Robert Wong’s Dilemma: Activism, Anonymity, And Google+

Using a person’s real identity is a powerful way to curb hate speech online. It’s also a danger for political activists. Google is in the unfortunate position of having to choose between the two.

One of the biggest complaints about Google’s social networking platform, Google+, is that it doesn’t allow anonymous speech. This is a problem for some, especially political activists in parts of the world where revealing their identity could lead to arrest and much worse, an issue especially at the forefront today, when social networks have played such an important role in the Arab Spring.


At Fast Company‘s recent Masters of Design event in New York, senior editor Linda Tischler asked Google Labs’ executive creative director how the company was going to address the issue. His answer: “With identity you can ensure some quality,” says Wong. Adding that, “if you want anonymity there will be other tools for that.”

It’s a classic case of “badvocacy”–good intentions that have unintended consequences. What should Google do?

About the author

I'm the executive editor of Fast Company and Co.Design.