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COMPUTING

From...
Computerworld

Scientists back anonymous Web messaging

July 5, 1999
Web posted at: 10:40 a.m. EDT (1440 GMT)

by Patrick Thibodeau

(IDG) -- The benefits of anonymous online communications outweigh its potential harms, and government regulations that prevent people from hiding their identity could impede the development of the Web, so concludes a study released last week by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"There are many occasions in which anonymity is a perfectly acceptable and, in fact, morally responsible form of behavior, and the protection of anonymity is a moral requirement," said Rachelle Hollander, director of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Societal Dimensions of Engineering, Science and Technology Program, which funded the project.

Anonymity allows people to engage in political and human rights advocacy, whistle-blowing and reporting abuse, among other things. But the report also acknowledged that anonymity can help protect child pornographers and purveyors of online financial fraud.

The report recommended allowing online communities to set their own policies on anonymous communications and informing users about the extent to which their identity is disclosed online.

Information about the NSF's anonymity project is at www.aaas.org/spp/anon.


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