In the real world identity is made up of many separate parts including appearance, voice, personality and more. However on the internet those identifying factors do not translate. Therefore it is very hard to pin an identity to someone on the internet if an individual does not know much about a specific user. On the web, users create their own identity by producing usernames, avatars, and the like. These identities, since created by the user, can be extremely misleading. Sometimes identity is not even a factor.
On some websites like 4chan identity is not needed to create content. Users simply upload images, create posts as anonymous users. Both systems can cause some form of harm or good action.
Since the dawn of "cyberspace" a new form of social interaction has been created wherein personal identification is not necessarily needed. The implications of this are very interesting to see because without personal identity the consequences of any social action are voided.1
In the case of sites that use some form of identity (I.E. Username or Avatar) users can be given consequences for unnecessary behavior. These consequences are tied to an online identity and can be manifested in the form of chastisement, or blocks. However these penalties can be combated by creating new identities, and continuing unacceptable behavior. This is a bit of a hassle for the heckler in this instance and often numerous penalties on different accounts could lead to a ban of a certain IP address which would mean the likely permanent ban of a specific user. This would inevitably tie a permanent, unchangeable identity to an online user and is the endgame of many online sites.
In the case of 4chan and many other sites that do not require any form of online identity, much more debauchery is seen. Any form or thought of consequence is taken out of the equation and many users take the opportunity to create undesirable and sometimes offensive material.
Many people understand the need for identification on the web, and some governments are calling for some form of distinctiveness. Some countries like Australia have employed citizen cards that create an online identity that can be used at many points, but the system is less then satisfactory.
What is needed and what is being called for is a system of identification that spans the entire web. This online ID would be specific to everyone, and openly available to anyone who asked for it. In the real world this identity could be concealed and kept private or openly broadcasted. Someone identity in the real world which is made up of voice, appearance, and personality would translate to a universal username, or code on the internet. This would make identification much easier but comes with its flaws.
A large debate on the web currently is privacy. The introduction of a system comparable to this would mean that a lot of privacy currently enjoyed today would not carry over. This could be seen as a detriment to the system because many users enjoy that privacy and anonymity.
1.Brey, P. (n.d.). Evaluating the social and cultural implications of the internet . Informally published manuscript, Philosophy, University of Twente, Twente, Netherlands. Retrieved from http://ethicsandtechnology.eu/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/a1-brey.pdf