Internet Governance and Online Identity: Searching for Correlations between User Anonymity and User Behaviour

  • Author(s) / Creator(s)
  • Anonymity can grant people privacy, safety, and enable rebellion in an oppressive regime. But it can also foster aggression, hate, and undue political upheaval. Drawing on theoretical frameworks from Science and Technology Studies, this research aims to learn how user anonymity granted by specific platform structures and policies influences how users behave either prosocially or antisocially online. To reach this goal, I performed a qualitative content analysis on data sampled from three major platforms with varying levels of user anonymity (Facebook, Reddit, and 4chan), studied each platform’s basic structure, content, and privacy policies, and researched government policies and procedures about online anonymity in Canada and abroad. My analysis focused on collecting a sample of one hundred comments from one root post on each platform, and then conducting an inductive content analysis on those data sets. One of this study’s primary findings supports existing literature that states that levels of anonymity directly influence user behaviour online, in both prosocial and antisocial ways. Within my research, users of 4chan, the platform design with the highest level of anonymity, produced the highest number of aggression codes and the most severe aggressive behaviour, yet also the least user-directed aggression, the highest number of non-aggression posts (tied), and the most varied non-aggression codes. This finding leads to further speculation that online anonymity can neither be considered helpful or harmful;it is a complex social construct that brings out both the best and the worst of human behaviour.

  • Date created
  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Type of Item
  • DOI
  • License
    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International