Internet Anonymity Both Aid and Foil for Democracy

BY Lea Winerman  June 9, 2010 at 11:58 AM EST

Does the Internet facilitate a productive exchange of ideas, making people better informed and therefore better citizens?

Or does the unchecked nature of what information can be shared and spread on the internet actually threaten democracy?

That was the focus of the recent Miller Center National Debate, which took place in Washington, D.C.

Arguing that the Internet doesn’t threaten the health of a democracy were Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Micah Sifry, founder of the Personal Democracy Forum. Their debate opponents were Farhad Manjoo, columnist for Slate magazine and author of the book ‘True Enough: Living in a Post-Fact World,’ and Andrew Keen, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and author of ‘The Cult of the Amateur.’ NewsHour Economics Correspondent Paul Solman moderated the debate.

In this excerpt, panelists discuss how civility in public discourse has been affected by the anonymity of the Internet: