27 February 2023 – Bernie Hogan

27 February 2023 – 16:30 – 18:30 (UTC+1)
Faculté ALLSH – Salle de colloques 1 – Bâtiment T1 Pôle multimédia and online conference with Zoom

Dr. Bernie HOGAN (Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford) : “Must everyone know who everyone else is? Pseudonyms, proper names, and local accountability”


Cyberbullying, trolling, fake news, and other ills of the internet age tend steer their concerns towards a desire to reveal the true identity of the perpetrator. Yet, this reaction blinds us to the extensive and myriad times people act in such anti-social manners eponymously (i.e. whilst fully revealing their names and/or faces). I contend that such a will-to-demask is actually a misplaced desire for accountability.

I rearticulate the philosophical concept of proper name as distinct from the given name as a means of governance. I use this concept to assert that a pseudonym is in fact a proper name and thereby redefine governance in terms of who can govern the name rather than who can govern the person the name signifies.

Such an exercise helps us to more effectively articulate one key element of how social media (and indirectly, the state) govern social media users: through the regulation of how strictly (or loosely) pseudonymous identities correspond to a known given name. With examples from Twitter, Facebook, 4chan, Wikipedia, TikTok, and historical examples of pseudonymous practices, I build an argument that what matters less in the case of online ills is the content of the message than the manner in which identities are presented with asymmetric levels of coupling between pseudonyms and given names.