The Canadian government must look into forcing anonymous online commentors to identify themselves, says Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro.
“While I believe firmly that the right to free speech must be strongly defended and protected, I also believe it should be backed up by the common decency to stand by one’s words as opposed to hiding behind online anonymity,” he said in the House of Commons Friday. “Anonymous online attacks are, in my view, cowardly but they are no less hurtful and represent a caustic scourge that is harming too many in our society.”
All political parties agree that the anonymity of the internet empowers cyberbullying. But just how to solve that problem is a polarizing debate.
A legislative approach to limiting online speech could prove “enormously problematic,” argues Canadian law professor Michael Geist. “Del Mastro is right that people often say things online with the veil of anonymity that they would never say if identified or commenting in person,” he told The Globe and Mail. “We need to work on better online etiquette, but banning anonymous speech isn’t the way to do it.”
“The fact that people can register on comment boards and on-line without having to identify themselves not only protects their identity, but also degrades the quality of news and transfer of information. Me and my family have fallen victim to these people running on aliases, and it would only improve things if people were obliged to use their real identity!” wrote a man by the name of Paul Teleki on Dean Del Mastro’s Facebook page.
“Completely unenforceable, and some people have very good reasons for requiring anonymity online (whistleblowers, political dissidents, and so on and so forth.) I agree that lots of what we see online is terrible, but this idea is nonsense,” wrote Robert Hailman.