Anonymous comments on blogs such as Beyond the Blackboard are such two-edged swords. I want to do everything possible to provide folks a safe place to share thoughts and feelings – and yes, just to vent sometimes – but repeatedly find myself disappointed when the comments turn nasty and overly personal.
A key contributor to that, of course, is our decision to allow anonymous postings in comments. Our reasoning is much like you’ll see below – the idea that some folks face repercussions or just aren’t comfortable putting their names out there – and that anonymous blogging can be taken for what it’s worth …
Frankly, I've always given a silent little nod of respect to anyone who posts under their real name, regardless of whether I agree with the person.
Still, the vitriol can be downright depressing sometimes. One thing we are considering: Making folks register with real email addresses, etc., then allowing the postings to remain anonymous to the public.
We’ll see. As we move forward into the political season, though, it’s something we’ll watch.
Other papers, notably the Buffalo News, have shut down anonymous posts altogether.
This from the
The comments sections of newspaper websites have become something of a virtual O.K. Corral. Anonymous flame throwers spew hateful vitriol, some of it racist, while those who wish to participate in meaningful debate see their contributions drowned in a sea of trash.
Some guardians of journalism have taken notice. In the latest issue of the American Journalism Review, editor Rem Rieder argued against anonymous comments. Margaret Sullivan of the Buffalo News just announced that the paper’s website will be switching to a system that forces commenters to provide their real identities.
Given the tenor of online commenting — and Boston.com is a salient example — it’s hard not to be sympathetic to this line of argument. But it’s the wrong move, the proverbial rocket launcher employed against a housefly. The collateral damage it would bring — a contrived quieting and flattening of the debate, and a closing off of the sorts of scoops and expansive discussions enabled by anonymous commenting — wouldn’t be worth it. A better solution is for newspapers to simply step up enforcement of their existing comments guidelines, and to quickly and mercilessly delete the comments and ban the IP addresses of serial abusive commenters.
The best argument for anonymity is also the simplest: it makes for a more robust, vibrant discussion by providing protection. If you were the only conservative in an office full of Obama fans and you wanted to complain about the president’s handling of the oil spill, would you feel comfortable attaching your full name to every comment you made on the subject? In the age of