Anonymity online provides a level of protection which many social media users have benefited from, for many reasons. For some it's the freedom to discuss their politics or religion without judgment from family or friends, for many women, it's because they're frightened, and being anonymous online gives them a certain degree of safety.

According to Adam Bienkov, the UK political editor of Business Insider, this anonymity could be under threat. He wrote in a tweet on July 12th, 2017:

Women online experience threats of violence

Being a woman online is notoriously hazardous, especially if you're a politically active woman.

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Threats of violence, rape, even murder, will litter the notifications of female #Twitter users as men lash out against them for having opinions they disagree with. For many, it is easy to ignore, simply block and move on, but there are times these threats pose more than just an annoying interaction and become a genuine concern.

The feminist activist who goes under the pseudonym Jean Hatchet described one such case in her blog "When A Man Stalks A Woman" for Huffington Post:

"In 2012 a man appeared on my Twitter notifications. He was a striking-looking man, and he had a long white beard in his avatar. His face has stayed with me because when I read his tweet, I had to throw my phone far away from me. He informed me that my daughter, who was ten years old at the time, would be raped, many times, by numerous men."

While obviously a horrifying experience in and of its own right, this man progressed from disturbing online abuse to active stalking.

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Jean describes how his threats against her and her daughter would show up on anything she wrote, how he would attempt to reveal her name and address whenever possible, and would encourage others to violently assault her. This man moved from being an unpleasant online encounter to a legitimate real life threat very quickly.

Lack of anonymity could drive women off the internet

I would like to say that the threats against Jean are rare, but they are not, and when The National Center For Victims Of Crime reports that 89% of femicide victims who had been physically assaulted had also been stalked in the 12 months before their murder, this is something we should be taking seriously.

If the banning of anonymous #Accounts comes to pass, many women will just cease to operate online out of fear for their safety. This will mean women lose peer support for mental health conditions, the PND support network on Twitter saves lives. It will cut some women off from their only access to friends and family, isolating them completely.

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For other women, such as myself, we use social media to promote our work, look for new work, and interact with our readers. For those women, it would cut them off from their ability to work and their income.

Preventing women from being anonymous online exposes them to either real threats of violence that all too often come true, or isolates them from humanity, locking them in a high tower of protection from abusive men, rather than tackling the abusive men in the first place.

While I am sure the intention behind this banning is good, likely intended to prevent men from hiding behind the anonymous accounts that often issue these threats of violence in the first place, this would need to accomplish the protection of women. But these threats are rarely taken seriously by authorities, women's cries for help going unheard.

Stalking can lead to murder

On August 25th, 2016, Shana Grice was discovered murdered. She had reported her murderer, Michael Lane, to the police repeatedly for stalking her, and each time nothing had been done. She had been stalked, threatened, abused, and nothing was done to save her, and now, as in so many cases, she is dead by her stalker's hand.

Making the men's accounts not anonymous will not prevent the abuse or stalking, and it will not prevent the deaths. Making the women's accounts not anonymous will, however, put them at further risk of the abuse and stalking in the first place, and in turn, lead to further deaths.

Instead of banning #Anonymous Social Media accounts that can often give people freedom, ban abusers from accessing social media. When evidence of abuse and threats of violence are presented, take it seriously. Prevent these men from accessing the women they wish to destroy. Punish the abuser, not the abused.

Allow women to remain anonymous; it keeps us alive.