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Nymwar is a slang term that describes controversy around how users identify themselves on various social media platforms and in other technology environments. The basic idea of nymwars is that there is a tug-of-war between users who wish to remain anonymous and parties who demand the use of real names in online or virtual communications.
A nymwar is also known as a pseudonym war.
For several years, tech analysts and others have been following the titanic conflict over the use of nicknames, pseudonyms or other anonymous identifications in venues like chat forums, social media environments and on independent websites. Large tech companies like Google have become deeply involved in these conversations by restricting the use of or editing usernames. In general, there has been a move within some quarters to limit anonymous posting or communications. Some prominent tech personalities have even suggested that users who hide their true identities may lack integrity. At the same time, a vast community of users argue for the right to use altered versions of their names, or to use entirely made-up names online.
In a sense, the nymwars have touched on one of the fundamental rights issues on the Internet. While some believe that anonymous communications cause their own problems within public forums, others feel that the option to remain anonymous allows individuals to say what they really think without worrying about threats from others. In addition, the use of a pseudonym does not necessarily always equate to anonymity; think of the blogger who has used a nickname/pseudonym for a decade. A pseudonymous setup like this is different in that the blogger's reputation is engrained in the name and the motivations are different than the user who sets up a throwaway account on Reddit or Slashdot. However, in addition to this debate, it might be useful to consider how today’s governments and businesses collect information about individuals, and whether an anonymous Internet identity will actually afford users the kind of comprehensive privacy they’re looking for.