, the purpose of this page is to present
a completely contrary subjective view. Why not post
anonymously but with one's true identity.
The major issue is that of credibility. The other
readers will probably take you more seriously and it is easier to
build a genuine reputation around a true identity. Anonymous
postings are ignored more readily than overt ones.
Asking for help and advice on the Usenet? You'll get it more
readily if the readers know who is asking.
If you are using an anonymous remailer to hide your identity
be aware of the fact that some Usenet news readers routinely
killfile material that is posted through those anonymizers. Your
readership might be smaller than you think.
Certainly not always, but often anonymity, bad manners and
outright abuse unfortunately are highly correlated. If you must post
anonymously, at the very least don't hide sniping from behind it.
Only say what you would say face to face to a person. In particular,
posting anonymous flames is nothing but a special form of
Everyone is responsible for his/her own actions. Not the net
nor the system. There is no doubt about that. Nevertheless, the
question arises if anonymity too readily facilitates such
discussions and exchanges of information on the net which can
eventually lead to outright criminal or even terrorist actions. As a
concrete example, would discussing explosives and bomb-making be as
overt on the net if true identities were used? Would a potentially
disturbed, impressionable individual find platforms as easily as
from behind anonymity? Consequently, there are, or will be, moves in
some countries' legislations to make it a crime to even publicize
advice how to perform illegal actions, not just the actual
performing of such actions.
The charters or established practices of some moderated
newsgroups prohibit posting anonymously. The same goes for some
mailing lists, and for some local newsgroups. Furthermore, e.g. some
universities in their telecommunication statutes forbid anonymous
postings and email with their resources.
Even if it is true that the behavior on Usenet tends to be
informal, this does not mean that none of the ordinary
courtesies of human communication should not apply. Introducing
oneself e.g. by one's signature is part of customary good
On the other hand there are a few genuine situations where
anonymity is well warranted. Highly sensitive personal areas and
discussions may be possible and conductive only under sufficient
confidentiality. An extreme example would be the abuse recovery
newsgroups. - Some of today's net users are younger and younger.
Another stated case might thus be protecting children against net
Other than the above, truly sensitive situations, the
greatest probable motivation behind anonymity is an inordinate fear
of commitment. Writing with one's own name means an irrevocable
exposure. This is particularly true on the Usenet news where the old
messages can be stored in repositories for a considerable time. Many
users may, at least subconsciously, feel that anonymity gives them a
better possibility of an escape if one gets oneself in a really bad
mess. It is a kind of reserving oneself an option to cop out and
start afresh if the going gets really rough.
"Loading the dice": Anonymity coupled with suitable forgery
can, and sometimes is used for opinion support deceit on the Usenet
news. The ploy is to use several anonymous identities to create an
illusion of a popular accord. Furthermore, the following variation
is made possible by anonymity. When one has worn out one anonymous
identity with controversial views and/or behavior, one makes a
re-entry under another assumed anonymous identity to continue
pressing one's views. Both these potential bias tactics are a form
of intellectual dishonesty.
One superficially very appealing argument often made on the
Usenet newsgroups in favor of anonymity is that only the content
matters, not the writer. While there certainly is merit to this
argument, it is a naive oversimplification. It is not that easy to
consider everything removed from context and background. While
writing with one's own name and laying one's reputation openly on
the line is no guarantee of quality and correctness, it is even more
difficult to assess a potentially transient pseudonym's bona fides.
Observing a commitment with a true personal and professional
background gives the reader a bit less uncertain benchmark of the
potential likelihood of the writer's facts and motivations. That's
how reputations are made (and lost). There is so much information
and views posted on the Usenet news that it is impossible to asses
each and every posting in detail with an illusion of always being
able to judge content in such detached manner.
Anonymity gives a false sense of security. In the modern age
postings are stored for years, perhaps even for decades on public
repositories, such as Google. Even if one prohibits the storing with
the "X-No-Archive: yes" also such posting tend to be quoted, ending,
at least partly in the repositories. Especially on domestic
newsgroups it has been observed that anonymity can be broken by a
knowledgeable community if it gets into such a mood and/or if need
be. Given this fact, it is prudent to think before choosing one's
words and style even when writing anonymously.
Fear of the present or future boss: One of the superficially
valid-sounding arguments that has been presented in favor of
anonymity is the worry that the potential employers might later
check the news repositories for the postings of the applicant. That
argument and worry emphasizes an implicit correlation between
anonymity and abrasive or abusive behavior on the net. If that
indeed is the case, then this goes right back to the credibility
issue. It is one more reason for the serious readers not to pay much
attention to clandestine posters. So why not let the situation
rather work the other way round. Why not let good and responsible
postings under your own identity act as your potential
recommendation. Anyway, whether one writes anonymously or not, it is
rational to give some consideration to what one is going say.
The freedom of speech issue and anonymity have been beaten to
death back and forth on the Usenet news. It is a bottomless can of
worms best steered clear of. At one extreme there is being able to
speak under repression. At the other extreme there is especially the
American obsessing with free speech, sometimes blatantly used as
a prop by disturbed posters to justify their raving anonymous Usenet