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4Chan's 'Moot': Zuckerberg's Single Identity Is 'Totally Wrong'

Christopher 'moot' PooleChristopher 'Moot' Poole, founder of 4chan and Canv.as, spoke at SXSW's Sunday keynote, and explored privacy, creativity and the importance of anonymity online. With persistent identities (often tied to our real names) from sites like Facebook, Twitter and Disqus tracking our actions across the Internet, Poole compared the loss of anonymity online to a loss of youth -- a time for experimentation. He noted, "The cost of failure is really high when you're contributing as yourself," an increasingly common situation as Facebook and commenting accounts tied to your identity spread. HR departments, college admissions and countless other professional organizations dig into your online activities and profiles, and most people are still coming to terms with just what it means to live online. Just take the example of journalist Nils Rosen and the fallout from his insensitive tweets about Lara Logan's sexual assault in Egypt. An offhand comment with few repercussions in the pre-digital era can now become a career-altering disaster in the Twitter age.

But Poole contends that the loss of anonymity isn't just about increasingly living in public and archived for eternity. He found that 4chan's anonymity and lack of archiving actually fuel creativity and experimentation; it's been a consistent force in creating new memes exactly because the system makes it so simple to ignore the failures. Where Zuckerberg contends real identity is the best path to authenticity, Poole argues "anonymity is authenticity."

Where most message boards and commenting systems often heavily favor personalities, 4chan's rules and structure reward what's being created, not the creator. If you make an awful rage face comic, it quickly dies in the stream but won't affect your online cred. If, instead, your face and real name were tied to a poorly done business cat image, you'd be less willing to quickly riff on the developing jokes. Interestingly, Poole's latest image-sharing and collaborative creation project, Canv.as, requires Facebook authentication, which he says cuts down on trolling and spamming even though users' identities aren't surfaced on the site. Sure, single, 'real world' identities have been extremely effective in cleaning up some common commenting issues, but with Facebook gaining support for its comment platform out across the Web, it's well worth considering a community's creativity and the value of anonymous comments and multiple identities.

Part 1 of 3 is embedded below:

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