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The belief that a free and open Internet enables people to accomplish great things together is at the core of projects like Wikipedia, open source software, and online political activism. The term “peer production” has been used for years to describe a new kind of collaborative project-—one that is facilitated by the Internet and in which people self-organize to create things they value, whether that’s software, encyclopedias, news, maps, or just about anything else. But research about these projects and how they work generally doesn't take into account the value of anonymous participation.
Moderating user-generated or peer-produced content has challenges and many services (Yelp, Google, Wikipedia, Cloudflare, etc) have turned to third party blacklists, real-name policies, and banning users of anonymity networks like Tor to handle real and perceived abuse issues.
The result of such decisions in aggregate means that the Internet offers uneven opportunities for participation and engagement. It’s easy to imagine anonymous participants as only jerks and trolls, but much harder to quantify the contributions that don’t happen when anonymity is banned or made more difficult.
We interviewed Tor users about their participation in peer production projects and Wikipedia editors about their privacy concerns. In this talk, we will share stories about the contributions of anonymous participants and the chilling effects of limiting anonymity ---topics not edited and people silenced.