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What Is an Anonymous Forum?

An online message board that allows users to make comments without providing personal information is referred to as an anonymous forum.
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  • Written By: Jeremy Laukkonen
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 14 September 2014
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An anonymous forum is a type of Internet message board where users are able to participate in some capacity without providing personal information. The purpose of an anonymous forum is to remove biases that can form in other types of discussions, since each statement must be examined on its own merits without any knowledge about the person who made it. There are several different types of anonymous forums, ranging from truly anonymous to pseudo-anonymous. A truly anonymous forum does not require registration to use and provides users with no way to differentiate between each other. Many standard forums that have user registration also allow anonymous posting, though internet protocol (IP) addresses and other information is sometimes accessible by moderators or administration staff.

Online forums are places where people can come together and discuss a wide variety of topics. Some forums are highly focused on a single topic of interest, while others are broader in nature. Most online forums require potential users to register before they are able to participate in the discussion, and it is sometimes necessary to include a working email address or other personal information. Communities are often built around these forums, and long-standing members often become friendly with each other and may obtain a great deal of influence over discussions.

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Other forums either have optional registration or no registration at all. One of the main arguments for not requiring registration is that it makes it easier for people to post on the forum. A visitor to a forum may have a valuable opinion to share but lack the time or desire to register an account. Forums with optional registration often let visitors post as anonymous guests to remove this barrier. This low barrier to posting also has potential drawbacks because it may facilitate or encourage inflammatory or disruptive posting.

Another potential benefit of the anonymous forum is in the quality of the discussions that take place. The argument is that since each post is anonymous, it will need to be considered individually on its merits. Instead of judging arguments and statements based on the person making them, the facts must be considered logically. This can also allow a new user to participate in a discussion at the same level as an established one. The drawback here is that there is no real accountability on an anonymous forum because each user is free to make virtually any statement without fear of future repercussions.

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anon347563
Post 23

I see this forum can be pretty anonymous, but required javascript has very little to do with anonymity.

anon345004
Post 22

I always disliked being an object of attention, even before I realized the danger of such attention in Soviet Russia. This danger, I am sure, only deepened this feature of mine, for better or worse. Nevertheless, I have my personal opinions on things and want to express them, but do not enjoy arguments.

To my dismay, every forum I have seen so far demanded my e-mail before I can post, so I never did. I just learned that there are anonymous forums. I realize that people may use such for various reasons. But for such an oyster like me, this is the only comfortable way to partake in a discussion.

hugswhitman
Post 18

An anonymous forum means, in my own point of view, that the contributor doesn't want to be recognized or known to anyone. They want to hide their identity for safety and for private reasons.

anon271663
Post 15

I think why a lot of people want to be able to post anonymously is because they are afraid their bosses or the 'powers that be' in their job or life, will frown upon their expressions.

ceilingcat
Post 13

@indemnifyme - I could see someone wanting to remain totally anonymous on something like an Overeaters Anonymous forum too. I personally participate in a few different forums with a varying degree of anonymity.

I'm on one forum where I use my real first and middle name as my handle. I also use a real picture of myself for my avatar. However, on another forum I use a fake name for my handle and don't post pictures. I have met a few people from that forum in real life though.

I think everyone really has to use their own judgement about forum anonymity.

indemnifyme
Post 12

@SZapper - I see your point. But I also see why someone wouldn't even want their posts associated together. I feel like a lot of people accidentally reveal details over time that would make it easy to identify them if you know which posts are theirs.

Some people on certain forums might not want their identity revealed. An Alcoholics Anonymous forum is a good example of this kind of forum. People need to be free to seek help without fear of judgement from people in their "real life." If they even have a small doubt about the security of their identity I could see them not posting as freely.

SZapper
Post 11

I think the comment section on articles on this website is a good example of an anonymous ideas forum. Users can register if they have time or simply post anonymously if they want.

I personally don't think there's any problem with requiring people to register. I think it adds a bit more accountability. Even if you don't use your real name all of your posts become associated with your user name. You can end up with a good or bad reputation this way.

But when a forum is totally anonymous you don't even know which posts are from the same user. I don't like that!

lighth0se33
Post 10

Even though everyone has to create a username for the sites that I post on, they feel anonymous, because the username has no resemblance to my real name. The only thing that people have to associate with me is my previous comments, and they have no idea who I really am.

I don't have a problem with people on there knowing my chosen identity. If they like my previous comments and think I give good advice, great. If not, then they are free to skip over my new posts.

Sure, if my full name appeared next to every comment, I would think twice about revealing personal details like health issues. However, no one there will ever know my name, so to me, it is an anonymous forum.

LisaLou
Post 9

@andee - I agree that forums can be a very helpful place. I have found answers to many questions just by browsing forum sites.

I must admit, I am not a registered user of most of them, but read through them looking for a specific answer to a question.

Most of the time I will post anonymously just because I don't spend a lot of time in one particular forum.

What I have seen from time to time is some anonymous users will make posts just to instigate or stir up trouble on some forums.

Because of the nature of the web, being anonymous will always be an option, and I know that makes the job of a lot of moderators and administrators much harder.

andee
Post 8

I am a registered user of many forums and have found them to be a very helpful source of information.

I think that by registering and providing an email address and user name there is more accountability involved.

I have found that on most forums, those who actively and regularly participate are registered users. There is quite a sense of community that develops over time.

When I interact with those registered users I feel like I can trust them even though I have never met them personally.

If someone posts anonymously, I am more cautious because I have never interacted with them before, and sometimes wonder what their true motives are.

sunshined
Post 7

@myharley - I think it depends on the subject matter of the forum whether or not people feel comfortable posting anonymous or as a registered user.

There are many sensitive or uncomfortable issues that people are seeking information about. An anonymous forum is a source they can use to find out that other people are going through the same thing.

These forums may also give them a place to have questions answered that they would be uncomfortable asking otherwise.

Having the option of staying anonymous on the web is not always a negative thing. What makes it frustrating is those who use this opportunity to post comments that are judgmental, derogatory or spam.

myharley
Post 6

I have mixed feelings about an anonymous forum. There have been many times when I have visited a forum and wanted to add to the discussion, but was not yet a registered member.

If I was short on time, I would just sign off and tell myself I would register later. This didn't usually happen as I found myself busy with other things.

I do understand the advantages of sometimes being anonymous when online, but think many people prefer to read posts from those they are familiar with.

chivebasil
Post 5

Cyber bullying has been a big issue recently and I think that the anonymity of the internet only makes the problem worse. When people can say things and claim to be speaking the truth without ever revealing their identity it just encourages dishonesty. It also allows people to act in really mean and nasty ways that they would never have the courage to act in if their identity was known.

My daughter was the victim of cyber bullying for almost two years. It was heartbreaking for her. People would say the meanest things about her online, things that were completely untrue. It would get said online and then passed around the school like it was real. Most of the time she had no idea whw was being so mean to her. They just hid behind the wall of the internet like cowards.

nextcorrea
Post 4

I participate in an anonymous forum where people can discuss certain sensitive medical issues. I will spare you the details but suffice it to say that these conditions can be very embarrassing for those who suffer from them.

The anonymous aspect is great because you can share the details of your experience without feeling like you will be judged or shamed by being recognized. It produces a new sense of honesty and openness. And in a forum like this where people are not being confrontational or discussing contentious issues I think the anonymous feature is appropriate.

bear78
Post 3

Anonymity might not be necessary for all forums, but I do think that it's necessary for some.

Have you ever seen forums where people talk about health problems or addictions? Registration is required in most of these sites but when people post, they always say "SWIM" (Someone Who Isn't Me) or "a friend" when they talk about these issues. And people who respond to them generally say something along the lines of "a friend huh? yea right!"

I think in these kinds of forums where the issue is really sensitive and people don't want to confess some of their personal problems so openly, it would be much better to use an anonymity forum. I'm sure the forum members would feel much better and safer this way.

What do you think?

burcidi
Post 2

@turkay1-- I am an administrator for an online forum that used to be an anonymous website. We used to let visitors make comments and join discussions without any kind of a registration process. Of course, the number of participants and comments we received were very high. But surprisingly, this did not prevent people from insulting each other, using foul language or from spamming our forum.

It actually made it easier for people to do these things because we let the comments appear without an approval from our side and we did not ask for any personal information. You have no idea how much time I would spend each day going through and sifting out the inappropriate comments.

Even though an anonymous website makes things easier for people, it also makes it easier for users like you to be insulted, harassed or simply annoyed through spam messages. We have switched back to a registration only system right now and both the administrators and our regular users are much happier.

We've also tried to make the registration system as efficient and easy as possible so that it wouldn't prevent people from participating in our forum.

candyquilt
Post 1

I like free and anonymous forums. Not because I want to hide my personality but because I hate the registration process that comes with each forum as the article also mentioned.

There are so many forums out there right now and most of them specialize on only one issue or subject. I stroll in an out of numerous forums while looking for an answer for a problem I have and sometimes I want to pitch in to the discussion, share my opinion or ask a question.

But having to go through a whole registration process which actually takes longer than one would expect, is such a turn off. Most of the time, I change my mind and just move on.

The great part about anonymous forums is that it saves me time and gives me the opportunity to be part of the discussion much more easily.

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