A stranger sought my help via Facebook messenger and sent this message:
Good day Sir Sonnie!
My friend (16, female) was harassed (the stalker sent messages of disturbing/sexual nature to her friends) by a fake/anonymous Facebook account. The harasser has deleted his account/ceased online activity for some time now, but occasionally texts my friend using throwaway numbers. Is it worth it to go to law enforcement over this? Any suggestion on what should be done?
This private message is not the first, and definitely will not be the last. Since I started advocating cyber wellness on 2010, parents, professionals and young people alike sought help to put to stop, if not to identify the people hiding behind anonymous communication, that spread lies, shame and spearhead harassment/bullying against their persons and dignity, in the name of free speech.
This is why I have reservations supporting a “blanket” guarantee to anonymous communication as an integral part of internet rights and principles. If we are living in a perfect environment, the concept of anonymity is good. But in real world, majority of anonymous communication are being set-up to harm others.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not agree to the monitoring of communication. I believed free speech should be guaranteed, online or offline.
However, I also believe that the exercise of such a right should not violate another person’s rights or privacy. Free speech should be exercised with due diligence, and the person enjoying this right should be willing to put a face behind an opinion (unless not required) or willing to put their mouth to where their money is.
As Peter Parker said, “with much power comes much responsibility”.
I believe going to both extremes (curtailment of free speech and free speech without accountability) is not value adding, finding the right balance will do.
Anonymous communication can be helpful in holding public officials, service providers and abusive leaders of private organisations, NGOs and churches, accountable. But protecting anonymous communication as a matter of internet right can put minors, women and private citizens at the mercy of abusive internet users.
What about you, what’s your take on anonymous communication? Add value to the discussion and let us know your thoughts on the comments section below.