At the Tagesspiegel we also discussed for a long time whether a real name requirement in the comment columns would lead to more objectivity and less hate speech and personal attacks. And if so, how could that be implemented? The Postident procedure, in which Deutsche Post AG checks the identity of the applicant and forwards it to the provider of a discussion platform, would be reliable but time-consuming.

That would be a conceivable scenario, but the public should not be allowed to know the real name. Discussing with real names can be problematic, especially in political discussions. Ad hominem attacks, starting from forists with real names, have long been common practice, so the addressee of such abuse does not have to be deciphered.

Real names make it easy for criminals to intimidate their victims

It is also known that discussions on the Internet can spill over into analogue life. A Tagesspiegel forist who writes comments under a pseudonym also reported to us about such a case a long time ago. Based on his comments and the personal information contained therein, haters are said to have located the person and their place of residence and smeared slogans on the apartment door.

Such cases make it clear what criminal energy can be unleashed by a real name requirement. It is made too easy for the perpetrators to decode, intimidate and silence people – which is usually the aim of this type of attack. Users of relevant hate platforms already did this successfully two decades ago.

A clear name obligation hits the wrong people

Discrediting or threatening dissenters in the digital world has been part of everyday life, not just since today, when critics of corona measures are put on an equal footing with conspiracy theorists or opponents of arms deliveries to Ukraine are reviled as Kremlin propagandists. You should also be clear about whether the employer needs to know the political opinions of his employees or whether the application will even stand up to a Google check.

Taking action against Internet trolls, hate preachers and stalkers should be the aim and task of law enforcement. Using the IP address, it is possible to locate perpetrators and initiate criminal proceedings. With a real name requirement, on the other hand, you risk producing even more victims.

If there is a real name requirement, it must be sufficient for the provider of a platform to know it. However, the discussants should be allowed to write publicly with a pseudonym in order to be able to protect themselves and possibly their families from attacks in digital as well as in real life.