Quora Top Writer Vanishes, Raises Questions of Broken Real-Name Policy

Shortly after she complained of alleged stalking on Quora, former Top Writer Alia Caldwell vanished, taking all of her contributions with her.

quora top writer

quora top writer

We recently reported on Quora’s growing problem with misogyny. One of the issues contributing to the rise of sexism on Quora may be its real-name policy, as several instances of banned users reappearing to send sexist messages have been reported.

While Quora allows users to ask, answer and comment anonymously, it requires that users sign up using their real names.

In response to the Quora question “Why has there been an outcry against real names on Google+ but not on Quora?” Yishan Wong explains:

Quora is somewhat further along this understanding than Google is (maybe due to its Facebook DNA? Unclear). Answers with real names attached can be reasonable authenticated to a known individual, thus adding value for all parties.  At the same time, selective anonymity makes people comfortable sharing information they wouldn’t otherwise share.  While this information can’t be identified, it still ends up being a net-positive sharing of information.

But authenticating a user’s real name on Quora is apparently not as far along as Wong suggests. Top Writer Alia Caldwell is a case in point.

Writing about sexism on Quora, one user made reference to Calwell’s recent disappearance: “The most shocking was Alia Caldwell’s situation, in which her online stalker actually moved near her and coerced her to leave her hard-worked-for home.”


Shortly after Caldwell allegedly complained of being stalked on Quora, she vanished. Caldwell, now known as “User,” deleted all of her contributions to the site, leaving gaping holes in the site’s content and upsetting many of her friends and fans, who have lost all contact with her.

Caldwell was vigilant about protecting her (persona’s) privacy. One anonymous user posted the following question in October of 2012: Why are people on Quora not obsessed with Alia Caldwell lately?

Additionally, Caldwell’s website aliacaldwell.com, where she’d posted many of her writings and musings, has been wiped. How did a beloved Quoran and Top Writer manage to skirt the real-name policy?

Also strange, Caldwell’s disappearance has remained surprisingly under the radar, considering the buzz that normally surrounds users less popular than her who leave — and sometimes return — to the site.

Quora question: Who is [Alia Caldwell] User?: A great writer, no doubt, but what else? 

top writer

Quora says it takes the real-name policy seriously and that admins closely vet the names of new members. “About 99 percent of the names flagged were done proactively by admins, the remaining one percent were reported by users,” wrote Quora admin John Clover.

“Our process for handling names is not one sided. If their real name is Tony Stark, they only need to respond to the message sent to them saying that’s their name. We might ask them to verify that that is their name by sharing a LinkedIn profile or by linking their Facebook account.”

In response to a question to about user reports of suspicious names on Quora, Top Writer Caroline Zelonka said:

Quite simply, Quora’s real-name policy is indiscriminately applied. I can recall several users — a few of them celebrities — who are not using their legal names to the full knowledge of at least one Quora employee or admin. While I agree with the real-name policy, I do not agree with selective enforcement, so until this is corrected, I am not willing to step up as a vigilante against any and all fake names.

Quora declined to comment on Caldwell’s disappearance and identity. Caldwells’ close friends on the network have not responded to request for comment.