Obviously Cake has opted to allow users to adopt a Nom De Plume rather than use a Real Name when posting. I'm interested in the reasons for and against this that Cake considered and what drove the final decision.
Great question. This was something we thought about a lot.
Some social networks have taken the position that requiring real names reduces the potential for abuse, based on the theory that people are less likely to be jerks if everyone knows who they are. But this assumes that you have the ability to verify that someone is who they say they are, which is surprisingly difficult to do. It also assumes that everyone actually uses (or wants to use) their legal name in public life, which isn't always true.
Real name policies can also have the unintended drawback of silencing people who are more likely to be targets of abuse or harassment online. Women, people of color, and LGBTQ people are frequently targeted online, and are sometimes harassed in person for things they say online. Being required to use their legal names forces them to choose between risking their physical and mental safety or simply being silent, meaning they often choose to be silent. We definitely don't want that.
And then there's the fact that some people just want to be able to talk freely about certain interests online without worrying about what other people (friends, coworkers, etc.) will think of them. If I want to nerd out on Cake about knitting but I'm a little embarrassed because it's not usually considered a very masculine hobby, I should feel free to create an account that's not associated with my real name so that I can talk about knitting to my heart's content.
We realize that, inevitably, there will be people who will abuse anonymity and be jerks, but we're confident that the benefits ultimately outweigh the drawbacks, and we have systems in place to help us deal with abuse if and when it becomes a problem.
Eddie, you've asked an important question we think about a lot. There seems to be a perception among the public that anonymity encourages more mischief but research never seems to back that up. And anecdotally, you and I can probably rattle off names of super trolls from our uncles to leaders of nations.
I also think the world has been shaken by what Facebook has been able to do by requiring your true identity. They buy all kinds of offline data about you with the idea that they can deliver better ads for you, but we've been learning how that can be used by Russian troll farms in pretty bad ways.
We're also aware of a lot of common and important use cases where someone is questioning their religion's involvement in politics, contemplating suicide, or battling depression and are afraid of their employer finding out.
We were encouraged that Instagram remained a fairly happy place even though they permit a Nom De Plume and change it as they wish.
Interesting thread. I still have friends and customers that met me via ADV that call me by my handle versus my real name that they know me for. My very 1st rebellious action when I signed up with FB was to use the name Barq Pharts. I still really like that alias and if I ever finish this fiction book I am writing that will be my Ghost name. To take this down a potentially dark corridor, in my 20's and 30's, if I ever met a stripper named Jane, I would be suspect. I think an alias adds personality to any given online character.
I was talking to my brother the other day about the Rosie scandal and other celebs who seem to have lost self-control. He suggested that nobody should post in public with their real name, as a matter of personal habit.