The internet has given anonymity a bad reputation, and yet, the ability to avoid being identified and tracked is something so important to us that we continually reinforce it with a regular roll-out of new products. If most of us didn’t have a deep-rooted understanding of how vital it is to our shared values of truth, fairness, democracy and progress, then it wouldn’t be this way; we would stick the chips in our arms and let it go. The reason we hang on is that our society has been built, at least in part, on our ability to remain anonymous in various situations: elections are held by secret ballot; lone whistleblowers can change the course of the largest institutions; criminals can be convicted with the help of tipsters; and the best feedback mechanisms and statistics use aggregate anonymous data.
That said, anonymity and the internet have had a hard time getting along. From our perspective, two main problems lead to trolling.
First is the fact that people can’t see or hear each other, and this makes it much harder to empathize with whom they’re communicating.
Second is that the internet is almost too anonymous; everyone knows that they can say anything without ever facing repercussions. Basically, anyone can say anything anywhere at almost no cost to themselves and without having to first prove that what they say has any reality behind it. This isn’t the case in all of the above positive uses. Voters have to be real citizens. Whistleblowers have to have some relation to the institution. Tipsters have to have facts. Statistics are based on real data.
We’ve designed BuzzIt to capture the good side of anonymity by avoiding each of the above problems. First, the people you can communicate with aren’t all over the world, they’re people in the same area, maybe watching the same presentation or sharing the same experience. This should help each user’s dialogue lean more towards civility than it does in a random online chat or discussion board. Also, trolls can have a disproportionately loud voice on the World Wide Web; one angry person can cause a large amount of grief. On BuzzIt, the impact of a single bad actor will at least be limited to their local area. Second, BuzzIt is not fully anonymous; users just act anonymously on the inside, and because they have logged in, the community has the power to kick them out.
While we believe the technology will do its part to encourage positive content and remove bad actors, we need your help to ensure that the general mood of the community stays positive, or it just won’t work in the long run. This doesn’t mean you can’t complain – a complaint is positive if it helps other humans avoid a bad experience. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t question or criticize – pointing out problems is how we help each other progress. But, don’t limit your activity to complaints and criticisms; give compliments, say ‘thank you’ if someone posted something helps you out, and above all, be courteous. In summary, the reddit user /u/cupcake1713 said it best: please remember that you’re not talking to a machine; “remember the human.”
Want to help make this happen? Signup for our beta by clicking here.