Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley has pledged to force social media users to publicly show their real names if elected.
In an interview with Fox News on Tuesday, the former South Carolina governor claimed that online anonymity is a “threat to national security” and that her policy would “get rid of” foreign bot armies.
The proposal drew immediate backlash from Republican opponents such as Vivek Ramaswamy, who called it “disgusting,” and Ron DeSandis, whose top PR aide Christina Pushaw questioned whether it would violate the US constitution.
“Every person on social media should be verified by name,” said Ms. Haley, who is seeking the GOP presidential nomination next year.
“First of all, it's a national security threat. When you do that, suddenly people have to stand by what they say. And they get rid of the Russian bots, the Iranian bots, and the Chinese bots.
“That's when you get a little kindness — when people know their name is next to what they're saying and they know their pastor and their family members will see it.
“It will help our children and it will help our country.”
Ms. Haley, who was previously the United States' ambassador to the United Nations, said the policy would be among her first actions as president, though she did not explain how she would go about implementing it with the powers at her disposal. .
The debate over the value of online anonymity stretches back to the early days of the Internet. Figures across the political spectrum have repeatedly suggested that forcing social media users to put their real names next to their words would make the web safer and more civilized.
But academic research doesn't support this notion, with a 2016 meta-analysis finding that anonymity was actually linked to greater compliance with group rules and norms.
A similar policy in South Korea between 2008 and 2012 does not appear to have reduced online incivility or the promotion of conspiracy theories in the long term, although it preceded a massive cyber attack in which the personal information of 35 million users was stolen.
Verifying users' identities is also a difficult task, often requiring companies to collect scans of identity documents such as passports, thereby increasing the risk of cybercrime.
Haley is currently in third place for the 2024 Republican nomination, according to an average of polls from FiveThirtyEightlagging behind Donald Trump and Ron DeSandis with about 9 percent of the vote.