Usually I’d steer well clear of any movie starring Jim Carrey as I’m more of a film noir type girl. But given that the theme of the YIGF project this year is anonymity I thought ‘The Mask’ would be particularly appropriate viewing.
For those of you who haven’t seen the film, I’ll provide a short synopsis. An introverted bank clerk finds a mask depicting Loki, Norse God of tricks and deception, and he puts it on. His wild and crazy inner persona is let loose and he runs rampage around the city. Hilarity ensues.
There seems to me to be a parallel between the film and the theme of our workshop this year, the title of which is Online anonymity, Freedom of expression and Internet Governance. I’ll be chairing the workshop aided by Mathew and Jack as co-chairs. Micaiah and Jaydene will be participating as youth panellists but will also be introducing our global survey.
The first area of discussion will be centred on the benefits of anonymity, where we hope to gain an insight from other young people, as well as ourselves, about how anonymity positively affects them. In ‘The Mask’ Carrey’s character covers his face, hiding his identity and thus is able to freely express himself, shirking the restraints that society usually imposes on him. Similarly, anonymity can be beneficial as it allows people to interact, become involved and voice their opinions when they may not usually be able to do so. Later in the workshop we’ll be discussing the relationship between anonymity and freedom of expression and we’re delighted that Marianne Franklin will be joining us as one of our panellists to talk about how anonymity aids the work of human rights activists.
However, the effects of anonymity are not always positive. In the UK there’s an increase in cases of anonymous abuse on social networking sites that often end tragically for the victims. It seems that the feeling of anonymity, of assuming a mask and concealing identity, causes behavioural changes in people. In the second section of our discussion we’ll be asking questions about the challenges anonymity poses, not only in relation to young people but also in relation to Internet Service Providers. We’ll be joined by representatives from Facebook and ICANN who will share how anonymity impacts their services. When The Mask is worn by the film’s ‘bad guy’ the results are far more sinister and destructive. In the final part of our discussion we’ll be talking directly to industry representatives in order to discover how the problems anonymity poses to IG can be resolved.
We've tried as far as possible to make our workshop reflect the multi-stakeholder nature of the IGF. As mentioned we’ll hear from human rights activists and ISP representatives as well as young people from Hong Kong and Europe. We think it’s critical that the issue of anonymity is discussed in this way. The internet forms an integral part of my life as it does for many other young people. Thus it’s important that the voice of youth is heard in discussions surrounding policy and IG so that we can give our perspective as users of the services in question and as prospective policy-makers ourselves.
At the end of the workshop we’ll open the discussion out to the audience and we hope to hear relevant and interesting feedback about the issues raised. I personally am really looking forward to chairing the discussion and exploring various perspectives on anonymity, as it pertains to everyone who uses the internet and communicates through it. As is said in the film “We all wear masks... metaphorically speaking,” and although we don’t all alter or hide our identities online, the majority of people come into contact with anonymity in one of its forms at some point. Thus it’s relevant to discuss how it affects people, the benefits it has and how we can all work to combat the challenges it poses.
Hi, I'm Nicola and I am 17 years old and from Edinburgh.
I have been part of the Youth IGF Project team since 2011 and I am looking forward to attending the Internet Governance Forum in Bali and chairing our workshop on anonymity on the internet.