Smile and Nod: RealID and Why Hate Speech is the Least of Our Worries

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Smile and Nod: RealID and Why Hate Speech is the Least of Our Worries

Russ Pitts examines how RealID would destroy the very people it was meant to protect.

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God, this is the most depressing thing I've read all month...

I find it hard to believe that there are people like that.

You really made a good point about this... it's actually kind of scary.

well we already had the case of a guy that tracked down his real life rival in wow and stabbed the guy in real life mind you.

then we got sp many people that post their real ids on social networking sites and using real ids for games could lead to online "stalking" nevermind if someone has the same name as you and gets the hate male creepy stuff that is meant for you.

there is whole host or real info you can find on someone armed with a real name, many people blindly put info out there on fb, twitter,ms and personal web pages. do we really want a community of 12 million nerds borderline sociopaths and mal adjusted meta gamers to have access to your real life name via your character profile? yea they are a small percentage of the whole but you get 12 million people or a few million doing anything your going to have any number of them that you probably not want to meet in real life nevermind if you happened to tick them off by pwning them in a game.

already any number of incidents of people using less than legal means to track online rivals down and seeking them out in real life. tieing realid to any massive game is a bad idea just for the pontential abuse from online to real life that can occur.

Well I was aware that a goodly proportion of gamers were complete losers but I never really considered protecting their behaviour until now. They'll never be able to change really so pressuring them online won't work and why not let them feel like they belong, even if it is in a cartoon world?

I live in the corner of the world where by and large gaming is looked down upon and gamers are steretyped to the extreme. I do not feel the need to broadcast my gaming habits to prospective employers and people I meet. It's not a matter of shame, it's a matter of not wanting other people's crap on my doorstep. I don't have a problem with gaming, they do. So please, keep your generalizations to yourself, they apply far less than you might like to think.

That is certainly the mosr grim outlook on it I have read...and, its scaery to think it could be reality too

I was under the impression that the sense of a seperate digital identity being "sacred" was more about escaping the constraints of your real world identity rather than the "failures."

You don't speak out about your bosses sexual advances on your Facebook account. You don't express level-headed views on racial equality when you live in a crazy hick town. I have many friends whose identities are unknown to me. We don't know each others full names because it is unnecessary. Our personas might differ when we are freed from previous social constraints but the overall effect is that we are in fact more honest with one another. The lack of ulterior motives to our opinions guarantees that we are expressing what we genuinely believe. Rather than what we know will butter the other person up.

The problems Russ is highlighting are also related deeply to the perception of an audience, context collapse and throwaway identities. If you use a fairly consistent handle online then eventually it will essentially become your second name. You will feel ashamed if you sully your good name, even if it's not the one your parents gave you. If you are not held accountable from post to post thewn chances are you will just drool all over your keyboard, but there are viable solutions to this that are nowhere near as brutish as RealID.

RealID is and was a terrible idea... for one, your name is all you need to find your personal information.

From reading this article it seems that you look down on people who enjoy their anonymity which I can't really understand, it's nice to take a step back and not have your friends know what you're doing online.

In real life I could walk up to someone and say my name was Terrance and I would be Terrance to them and I'd still be me, I could introduce myself as Wedlock and that would be my name, telling someone my real name doesn't change anything other than what they call me. I troll on the internet under a number of different names and I troll people in real life using my real name.

Under older previous names I've asked embarressing questions and I've aired opinions that have been volatile and not fully formed. If Real ID were the case after one incident I would have people banging on my door accusing me of being a neo-nazi just because I expressed the opinion that Hitler did a lot of good for Germany.

In real life you could give someone your name with little reprecussions... on the internet they have the tools to fuck you up.

can't we all just get along? nope and its unrealistic to think otherwise.

Wedlock49:
In real life you could give someone your name with little reprecussions... on the internet they have the tools to fuck you up.

Exactly this. The RL equivalent of giving someone on the internet your real name is walking up to some random on the street and saying "Hi, my name is Nightfalke. I live on 1337 Uber Lane in Fargo ND. I work at Pwn Inc as a systems analyst. I am married and have a beautiful 12 year old daughter who goes to school at Ogrimmar Middle School..." etc etc...

Like Russ, I don't have a vested interest in RealID, but I do have an opinion on it.

I think it was a great idea. I personally want to remove some of the cover that assholes use to hide themselves from the idiotic and hate-filled messages they spew. Remove the anonymity from the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. Kids don't have to worry since it would be posting the name off of the credit card attached to the subscription, so it'd be their parent's name. As well, it's rather easy to not have your full real name posted if you think about it.

What's the big problem? It engenders a much more polite society since you can be held accountable for your behavior. Why is that a bad thing? I get the idea that most of the people who are objecting to RealID are people who are acting questionably and are simply trying to preserve themselves.

JaredXE:
Like Russ, I don't have a vested interest in RealID, but I do have an opinion on it.

I think it was a great idea. I personally want to remove some of the cover that assholes use to hide themselves from the idiotic and hate-filled messages they spew. Remove the anonymity from the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory.

The problem comes down to fuckwads will be fuckwads even without anonymity. And when they are, those of us who are not fuckwads will take it like we always do. So what if we know the fuckwad's name? Are you going to track him down and make him "account for his actions"? Are you going to stalk his facebook or find his address?

No.

Because (I am making an assumption here) you are not a fuckwad.

However, the fuckwads out there CAN do all that because they have your name.

And they have no problem doing it.

The main issue I have with RealID is Blizzard already has a massive problem dealing with goldfarming,account theft and the phishing mess that comes with it. Having our real names so easily available with a small amount of social engineering is just empowering the scammers.

Nightfalke:

The problem comes down to fuckwads will be fuckwads even without anonymity. And when they are, those of us who are not fuckwads will take it like we always do. So what if we know the fuckwad's name? Are you going to track him down and make him "account for his actions"? Are you going to stalk his facebook or find his address?

I'm not so sure that anonymity is even a particularly big part of the fuckwaddery (new word? Hurrah!). If I felt like being a total dick to, say, some random dude in China then it won't matter what name I'm under. He's in China. If I were of that particular mindset it would only stop me when the person I was insulting was within reasonable travelling distance.

These people seem to have a primal urge to be knobheads. Taking away the names they hide under won't force them to stop doing it, it'll just make them more careful who they do it to.

cerebus23:
well we already had the case of a guy that tracked down his real life rival in wow and stabbed the guy in real life mind you.

the only story like that i remember, it was over CS, although it wouldn't surprise me if there was another WoW related one too

OT: This article seems to talk a lot less about real ID, and seems to spend more time dogging on those whose lives are basically WoW. i don't get it, myself, but some of the bits in this article are downright condescending, which is kind of a shock to me.

I will never participate in a game that places my RealID on anything. There are very real reasons for that. I was stalked at one time of my life, and though i have asked for restraining orders and have moved since, its still a very up front thing in my mind. I will not risk that chance to be followed again, or for someone to harm me, for no reason. If it starts being something required for all sites, that is when I will have to find some other way to socially connect with distant friends and talk to people without the stress of some bigoted a**hole will hunt me down.

An interesting article, but I have to say I disagree with most of it.

For one thing, the big issue with RealID is not this. It's the fact that it will encourage MORE hate speech and horrible behaviour. At the moment, when I post, I'm Elfin McPallyface, prot paladin, and as such my opinions and thoughts on paladins, tanking, etc have merit. With RealID, I would be GIRL MCGIRLGIRL and any attempt at rational dialogue would be met with SHOW US YOUR TITS and R U HOT?

What about people with obviously foreign names? Is it right to make people like Luis Fernando or Hamid el Shaddir endure racist slurs and yells to GET OUT OF OUR COUNTRY YOU (insert insults here)?

Transexuals would also be on the chopping block for harassment if their account names were under their old "biological" names (or if they hadn't transitioned yet). Do you think trolls are going to leave someone who identifies as a woman but goes by the name of Steve alone?

Secondly, I find it interesting that you envision the emphasis on dividing real life and virtual life as trying to prevent the "failures" of real life tainting the perfect virtual world. In my opinion, the truth is vastly the opposite; it is that people are trying to prevent *virtual life* from flowing into their real life. As many great strides as we've made, geekdom is still seen negatively by a lot of mainstream people... and some of those mainstream people are in positions of power. I do NOT want a prospective employer to reject me solely based on the fact I play WoW and take the time to post my thoughts and feelings in the forums. As far as I'm concerned, my geek life is no one's business but my own, hence why I keep it out of my Facebook, LinkedIn, etc (or, at the very least, downplay it - I do have some reference to it as I am hoping to get into the video game industry, but I still keep it moderate and vague so as not to scare away other employers). With RealID linking our online geek identities with our real life names, we'd have to deal with a whole bunch of RL annoyance and possibly lost jobs and relationships. And yes, people who judge us based on our hobbies aren't really worth dealing with, but I imagine an unemployed person desperate for work would feel differently when an employer rejects him for a job because Google turned up his theorycraft for rogue DPS.

Also, PLEASE tell me I'm not the only one who noticed the irony of the writer decrying hate speech and general dickishness on the Internet, then writing the following:

"a company that's created an empire off the sweat and tears of a very active and vocal community of obsessives who crave the shadows of online anonymity *****the way fat girls crave cake.****"

Okay, it may not be hate speech, but it's still a pretty offensive stereotype and sounds uncomfortably like the sort of thing Russ hates. Please tell me this was a bit of intentional sarcasm? :(

image
Bravo, Russ, Bravo.

I may not look in the same way at those that want to cherish their anonymity, but I can appreciate you took the time to think about the victims.

Usagi Vindaloo:
Also, PLEASE tell me I'm not the only one who noticed the irony of the writer decrying hate speech and general dickishness on the Internet, then writing the following:

"a company that's created an empire off the sweat and tears of a very active and vocal community of obsessives who crave the shadows of online anonymity *****the way fat girls crave cake.****"

Okay, it may not be hate speech, but it's still a pretty offensive stereotype and sounds uncomfortably like the sort of thing Russ hates. Please tell me this was a bit of intentional sarcasm? :(

I also definitely saw that. I can only hope it was a darkly humorous reference to the video game Fat Princess, but the context certainly didn't make any reference obvious. I find Russ manages to disparage several groups in this article through heavy uses of stereotypes. Racially-intolerant hicks? Obsessive WoW players with no life? Fat girls that eat too much? Calling bowling lame? These may be his opinions, and he's welcome to them, but he isn't helping his argument about RealID by expressing his unrelated, offensive opinions.

From Russ' own words alone, I think it's clear why people don't want their real names attached to their online identities: they don't want to be judged for what they enjoy doing. People love to make generalizations just like these, whether you are a girl playing video games or a guy with a female character. In-game, it's as simple as muting anybody that makes a big deal about it, but there is no mute button in real life. Bullies, stalkers, murderers, and all other sorts of people would just love to know who you really are and where you live. Schoolyard bullies are bad enough, but life becomes hell when the bullies follow you home.

The Internet may have allowed all sorts of people to spew hate-filled speech, but it also lets many other people play, communicate, and explore the world that can be dangerous to explore in real life. On the Internet, it's just words on a screen, but in real life, there's somebody at your door. Our online anonymity and distance allow us to do things that just wouldn't be safe in the real world and that's a very important freedom. Remember what Twitter did for political activists in countries in the middle East in civil war? That all disappears without anonymity.

I thought that as well Usagi, and I agree with you and reverse.

Hell, people desperate (and insane) enough can and will find you through just a character name. Counter Strike proved that, and in Russia it lead to a severe, (and fatal if I remember right) beating of person B after Person B beat Killer A in pvp on WoW. Then Killer A got his entire guild to harass and threaten Person B's family.

Russ really seems to discard what is known to be true, and focus only on the "darker" side of why some people might play. Yeah it makes for a great moody article, but not one that's entirely accurate. Trolls WILL be Trolls. RealID is only going to hurt the players that try to support the community. All those guides on the forums, would be gone. Why? The Trolls, seeing your information (even your parents), could easily track down other bits of info, and like a trail of bread-crumbs will find you.

Hell, why not just give your name to 4Chan if you ain't worried? Then start talking shit about them, I'm sure nothing bad will happen.

There was a post over on War-riot, just a couple hours after bashiok posted his name online, people already had face-book, addresses, family members, phone numbers, emails, and a hell of a lot of other info. While half could of been the wrong person who just had a similar name, it wouldn't matter. They'd of been trolled.

I strongly believe that RealID was a bad idea with good intentions.

Blizzard insisted that they had the best of intentions with RealID. They wanted to quell the hijinx that their community had been known for. It's easy to understand why; just take a look at their forums. You regularly find people being taunted, trolled, and "stalked", with pseudonymous trolls posting everywhere their victim posts, making baseless claims and slandering them, and much worse undoubtedly comes through in private messages. Playing in World of Warcraft is no different; whether people make false claims on public chat, private message you threats, or spam the hell out of everybody, trolls exist everywhere just waiting to ruin the gaming experience that you pay good money for every month. Not only does this give Blizzard a bad reputation, but it seems likely to drive off at least a few paying customers.

So there theory went: take away their anonymity, and the trolls will be less willing to troll. At first glance that seems reasonable, but trolls aren't particularly reasonable. As many a troll will admit (even here on The Escapist), trolls don't care what other people think. Accountability doesn't exist without shame or other repercussions. Unless Blizzard plans on banning trolls (which they could have done without RealID), the thought that you might know the troll's name won't stop the troll, because he knows you are still powerless to do anything about him. Whether his name is Lee Jenkins or uberdude69, he's still free to annoy the hell out of you.

But that anonymity has other consequences. For the people who become victims, it provides a barrier between the game and the real world. Sure, the trolls can annoy their victims in-game, but if their victims quit, the victims are now free from any further trouble; the troll isn't going to follow them home and continue making trouble for them. But if their real names were available, that could quickly change. You could guess their email address, look up their phone number and address, even find out where they work and who their friends are. A name is a universal identifier that links all of the knowledge about us and it isn't easily changed.

The boundary between the real world and the virtual world goes both ways. In many places, or at least by many people, gaming is still seen as a waste of time, and particular games like WoW are often looked down upon. Would a potential employer deny you a job if he knew you had three level 80 characters in WoW? Would your school, or your family, or your friends think differently of you if they knew you played games, or if your avatar happened to be of the opposite gender? Would people in the game treat you differently if they knew your gender, race, or other real-life attributes?

Yes, some people use the anonymous, virtual world as an escape from reality, and some may even go so far as to lose themselves in that world, but most of us just want to keep our lives separate from our hobbies. Life should be lived on a need-to-know basis; our gaming friends don't need to know who we are in real life and our real life acquaintances don't need to know what we do in our games, in the same way that the public doesn't need to know what we do in our bedrooms.

Anything that makes it easier to associate these two worlds brings with it the consequence of allowing the negatives from both sides to spill over into the other. Whether it is bringing the in-game trolls to our doorsteps or it is bringing the real world prejudices into the game, there's a lot of harm that can come from this association.

From a cost-benefit standpoint, RealID would seem to cause more problems than it solves. I'm glad Blizzard listened to the community on this one.

Yet I would give it away in a heartbeat if it would relegate the assholes who plague its every crevice back to the tick-ridden, backwoods, flyover, bypassed-by-the advance-of-civilization shitpits from which they emerged, birthed by their daddy's sisters.

Hold on, you'd give up the internet JUST because people say nasty things to you?

Wow, just wow.

That was very well put and I have to say that it hits some of the more forgotten demographics simply because they are usually the least vocal groups around. Who will stand up for those who's voice isn't heard? Russ Pitts at least!

I'd also like to add that I feel it's disingenuous of Blizzard to simply attempt to force the burden of cleanup to it's paying customers as a form of vigilantism. It's like they think that somehow people aren't willing to ruin other people's day at the expense of their own reputation or "good" name. We've seen this before in real life and these people are called gangs or the mob.

Do you think for a second groups dedicated to harassment wouldn't form and draw together those most likely to offend? It would probably coalesce these people into an even darker nastier organism bent on defaming others who are at the mercy of having their names available to everyone else. It's why we have actual police in the real world and why not enough of them can cause communities to collapse into chaos.

A very well written article, Russ. I admire your writing style.

But, with all due respect, this article carries the stench of hypocrisy. You claim that the "ignorant haters" are the worst possible thing that has happened to the internet. Yet your own hatred of these people sounds irrational. Your generalizing, condescending parade of profanities and insults when describing them is proof of that. In some respects, you have taken on some of the aspects of the people you despise so utterly. Fight not with monsters, lest you become a monster.

I treat people with respect or ignore them. Trolls, both on and off the internet, love nothing more than to be fed. And they're at Thanksgiving dinner right now.

ReverseEngineered:
I strongly believe that RealID was a bad idea with good intentions.

I pretty much agree with your entire post, but wanted to highlight this because I think that it illustrates the 'road to hell' if you will.

Not unlike Russ's column. It's a bad idea with good intentions. Both cursedseishi and Usagi have pointed out the issues with this column and while I appreciate a good metaphor or simile as much as the next person, it's exactly those kinds of comments that are made toward a specific person (or a group you may be a part of) that makes people hold their privacy so dear. They go online to find communities exactly because they don't want to have to put up with the bullshit they get in the day to day.

Saying that the only people who want to avoid RealID are "Those who have, for whatever reason, come to believe that that their virtual existence is sacred, that it serves to elevate them from the squalor of their daily existence and that by tying their virtual identity to their daily existence would be to sully it with the feelings of insecurity and personal shame that cloud their every step in the natural world," assumes two things:
1) Harassment would drop because your name is out there
(It wouldn't because what real consequences would there be?)
and
2) You'd be safe from other kinds of invasion when in reality

Wedlock49:

In real life you could give someone your name with little reprecussions... on the internet they have the tools to fuck you up.

There are enough more than enough black hats out there to ruin your noble idea of cleaning up your forums.

I think the talk given here (here -warning, text wall) illustrates very well why people don't want to give their real names online and is good food for thought.

I believe that the intension of making your online experience better is good-but I think because Russ doesn't have a dog in the hunt, he's forgotten his empathy people who do and the good reasons for it.

I kind of get the feeling this article is following some mild subset of poe's law or at least I hope so.

Usagi Vindaloo:
With RealID, I would be GIRL MCGIRLGIRL and any attempt at rational dialogue would be met with SHOW US YOUR TITS and R U HOT?

What about people with obviously foreign names? Is it right to make people like Luis Fernando or Hamid el Shaddir endure racist slurs and yells to GET OUT OF OUR COUNTRY YOU (insert insults here)?

But the RealID would knock down the trolling because you know who they are as well. Also, foreign names in a world wide community might make those stereotypical people you are talking about realize they are a part of something more than America.

I always thought that Blizzard should just have had a report button on the forums and any banning or probation that you have been given on the forums means you are also put on a probation or ban in game, and vice versa.

KEM10:

Usagi Vindaloo:
With RealID, I would be GIRL MCGIRLGIRL and any attempt at rational dialogue would be met with SHOW US YOUR TITS and R U HOT?

What about people with obviously foreign names? Is it right to make people like Luis Fernando or Hamid el Shaddir endure racist slurs and yells to GET OUT OF OUR COUNTRY YOU (insert insults here)?

But the RealID would knock down the trolling because you know who they are as well. Also, foreign names in a world wide community might make those stereotypical people you are talking about realize they are a part of something more than America.

Except they wouldn't care because you couldn't/wouldn't do anything about it.

I always thought that Blizzard should just have had a report button on the forums and any banning or probation that you have been given on the forums means you are also put on a probation or ban in game, and vice versa.

Totally agreed, I could never figure out why they don't link a single forum id to your account instead of allowing you to use multiple ids to post.

And despite your views on Deus Ex, Mr. Pitts, I suddenly like you.

RMcD94:

Yet I would give it away in a heartbeat if it would relegate the assholes who plague its every crevice back to the tick-ridden, backwoods, flyover, bypassed-by-the advance-of-civilization shitpits from which they emerged, birthed by their daddy's sisters.

Hold on, you'd give up the internet JUST because people say nasty things to you?

Wow, just wow.

Exactly. The world is not a pleasant place 24/7. Shit is going to hit the fan all the time. The skill is to only step to the SIDE of the said fan and let the 'dumbasses' be hit with the shit - Christoper Titus.

Drag us into the light, and we'll be able to see You.

ReverseEngineered:
I think it's clear why people don't want their real names attached to their online identities: they don't want to be judged for what they enjoy doing. People love to make generalizations just like these, whether you are a girl playing video games or a guy with a female character. In-game, it's as simple as muting anybody that makes a big deal about it, but there is no mute button in real life. Bullies, stalkers, murderers, and all other sorts of people would just love to know who you really are and where you live.

I'm aware of the stories of murders over WOW. Yes a tragedy. The sameway shark attacks are a tragedy. I still "risk" entering the water as the odds of it happening to me are laughable. Millions of people take that same risk. Both are very, very rare. I go through life without being attacked, abused, mugged, murdered. It is not the sort of thing that happens to people once a week. I do however get griefed, TK'd, racially abused and cussed at regularly online because people feel brave when they can't be traced. It's the same way people become arse holes when in a mob. Lack of consequences.

Real names would not have caused a spate of killings and beatings world wide like a lot of these posts suggest. People would have to adjust. The same way you have to be sensible in real life. It would not force good behaviour but it would make some people behave better as it is more likely there would be consequences to your actions. I don't get called a cunt and racially abused in real life, the consequences is enough to stop most people. It happens in online gaming, quite often.

If people are so afraid that the whiney, foul mouthed 13 year old online will come to their house and kill them, how do they find the courage to cross the road or go into the city?

Having said all this, I would not have used it. I don't play MMOs, I don't do social networking. Its a choice I make as I work with dangerous offenders. I have co-workers who use these and are sensible about their precautions. None of them have died because of their online presence. Its individual choice. RealID would not have been a great evil, if you felt it was too risky or not to your liking you could have gone to play something else. Easy.

Fake names doesn't guarantee poor behaviour. We all use fake names (except for staff) here and it is quite civil, partly by the people attracted to the forums and partly by proper moderation. For some reason Blizzard are either too cheap to hire the right amount of mods or are too scared of their vocal, lunatic fringe community to act.

Nightfalke:

JaredXE:
Like Russ, I don't have a vested interest in RealID, but I do have an opinion on it.

I think it was a great idea. I personally want to remove some of the cover that assholes use to hide themselves from the idiotic and hate-filled messages they spew. Remove the anonymity from the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory.

The problem comes down to fuckwads will be fuckwads even without anonymity. And when they are, those of us who are not fuckwads will take it like we always do. So what if we know the fuckwad's name? Are you going to track him down and make him "account for his actions"? Are you going to stalk his facebook or find his address?

No.

Because (I am making an assumption here) you are not a fuckwad.

However, the fuckwads out there CAN do all that because they have your name.

And they have no problem doing it.

Almost noone actually realises that, so seconded.

I do not think "pity" means what you think it means. Pity is a compassionate reaction to an others misfortune. There simply is not room for hate and pity. If you must hate, then you cannot pity. If you must hate, you can also scorn, deride, insult, detest, belittle, or all the other things you (whether rightly or wrongly) do in your column; but you cannot pity.

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