Ethics and Anonymity
April 10, 2012
Last week the New York Times reported that video-game companies such as Microsoft, Sony, Warner Brothers, Disney and Apple agreed to close registered sex-offenders online accounts. This decision was made in agreement with New York State attorney general Eric Schneiderman. This decision, according to the Attorney General will prevent sexual predators from establishing contacts with children they would never be able to establish in parks or playgrounds.
The ACLU-New York believe that the decision “trample on the right to free speech and expression” of more than 3,500 registered sex offenders in New York State.
Playing Internet games online seems to me to be a privilege, not a constitutional right. However, the protection of children from predators should be one of society’s the highest priorities.
The particular interest in those means of communications by sex predators is the cloak of anonymity they provide.
Anonymity can be used both for good and for evil. It is just a mean to an end. What really matters is the motivation for seeking anonymity and the end result it allows.
Terrell Ward Bynum points out in the article entitled Anonymity on the Internet and Ethical Accountability, when one is engaged in harmful activity that anonymity serves as “barriers to accountability” and without accountability there can be no assessment of blame, enforcement of law, prevention of repetition and no compensation.
However, anonymity can sometimes also be positive.
Giving anonymously is considered true altruism.
Sarah Hinchliff Pearson, a residential fellow at Stanford Law School writes: “The cloak of anonymity can protect people from retaliation for speaking out against injustice, or it can simply free people from social constraints, allowing them to be more open and honest. These goals are worthy of First Amendment protection, and the Supreme Court has recognized them as important constitutional values.”
If for some reason we decide to seek anonymity in a particular action we plan, a good question to ask ourselves would be:
Will I be able to justify my action to myself first and then to others should I lose my anonymity?
Asking ourselves honest questions and answering them just as honestly can prevent us from ethical lapses.
Remembering what Spencer Johnson wrote:
“Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.”