From the Fantasy to the Reality: Social Media and Real Name Policies

16 Pages Posted: 9 May 2013

See all articles by Lilian Edwards

Lilian Edwards

University of Newcastle - Law School

Date Written: May 8, 2013


This paper surveys the controversial landscape of “real name” policies on social media. While alleged to be desirable to promote social and polite behaviour online as well as accountability, such policies may have less obvious ulterior motivations, and may also have considerable undesirable consequences and threaten political freedom as well as freedom of speech. After a brief history of the tradition of pseudonymity on socuial networks, and an overview of the failure of law to guarantee a right to pseudonymity or alternate remedy,the paper suggests the way forward may lie with creating a truely competitive market in social media via a technical research programme that aims to replace the proprietary “walled garden” approach to social networks with a decentralised, dynamic and non-proprietary approach.

Keywords: social media, real names, pseudonymity, anonymity, data protection, privacy, Facebook, Google Plus

Suggested Citation

Edwards, Lilian, From the Fantasy to the Reality: Social Media and Real Name Policies (May 8, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Lilian Edwards (Contact Author)

University of Newcastle - Law School ( email )

Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU
United Kingdom

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