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Is It A Good Idea For Governments To Make Real Names Mandatory On Twitter?

During yesterday’s meeting between representatives from Twitter, Facebook and RIM and the UK government, it was quickly decided (to many people’s relief) that blocking social media during a time of crisis would be a bad idea.

However, there apparently was talk of making it compulsory for Twitter users to use their real names when signing up for the service, instead of pseudonyms or partial names.

Is this something that could help quell future violence, or does it step too far across the line of privacy online?

In an article in the New York Times on Thursday, it was revealed that part of the discussion between the social network reps and the UK government centered around enabling law enforcement to more easily access information.

A senior police officer present at the meeting explained that they discussed how much cooperation they could foster between social networks and law enforcement:

“Mr. Scobbie said the group had discussed how far the networks might be willing to bend privacy rules to assist the police in pursuing online criminal activity. Twitter, he said, giving an example, could consider compelling people to use their real names instead of anonymous handles.”

Of course, this was likely just one bullet point brought up at the one-hour long meeting, but it raises interesting questions of both privacy and feasibility.

If Twitter were to require real names from everyone signing up for their service, would this deter those concerned about their privacy from signing up? And what about those who are already part of the network, tweeting under a pseudonym?

There are also questions of just how Twitter could verify that people were using their real names. Perhaps attach them to a phone number, or address? But this too, would raise even more privacy questions.

Plus, if implemented, this would kill a big part of what makes Twitter great fun: the parody accounts.

What do you think? Is it a good idea for the security of a country to require that Twitter users be transparent about who they are? Or does this go too far? Let us know in the comments!

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