Ever get the feeling that you’re arguing with a sock puppet?

If you believe Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and the Senate Intelligence Committee, Facebook has been compromised as a democratic public square by fake accounts intent on distorting reality, sowing discontent among the American people and affecting our electoral process. 

Even worse, many of our fellow Americans hide behind fake accounts so they can display their worst impulses without fear of social or professional repercussion. And even worse than that: sometimes they do it for marketing.

I’d wager that half the content on Facebook is generated by people who are not who they say they are. In that case, the entire medium as a window on reality is useless, ineffective except for matters of propaganda and PR.

But there’s an easy fix: No more anonymous accounts.

In this new era of publishing, we all benefit from First Amendment protections of the sort that publications like Triad City Beat have enjoyed since the Constitution was written. But I remind everyone: The First Amendment protects the speech itself, but not the consequences for the person uttering it; our founders relied on the American people to enforce feedback, which over the years has ranged from actual tar and feathers to figurative ones like social pressure and real-life workplace consequences.

But anonymous trolls bear no such penalties; as such, they haven’t really earned the right to free speech. These rights were granted to actual people, not catfish and sock puppets.

If Facebook were to enforce the same ID requirements as, say, an airline or a bank, they’d be able to remove all but the very best fake accounts, raising the level of dialogue and lowering our collective blood pressure — and, perhaps, in the process restoring the sanctity of our national elections.

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