Your Internet Consultant - The FAQs of Life Online

12.15. What are the responsibilities associated with anonymity?

Answered by L. Detweiler (

Responsibilities for users of anonymous mail/post services:

* Use anonymity only if you have to. Frivolous uses weaken the seriousness and usefulness of the capability for others.

* Do not use anonymity to provoke, harass, or threaten others.

* Do not hide behind anonymity to evade established conventions on Usenet, such as posting binary pictures to regular newsgroups.

* If posting large files, be attentive to bandwidth considerations. Remember, simply sending the posting to the service increases network traffic.

* Avoid posting anonymously to the regular hierarchy of Usenet; this is the mostly likely place to alienate readers. The alt hierarchy is preferred.

* Give as much information as possible in the posting (that is, references and so on). Remember that content is the only means by which readers can judge the truth of the message and that any inaccuracies will tend to discredit the entire message and even future ones under the same handle.

* Be careful not to include information that will reveal your identity or enable someone to deduce it. Test the system by sending anonymous mail to yourself.

* Be aware of the policies of the anonymous site and respect them.

* Be prepared to forfeit your anonymity if you abuse the privilege.

* Make sure you can trust the system operator.

* Be considerate and respectful of other's objections to anonymity.

* "Hit-and-run" anonymity should be used with utmost reservation. Use services that provide anonymous return addresses instead.

* Be courteous to system operators, who may have invested large amounts of time, be personally risking their accounts, or dedicating their hardware, all for your convenience.

Responsibilities of those who read anonymous postings:

* Do not complain, attack, or discredit posters for the sole reason that they are posting anonymously, make blanket condemnations that equate anonymity with cowardice and criminality, or assail anonymous traffic in general for mostly neutral reasons (for example, its volume is heavy or increasing).

* React to the anonymous information unemotionally. Abusive posters will be encouraged further if they get irrationally irate responses. Sometimes the most effective response is silence.

* Notify operators if severe abuses occur, such as piracy, harassment, extortion, and so on.

* Do not complain about postings being inappropriate because they offend you personally.

* Use kill files to screen anonymous postings if you object to the idea of anonymity itself.

* Avoid the temptation to proclaim that all anonymous postings should be barred from particular groups because no possible or conceivable need exists.

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