Janous asked me to talk about anonymity. I have talked about that before, but not recently. In the earlier days of the internet, it often seemed to be a place of infinite freedom. These days the internet is more often seen as a source of misinformation and hatred. A very old observation about the internet is that anonymity plus an audience can lead to bad online behavior. But would removing anonymity lead to a better internet?
It might not come as a shock to you that Tobold isn't the name that is printed on my passport. So to some degree, I chose anonymity on the internet. Why? I happened to be at university in the late 80's and early 90's, so I had access to the internet relatively early. And I was already discussing games on Usenet. But I was also studying to become a scientist, and had my first scientific publications. And when I tried to find my scientific "footprint" on the internet, it turned out that by having used my name for both gaming posts and scientific posts, a search would mostly turn up the game stuff, simply because games interest more people than deep science. That was obviously a bad move for a scientific career. So I adopted the name of my first AD&D character, Tobold, as my internet pseudonym. And kept my real name "clean" for anybody who was searching for my patents or scientific publications. Anonymity / pseudonymity has a clear use case for me.
I used to joke that the internet would be a much nicer place if everybody's posts would be automatically forwarded to his mother. Parents and other people in your social environment tend to be the guardians of your polite behavior. On the other hand, knowing your real identity also allows strangers to attack you in the real world, and do more harm to you than they can if they would be just limited to using words online. "Doxxing", finding out and publicizing real world information about people, has become a method of attacking somebody online.
Having said that, the internet as a whole has moved somewhat away from total anonymity. It has been replaced by something which isn't unlike my pseudonym Tobold identity: The influencer identity. Because we have moved away from text towards more video and streaming, hiding your face, which is part of your real identity, has become more difficult. I know a few gaming streamers that never show their face. But showing your face and carefully selected pieces of your life increases your audiences trust in you, which is key if you want to exploit that parasocial relationship for money, personal gain, or political influence. Everybody can publish whatever on social media, the problem today is getting heard over the cacophony, and that requires an audience that trusts you. Even one of the most hateful platforms on the internet, Twitter, frequently has people using their own name; and before they messed it up, your influence on Twitter went up with a verified identity blue checkmark. It turns out that you don't need anonymity to spew hate on the internet, as long as posting a lie or even death threat on Twitter under your real name still hasn't any real-world consequences.
Consequences of online behavior would obviously be the way to improve online behavior. Unfortunately we are in a very bad situation here: Law enforcement isn't doing much about online slander, libel, misinformation, or even threats. On the other side, an army of online vigilantes can go after anybody more prominent and dig up "compromising" information online, like a photo of the target having worn blackface for Halloween or a school play several decades ago. These days your life might get ruined for something which clearly isn't illegal (and was even socially acceptable at the time you did it), while others get away with illegal behavior. It just depends who is after you, and how motivated they are about it.
Consequences for online behavior by law enforcement would mean the state monitoring everybody online, with all the negative consequences that a "social credit" system like the one in China could have. And humanity has some history with governments punishing people for what they think or what they are, and all these histories also involve regular people informing and denouncing others. I could imagine the internet getting much worse, if we raised the stakes and made it easier for people that actually hurt others whose opinions they disagree with.
In summary, I don't think removing anonymity online would still achieve very much in this world. There is less and less connection between bad online behavior and anonymity: Your real name is basically anonymous, because in a global context so few people out of so many actual know the real you. Much disinformation comes from influencers that aren't anonymous, with which you have a parasocial relationship, in which you think you know them, and trust them. And unless you use really sophisticated tools, finding out your real identity from your online profile doesn't pose much of a challenge to anyone motivated enough to want to harm you in real life. Finding out *my* real name is as easy as using the "buy Tobold a coffee" button on my blog, although that also tells me *your* real name, as PayPal is using real names for personal accounts. Please note that finding out my real name with the purpose of getting me fired for the opinions I posted online won't work, as I am already retired. We are still a few decades away from your pension depending on your social score.