September 5, 2013


A quarter of all Internet users have posted anonymous comments, a Pew study about online anonymity says.

But when it comes to posting any material online, people “are more likely than not to attach their name or a recognizable screenname to their material: 49% of internet users say they have used their real name and 47% use a screenname or username that people associate with them,” the report says.

The Huffington Post recently announced it would end anonymous comments. A study by a University of Houston professor claims that anonymous comments are far more likely to be uncivil.

One interesting quirk of the Pew study: People who’ve tried to remain anonymous “are more likely than others to have each of these items of personal information posted online.” This finding “reinforces the notion that privacy is not an all-or-nothing proposition for internet users,” the report says.

People choose different strategies for different activities, for different content, to mask themselves from different people, at different times in their lives.

Young people are most likely to employ strategies to stay anonymous. 40 percent of people 18-29 said they post without revealing their names; only 9 percent of those over 65 did.

59 percent of respondents said it wasn’t possible to be completely anonymous online. Women were more likely than men to say anonymity was important. 60 percent “say it is very important for them to control access to information about the place where they are located when they go online,” the report says. People in households with incomes under $30,000 per year “are particularly likely to have suffered a problem from their online activities,” including losing control of an email or social media account or being stalked online.

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City…
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