Elon Musk’s upcoming Twitter’s acquisition and the Biden Administration’s Disinformation Governance Board that’s a Ministry of Truth in all but name have certainly caused quite the upheaval lately, especially when it comes to the important subjects of freedom of speech and anonymity.
I’m not going to sell myself as an expert of these subjects, but rather, I want to frame these ramblings as someone who lives in a country with severe dyscrasias when it comes to exercising political opinions, dissent, and the right to freely express yourself — conditions that make the ability to exercise online anonymity extremely sacrosanct.
I’m going to cut to the chase, the way I see it, anonymity should be a right no matter what. It is the only recourse many have to protect themselves and their loved ones from political retaliation — and just because you are anonymous on the internet doesn’t mean that you’re evil, just because you use your full real name online doesn’t automatically mean you’re a good person.
Someone with an anime portrait or with some tryhard larp Twitter handle made fun of you and your asinine checkmark take on something? Who cares? Just because you were made fun of for having stupid opinions doesn’t mean you get to mutilate anonymity for everyone.
And just because you made an offensive shitpost or joke doesn’t mean you deserve to get your entire life ruined.
I’ve seen quite a few calls to end anonymity again as of late across the whole board. Every time you have people pushing to end anonymity they will always collide with the same backlash. Whether these individuals seek to end online anonymity out of ignorance, personal petty malice, or outright grander schemes is something I cannot ascertain, but regardless of the case, it’s something I will always fight against.
While social media remains the main battleground for this conflict, let’s not forget that even video game companies have tried this. I can’t forget how Blizzard wanted people to use “Real ID” to post on their forums back in 2010 or so.
This was met with all the backlash it deserved, and ultimately, the idea was scrapped. To this day, you can opt to share your real name with others in your friend list through their platform, but this is left to each user’s discretion, and that’s how it should be, on a user discretion level and not on a mandatory level.
I personally shed off what layers of anonymity I had when I asked for help a few years ago. This was my own personal decision, as all I had at the time to offer was my personal honesty amidst the circumstances of the time. I don’t show my face online cause I’m not particularly good looking, that’s about it.
As a result, there are things I’m not in the liberty to say online against the socialist party that reigns in Venezuela, not because of cowardice, but because I also have to think about the safety of my brother. One of the latest modus operandi of the Venezuelan regime to punish dissent is not to directly arrest you, but to kidnap members of your family instead. There are precedents of them arresting disabled members of dissenters’ families, and given my brother’s condition well, I hope you understand.
Once I’m outta here, yeah, it’s gonna be fair game.
Yes, there’s always going to be ‘anon’ accounts espousing ultra spicy takes, it is the internet after all, and there’s always going to be provocateurs. But even if they’re not actually a Fed baiting people and they’re expressing rather radical opinions out of their genuine belief, it’s their prerogative to do so — if you’re really that outraged then just insult them and move on, or better yet, don’t get baited.
You can just look away, mute or block the ‘offending’ person, you are in control of what content you consume at the end of the day. If you deliberately open a thread or post full of things you don’t like and then get so mad that you need to find the identity of the person behind the post and ruin their life then boy, you have some bigger issues going on in your life.
With this, I don’t want to say that everything should be a wild west, because at the end of the day there’s laws to comply with, and terms of service that no one actually reads. I just want a fair playing field in this regard, fully aware that there is no such thing as a fair field whatsoever in politics (nor there ever will be). I just would love to see actual fair moderation, and not the one sided and algorithmically skewed thing social media has right now — because I’ve had strangers of a certain political ideology take a mild adult joke made by a friend towards me and mass-flag it to force a suspension when there was nothing to suspend.
Hell, I’ve even seen people that utterly despise me (to the point of calling me a Nazi) get suspended because they managed to piss off people on their same side of the fence, Ouroboros and all that.
If someone truly deserves to be suspended then sure. If someone is making actual, credible threats against the integrity of others, then yes, follow through and have the authorities actually do something before things end in tragedy. But on a more shitpost-y and political diatribe kinda level, what you may perceive as hateful can greatly differ from what others around or far from you do.
I’m irreverent, I make fun of everything and anything. It is part of my culture, it’s part of the comedy I grew up with, it is part of how I cope with my own shortcomings if you want me to be that honest — a trait passed down upon me by a late uncle that had to live his life with neurofibromatosis (don’t Google that).
A joke that, say, a Venezuelan might find humorous and innocuous might be considered harmful by others (Looking at you, Germans that keep reporting my memes to no avail, don’t think I don’t get those emails from Twitter).
I’ve personally witnessed people being rejected jobs simply because they made the ‘mistake’ of having exercised their right to political dissent years before applying to said job, such as the infamous Tascon List, and that’s just plain wrong.
This is a country with precarious access to online information, where news websites have to obfuscate their domains in an never ending cat and mouse chase to bypass the regime’s censorship, where newspapers get sued into oblivion and have their buildings seized only because a regime higher up got offended at their reporting.
And then there’s the ‘hate speech’ law to keep citizens in check.
This is something that’s not talked much about lately, but Venezuela is an exemplary case of a government passing an ‘anti hate speech’ law with the sole purpose of weaponizing it against its population. We are what happens when you go to the deep end with ‘hate speech’ regulation, to the point that the satire and mild jokes are considered ‘hate speech.’
There’s been a recent case in Venezuela that almost went unnoticed. A 72 year old woman and her son recorded a video and posted it on her TikTok channel. The video is pretty much a simple comedy sketch of the same vein and tone that we’re culturally accustomed to — the ones that you used to be able to see on 90s Venezuelan television back when I was a child.
The mother is seen preparing arepas, a unseen female voice asks what kind of arepas she’s got available, and then she goes through a list of arepas and assigning each one to certain socialist party members with euphemisms or double entendre, such as questioning the sexuality of the regime’s Ombudsman, one to joke about the fact that the Supreme and Eternal Commander is dead, one to refer to the alleged links between the penitentiary service minister with organized crime operating from prison, and lastly, the one that really ticked them off: the widow arepa, for the regime’s
first lady first combatant.
“But she’s not a widow yet,” says the female voice.
“Well, but that’s what we all wish for,” replies the elderly woman.
That’s the punchline that got both the elderly woman and her son arrested because, according to the regime, she “incited a magnicide” with her joke. Now you tell me if a 72 year old woman that uses her social media for entertainment and boomer-tier content is capable of murdering a president, let alone overthrowing a regime.
She was only released after she recorded a scripted public apology — never mind the fact that Venezuela’s current penal code (the very same one the regime modified as they saw fit) has a specific clause that forbids the pre-emptive arrests of anyone over 70 years old, women who are about to give birth / just gave birth, or people with terminal conditions.
This is but the latest example in Venezuela, I can go on and on and on — now you see why I’m a fervent believer in the right to online anonymity. Comedy and satire is an inherent part of our culture, it is sadly something we can no longer freely exercise. The same can be said about dissent, it only takes one upset politician to try and snowball being mad on the internet into full blown censorship.
Never forget, just because you can’t freely say something it doesn’t mean is automatically wrong.
Until the next one,