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  • David Babbs

New opinion poll: 83% of Brits think anonymity makes people ruder online

Updated: Jun 16

Today Clean up the Internet publishes a new report, “Time to take off their masks? How tackling the misuse of anonymity on social media would improve online discourse and reduce abuse and misinformation”.

The report is accompanied by some new opinion polling, conducted by YouGov, which shows that the UK public overwhelmingly believe anonymity makes people ruder online; that social media companies aren’t doing enough to tackle anonymous abuse; and that a majority believe that social media bosses who fail to act to tackle abuse should face criminal charges.

The key findings from the YouGov opinion poll are:

1. Three quarters (76%) of the British public do not believe that social media companies are doing enough to protect users from anonymous abuse

  • This sentiment unites political foes – it cuts across Leavers and Remainers, and across Tories, Lib Dems and Labour voters.

2. More than eight in ten Brits (83%) think the ability to post anonymously makes people ruder online

  • Once again, this cuts across politics, age, gender, region and social class


3. A majority of Brits (52%) believe the bosses of social media companies who do not take enough action to combat abuse should face criminal charges

  • Far more are in support (52%) than opposed (17%) - and support is higher among Conservative voters.

  • Older respondents support criminal charges more than their younger counterparts whilst women are more supportive than men

  • Furthermore, eight in ten (80%) believe social media companies should face large fines whilst a plurality (43%) would even go as far as shutting social media companies down for not doing enough to tackle online abuse

The report sets out how anonymity is exploited on social media for bullying and abuse, and to spread misinformation. It sets out how to tackle harmful misuse of anonymity, whilst protecting legitimate uses of anonymity such as whistle-blowing.

Our key recommendations for restricting misuse of anonymity are:

1. Give every social media user the option to verify their identity

Every social media user should be given the option of a robust, secure means of verifying that the identity they are using on social media is authentic. Users who wish to continue unverified should be free to continue to do so.

2. Give users the option to block interaction with unverified users

Some users will be happy to hear from, and interact with, unverifed users. Others will not. This should be a matter of individual user choice. Every verified social media user should be able to block communication, comments and other interaction from unverified users as a category.

3. Make it easy for everyone to see whether or not a user is verified

The verification status of an individual user should be clearly visible to all other users. Each user should be able to bring their own judgement as to what verification status might say about the credibility and reliability of another user's content.


All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,649 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 23rd - 24th February 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

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