Quora imposes restrictions on anonymous users; to pre-screen anon content; stops likes, comments

Quora, the question and answer app that is very popular in certain pockets of population in India and abroad, said has made three crucial changes to its anonymity policy: installing a mandatory screening process, preventing anonymous users from liking and commenting, and removing direct linkage between anonymous content and their authors on the back-end systems.

Quora, a modern version of the once-popular Google Answers and Yahoo Answers, allows people to share their experiences and knowledge anonymously, unlike Facebook, which abhors anonymous posts. It also allows people to ‘pull’ information from others when they are not able to locate it using a normal web search.

Unlike Facebook, Quora does not require the user to submit many details about themselves such as their date of birth, location, sex and so on.

This, along with the anonymity, has made it appealing to those who value privacy online and are not keen to converse online with others while revealing crucial details about themselves.

“Many people have expressed how impactful anonymity has been to their Quora experience.. But, anonymity on Quora is not without its faults. We have also seen the potential for anonymity to be a vector for spam and abuse,” it said.

The first new rule is that all anonymous content will be reviewed for spam and harassment before being approved for posting.

If users feel that the Quora staff approved anonymous content that should not have been approved, users will still be able to report such posts.

Secondly, anonymity will now only be allowed for posting questions or answers, and not for liking or commenting. Other actions that a user will not be able to do while anonymous include upvote, merge questions, suggest edits, send thanks, edit answer wikis, revert edit log operations and send answer requests.

“These features were always the most likely to be vectors for abuse. These actions will now always have a name associated with them. Additionally, anonymous question editing (including question text, details, and topics) will be reserved for the person who asked the question and all other edits to the question will be public,” it said.

Finally, Quora is also removing direct links between anonymous content and its authors from its internal systems. These systems “will no longer connect user accounts with anonymous content they contribute. When we move to the new experience, we will begin removing existing connections in our internal systems,” it said.

This likely means two things. First, governments and law-enforcement agencies may no longer be able to compel Quora to reveal the author of a controversial question or answer. The company could say that it does not keep any authoriship record for anonymous content and therefore cannot divulge the same.

Secondly, and for the above reason, this could mean stricter screening of anonymous content. Since authorship links are presumably not being preserved, Quora may no longer be able to pass on the legal liability for defamatory and other illegal content to the actual user who created or posted it. This will require its staff to be extra vigilant in ensuring that no laws are broken by anonymous posters. Of course, it is not clear whether this will indeed be the case or whether there will still be some last bit of linkage somewhere in the company’s digital lockers that can still be used to identify who created which piece of content.

Removing such linkage will also give rise to some practical problems.

Given that Quora will no longer keep the authorship record, it will be difficult for a user to log in and edit his anonymous question or answer. To get around the problem, Quora will send a one-time email to the author of the anonymous content with a unique URL link that allows anyone who clicks on it to edit the content. If you lose the link, you lose the ability to edit the content, and if you forward the link, you forward the ability to edit the same.