You could say it's a concept most of us have long suspected, that is - anonymity breeds contempt.
"People who hide their identity, especially on-line of course, their commenting tends to be more rude, uncivil than those who are non-anonymous," said Arthur Santana, a professor of Communication at the University of Houston.
Through his detailed research Arthur Santana has actually quantified the degree of incivility sparked by a cloaked identity. By gauging the on-line comments found in dozens of American newspaper websites Santana found more than half of those who responded anonymously (53%) used hateful, vulgar racist and even threatening language.
"On-line or even off-line when peoples identity is hidden they become sort of different people. When our identity is not in tact our idea of the consequences are sort of nonexistent," said Santana.
A long time journalist, Santana calls this phenomenon" the on-line disinhibition effect." When posters chose to identify themselves the level of rude communication plummeted by nearly half.
It appears to be a slam-dunk indicator that people who take ownership of their words choose them far more carefully, resulting in a superior level of discourse for websites who force responders to relinquish their shield.
"The quality of the dialogue is much, much higher. People are engaging. They are interacting in fewer numbers, but with a higher quality," said Santana.
Santana hopes his research will help those who operate news websites to better contend with the choice of allowing popular anonymous posting or mandatory identification.