News: Ban Green Ink

Added Tuesday 18th September 2012

The culture of anonymity is pervasive, as the Independent found during its short-lived boycott of the Parliamentary lobby; its political coverage couldn't compete.

The Lobby may be justified because what we learn outweighs the unethical way in which we learn it. I doubt it; I am yet to find a clear cut case of a desirable end justifying undesirable means. But that can't apply to publishing scurrilous material through social media.

In the days before email, nasty letters from nutters were dismissed as "green ink" but such transactions were almost always, in the nature of the letter, one-to-one; I knew about my anonymous correspondence but you didn't.

It's time for the social media to ban digital green ink. Peer-to-peer transactions between consenting adults are one thing but one-to-many or one-to-all publishing should require authors to sign their name in a message box tied to their initial log-in. A few will lie but that should simply be made an additional offence when they are caught breaking what the law is in the analogue world.

The cyber Utopianism born of the WELL Network in San Francisco in the 1980s - an intellectual cascade from the Grateful Dead and the Whole Earth Review - anticipated a level of flower power which can't be delivered. "Troll" is just a crypto-romantic cover for bullies who hide while they dish it out. And let's hear no nonsense about the impossibility of regulating cyberspace.