The Anonymity Paradox: A Critical Analysis on Freedom and Responsibility in Social Media

"Scary computer hacker" by wuestenigel is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Background of anonymity in soical media

The issue of anonymity on social media has been an enduring topic since the development of the Internet, including the corresponding pro and con of anonymous and non-anonymous systems. The issue of anonymity on social media has already garnered attention from the Australian government. Relevant legislation is currently being drafted (Purtill, 2021). However, anonymity is not a simple binary concept; rather, it is a continuous spectrum ranging from strong to weak (Dan, 2017). For example, users need to provide detailed personal information on LinkedIn but less in Instagram. How to find a balance point in the spectrum of online anonymity is important. This article will critically discuss the positive and negative impacts of the anonymity system on social media and explain why anonymity is currently the better solution.

Privacy Anxiety

"Scary computer hacker" by wuestenigel is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
The Pentagon leak that landed on a chat forum about Minecraft exposes an unavoidable weakness in US national security © 2023 by Emily Clark and Lucy Sweeney is licensed under CC BY-ND 4.0 

Anonymity stands for vital concepts in current digital era. Privacy is one of the things that users should be guaranteed, otherwise the social media will be overpowered. This could lead the inequity between users and the owners of social media. A 21-year-old member of the intelligence wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard shared the highly classified US defense secret to his group members on discord. Members from this group are formed because they all like video games, music and Orthodox Christianity (Clark & Sweeney, 2023). However, this action has been noticed by discord and reported to the US. This leak immediately become an international scope event. The United States defense has been severely compromised due to this information are leaked, but what makes it more terrible is that most social media owner has the rights access to all of the chatting information.

This event has arisen the anxiety of the common social media users to some extent. They realize every word they type on the social media is under monitor. Additionally, it is possible for social media owners to spread their personal information. This could explain why part of the online customized advertisement is accurate and timely. Their personal information on social media can be regarded as a way to target consumer if the information is sold for commercial source (Satariano, 2023). Users’ Privacy is so weak if there is no anonymity system.

Trolling problem in social media

Abusive internet speech is aimed at a woman; a young girl observing this becomes sad and fearful © 2021 by Schalsa is licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International 

Although anonymity ensured privacy, there is powerful evidence against the rightful of anonymity. More and more serious Trolling in social media has been regarded as a product of internet anonymity.  This online violence on social media has become so severe that it has attracted the attention of the Australian government. According to Lowrey (2021), social media companies could be forced to reveal the identities of anonymous users in an effort to crack down on online trolling, under new laws being drafted by the federal government.

60 Minutes Australia. (2020). YouTube. YouTube. Retrieved October 7, 2023, from

No form of online violence should be tolerated. Building a harmonious online community is the responsibility of social media, and a social media platform without any limitations cannot fulfill its intended purpose; instead, it becomes a breeding ground for hatred and prejudice.

However, to what extent should anonymity on social media should account for Trolling? Is it only an excuse or wrong illustration to explain the trolling phenomenon?

Whether anonymous accounts are more aggressive

Usually, people consider that the accounts which are anonymous are more aggressive. This could be a stereotype. After the lost to Italy in a penalty shootout of Euro final, the England man football team are suffered from sustained online abuse. What is different to the majority expectation, 99% of the accounts which get banned for online violence were not anonymous (Purtill, 2021). As the stat proves, the aggressive speech does not eliminate because of they use real-name on social media. This is reverse compared to the impression of people. Moreover, Some Politician are willing to spread views using their real-name. This contributed to attach a wider impact on Internet. Hence, whether an account anonymous or not is not a standard to distinguish if it is tend to spread hate speech.

How anonymity contributes to Freedom of speech

Free speech doesn’t mean careless talk! © between circa 1942 and circa 1943 by C. R. Martin is licensed under CC BY 4.0 

Freedom of speech is other necessary factor that social media should guaranteed. It would be valuable to analyze the third model in the theory of four model of Internet, which is concerned as lack of freedom of speech. Surveillance and identification technologies play a crucial role in preserving social cohesion and stability (Kieron & Wendy, 2018). Take Chinese social media regulation as an example of this model, The current anonymity level requires users provide their detailed information to social media in backstage, but their account can still be anonymous when they use it (Triolo, 2017). If the level of anonymity is too weak, the users will concern more about their words. Consequently, the freedom of speech does not exist any longer.

Given that anonymity does not contribute trolling in a significant level (Purtill, 2021), it seems that the anonymity level should be increase to a high extent. Critically speaking, the conclusion is not solid due to it is not a long-term and significant sample. There is still the necessity to maintain considering what role does anonymity play in online violence. Furthermore, real-name is more likely to prevent the occurrence of cybercrime due to media owners could apply the users’ information to the police.

Conclusion: How to take a balance between real-name and anonymity on social media

Thorough all the pro and con related to anonymity system on social media, the discipline can be generated. With a greater level of anonymity, the more personal rights in a view of western can be ensured, such as freedom of speech, personal privacy. On the contrast, if the level of anonymity is low, it is convenient for government to administer the citizens. It is beneficial in decreasing the rate of cybercrime. Hence, anonymity is a reflection of different values to some degree.

As a result, what level of anonymity should be used should depended on the function of the social media. For instance, a forum which targets on the international news should be less anonymous. This is a relatively serious and sensitive topic area. Anonymity can help improve the quality of discussions and prevent hate speech. A forum which used to entertainment like the football part on reddit can be more anonymous. However, it cannot be denied that adopting various levels of anonymity is not a simple binary choice. It requires a joint effort from users, media owners, and authorities.


Clark,E., & Sweeney, L. (2023, April 13). Inside America’s top-secret documentleak: “the absurdity of the leak is something we need to grapple with.” ABC News.

Dan, W. (2017). Anonymous Expression on the Internet [E-book]. Sichuan

Kieron,O., & Wendy, H. (2018, December 7). Four internets: The geopolitics of digital governance. Centre for International Governance Innovation.

Lowrey, T. (2021, November 28). Anti-troll laws could force social media companies to give out names and contact details. ABC News.

Purtill, J. (2021, November 29). What evidence is there that identity verification stops online bullying?. Social media companies could soon be forced to end anonymity for online trolls. But will this stop the trolling? – ABC News.

Satariano, A. (2023, January 4). Meta fined $600m by EU over AD practices. The Sydney Morning Herald.

Triolo, P. (2017, September 26). Shrinking Anonymity in
Chinese Cyberspace
. Center for Strategic and International Studies.

60 Minutes Australia. (2020). YouTube. YouTube.
Retrieved October 7, 2023, from