As some of you in the World of Warcraft community may know, Blizzard has contracted a case of the stupid.
In short, they have decided that the best solution to the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory
is to remove the anonymity factor by forcing people who post to the forums to use their RL names.
I do not have to tell anyone on my flist that this is an outrageously bad idea. I get what Blizzard is thinking, assuming that the only reason people are rude is that they can hide being being Iceburn Elfpants rather than the world knowing their true name. Unfortunately that's not how it works at all.
Someone on the sf_drama
(locked, but open membership) commenetd
that WoW's general forum is basically '4chan lite'. I'm not a patron of the game myself, but I've heard a lot of stories about people being harassed, particularly women and queer persons. This is how bad it is without people trying that name back to an identity, and if real names are known it's just going to get worse. If someone posts on the forum everyone will know their name--but nobody will know the name of the person who simply lurked in the thread, gathered their name, and proceeded to stalk their Facebook and other internet gathering places. A tremendous amount of information about a person gathers on the internet, especially if your name is particularly unique--I've googled my own and found my Facebook, my school, my hometown, and gleaned the fact that I have bipolar disorder from a four year old newsletter. It's actually a bit creepy. And that's just google, not anything more in-depth like the White Pages or background check sites. If you get a person's real name you can know everything about Iceburn Elfpants and, for jollies, you can make their life hell.This has already happened, by the way.
Mr. Whipple is lucky nobody showed up at his house with a smug grin and a paintball gun, or that the good lads and lasses from /b/ didn't start ordering septic tanks delivered to his house.
As a F_W commenter pointed out, being known on the internet hasn't stopped people from being assholes. What it will do is help that assholes know exactly where that woman they're lusting after lives, and if they're not afraid to stalk her in-game and send sexually harassing messages to her there's a good chance they're not afraid to come after ones who live near them or post on her Facebook. It will also let employers, schools, clubs, etc. know exactly what that person does with their day, and I doubt playing one of the most addictive MMORPGs ever will make someone pick you over a less gamerish candidate. Abusive exes and other RL harassers will be able to find someone in a place they go to relax, and for people already boxed in that's a huge deal.
That's not even mentioning the fact that there's little way of punishing anyone for harassment other than the ways WoW already does (banning, etc). If a guy in Borginia harasses a chick in Zheng Fa, who should she call? The governments aren't going to interfere in each others' affairs over a simple matter like internet stalking. Even within the US legislation against 'cyberbullying' is scarce and light due to a deep misunderstanding of how it works. I believe we're all familiar with the Facebook suicide
case, in which the culprit was acquitted despite the fact that she obviously committed a horrible act. It was not the first time, it was not the last time.
In a lot of folkloric traditions, knowing an entity or person's true name gives you power over them. On the internet it's halfway to true, and implementing this policy is going to hurt someone. This is exactly why I need to go out, get my masters and doctorate, and start doing research into psychology in social media...so I can get hired and tell people that stuff like this IS A REALLY BAD IDEA.