This is something I asked in comments here the other day:
So I think at this point we ideally would turn to research: how do people perceive the quality of communities on the real name required/encouraged/discouraged/forbidden axis and is this perception linked with or overwhelmed by their minority/exceptional/marginalised status in that community? Because it’s fairly clear by now that many people who personally have better perceived experiences with real names will universalise based on their own experience, and possibly people who prefer pseudonyms likewise (although pro-pseuds-allowed people don’t to me seem to turn it into pro-no-real-names-allowed as much).
Suw Charman makes a similar point:
I’d like to see the evidence that using real names changes people’s behaviour that much. Whenever I’ve been trolled/stalked online, it’s been by people using their real name. Dicks will, sadly, be dicks whether pseudonymously or eponymously. Whenever I bring this point up, people always point to 4Chan as an example of the sort of negative place that springs up when people are pseudonymous or anonymous. But 4Chan is a small corner of the web, and they are vastly outnumbered by all the pseudonymous people elsewhere that act perfectly nicely.
The ‘anonymity/pseudonymity = trollish behaviour’ meme has been doing the rounds for years, but it’s just not that simple. And it’s especially not that simple when the easy way to get round it is to use a pseudonym that looks ‘normal’ to Western eyes.
Are people aware of better-than-anecdotal evidence in either direction, that there’s a connection between permitted or encouraged pseudonymity and a decrease in civility or an increase in harassment? Or the other way around?
Note: when I say “better than anecdotal” I mean better than anecdotal. Comments along the lines of “well I don’t think I know of any evidence, but I have this anecdote/opinion that I really want to share” will be summarily deleted or possibly replaced with pictures of cranky cats.
Note 2: let me be even clearer (in response to stuff in moderation). What I want is data. Maybe not superb quality data, maybe self-selected or limited demographic or small sample or similar (obviously the better the quality of the data and the analysis the more convincing the research), but “my experience as a forum moderator” and “my friends’ experience online” is anecdote. I don’t have something against anecdotes in general—they are crucial in understanding lived experience—but in this thread I am asking for research.
(Tangent: I am hopeless at starting memes, but my G+ Share this if you’ve been harassed online by someone(s) using their legal name prominently in their email headers/profile/etc. is the second most successful ever, with 32 reshares.)