Trolls: People who post deliberately provocative, nasty, or antagonising messages or comments to newsgroups, message boards, or social channels with the intention of causing varying degrees of trouble, usually under anonymity.

Anyone can create a profile to a message board or social channel with nothing more than an email address. And there is no shortage of utilities that allow users to create or use disposable burner email addresses that effectively circumvent any need to provide ID at all. In summary, any random can have access to any social or community portal without ever leaving a trace of who they really are. This is fine when the portals are used as intended, but more and more, they are used for the purpose of causing pain and damage without fear of retaliation or punishment.

But what if we had degrees of memberships that indicated whether our identity had been validated or not, and then allow users to select which types of members they are comfortable engaging with?

Currently when an account is activated for Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, etc, and if the user is a person of note or public significance, they receive a verification badge to confirm the authenticity of the profile. A similar concept could be used to determine the above concept; to identify which users have had their identity verified and those that have not.

The purpose of doing so would allow users to choose who they are prepared to engage with on any said channel; those with identities or those who remain anonymous.

Consider this:

A user decides to create a profile for a social media account. When signing up, they are asked if they wish to validate their identity. They can choose to validate or remain anonymous.

If they choose to have their identity validated, they are then provided with the option of who they can restrict from engaging with them. They can choose to allow all profiles to engage with them, or just the profiles that have also been through the identification validation process, effectively blocking all unidentified users.

If a user signs up and chooses not to verify their identity, they would only be able to engage with other unidentified users. They could engage with identified users but only if the identified user had indicated so in their own profile.

The purpose of this exercise is to give users the choice of if they wish to be exposed to anonymous, unaccountable users or not. This way a user can participate in the social media community but be a little safer knowing that if they are threatened or abused, those doing the threatening or abusing can be reached via legal intervention.

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The option of “just turning it off” really isn’t an option for a lot of users. Businesses that rely on publicity and community interaction rely on social media to stay in business, and additionally, it serves as a connection tool for those who may find it difficult to connect with people in the real world.

The reality is that social media providers don’t want to force identity requirements onto users because this may be a barrier to joining – money is made through advertising, advertising needs eyes, and any set of eyes will do.

At least this way the user can choose who it is they are exposed to and take some assurance in knowing that if they are trolled, that the troll can be exposed.