Monday, April 12, 2010

Should Websites Ban Anonymous Commenters?

EUGENE KANE OF THE Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently wrote about anonymous commenters posting extreme opinions on news websites:

"The blogosphere's popularity over the last decade or so seems to have avoided the requirement for credibility for commenters. As a result, people feel free to comment on whatever they want, however they want, and in many cases, as offensively as they want. Some of them talk big smack, mainly because nobody knows their name."


Should readers be allowed to leave comments without leaving some sort of verifiable identity? Does a lack of identity only breed radical dialogue?

Some people argue that journalists frequently use anonymous sources in stories. Is there any difference?

Post your thoughts in the comments section below. Please leave your name.

And read more of Eugene Kane's work here. Kane (pictured above with Bill Cosby) is a Temple grad who will visit class on Tuesday.

12 comments:

Berryman, A said...

I believe that leaving comments without leaving any sort of identity can be for that person's safety. If people want to be able to express their opinions without being bashed or touted it is best that their identity is not shown on the comments, or in reporters stories. I also believe that only in certain causes it is necessary to leave your name, i.e. blogging for Journalism and Society class.

Michael said...

I commented on the Temple News this afternoon. It asked that I give a name and a my email address which wouldn't be made public. Those are very fair requests.

Theodore Wohlsen said...

Anonymity is important. It is a right. Should people be shunned from internet discussions because they choose to remain anonymous for whatever reason? No. Never. The fact that journalists respect the anonymous story by protecting the privacy of others is a great example of its importance. However, many of the anonymous discussers should be presumably regarded as ignorant and uncredited. Many of their maybe racist/dumb comments should be disregarded and ignored but not eliminated from the discussion. Many people choose to remain anonymous so they can tell personal stories and opinions without fear of being hunted down. By remaining anonymous people are generally either too lazy to make an account or too embarrassed to be known. A juxtaposition between anonymity and the known is important because it is in many ways more realistic. Eliminating anonymous users will not solve any problems. Addressing the anonymous comments by either ignoring them or respectfully pointing out their argument's faults are more likely to change their opinion and truly, and effectively make some sort of positive, progressive discussion. In many ways anonymity is a huge step towards a true objectivism. I find it harder to express my true opinions on Facebook because I don't want to offend my friends. It is not usually a good idea to discuss politics or religion with friends.

Geo said...

If you have to hide your feelings from your friends, maybe those people aren't your friends?

- George
(the teacher who is posing a question, not making a judgment)

Anonymous said...

I firmly believe in the merit of anonymity on the Internet. Where else will you get openly honest feedback, even with the bad side effects of a few bad eggs? That is why this pisses me off - http://blogs.riverfronttimes.com/dailyrft/2009/11/vigilante_website_out_to_destroy_stltoday_editor_kurt_greenbaum.php

Kurt Greenbaum said...

Click on Kurt Greenbaum to get to the site.

Theodore Wohlsen said...

Geo said "If you have to hide your feelings from your friends, maybe those people aren't your friends?"

An interesting point. I personally choose not to pick political or religious fights with people I consider my friends. If I know my friend is Jewish I am less likely to ridicule him for supporting Israel's occupation of Palestine. I'm less likely to talk to my dad about Obama's Health Care reform if I know he is a diehard Conservative. Politics and religion are too personal and not worth breaking up friendships for. Also, there are better, more serious venues to discuss such things as politics and religion than Facebook. My Facebook world consists of people trying to be funny, creative, and social not people who are trying to have a serious discussion about political or religious disputes. Perhaps it is the age and level of maturity of my friends and they will shift into more political discussions later in life but in the meantime I look for other venues to express my opinions on such matters. I look for venues in which I can remain generally anonymous. This discussion is anonymous. Nobody here actually knows who I am and thus I like this venue.

Geo said...

Again, I'm not judging. Your logic is rational, for sure.

There was a time in my life when I tailored myself to the company I was in. I was deferential when expected to be deferential, and obnoxious when with my pals. That got to be exhausting after a while - constantly being aware of my company and their preferences. So I ditched that practice.

Now, I'm the same person all the time (which is probably why I curse too much in class).

I've lost a few friends along the way - people who didn't like that I challenged their opinions (not fighting, just debating). But if people get angry because I don't concede to them, f'em.

I love when students challenge me, and I encourage you to question all of your teachers. That is how you develop a thought process, and form your own opinions.

I just ask that you stand by your challenge and attach your name to it. Unless you are rude with the question, I won't be upset. I'd probably have more respect for you.

- George
(the teacher who dares you to challenge me ... bring it on!)

Anonymous said...

Wow the comments on his brief article about President Obama being the most influential leader are rather ridiculous...

Not always, but quite often, people who get fired up over issues don't even know what they are talking about.
The comments are entertaining because they are so rude and far-fetched (as I read, my mouth dropped from shock, but I was chuckling at the ridiculousness), but it could be offensive and detrimental to the author.

- Kelsey Jones, J&S

GILLIAN FRANCELLA said...

I hate anonymous comments. If your going to come at someone- at least have enough guts to sign your name/organization. I like when people are radical, when they debate, when they are angry- it's awesome to have that kind of response. People should not be afraid to post how they feel after reading something, it's more respectful to know that John Smith thinks I'm a piece of shit, than Anonymous.
Besides the fact that your standing up for what you think by signing your name, your potentially a great story to cover.

Dan P. said...

I agree that your comments would be more effective and be taken more seriously if you sign your name to them, but that policy seems like it would be nearly impossible to enforce. What's to stop someone from saying something ridiculous and filling out the form or whatever with fake information? I think this is just one example of how the Internet can be a double-edged sword.

http://danpov.blogspot.com/

alessandralaura said...

Readers should definitely be able to leave comments without identifying themselves. Is Kane right that they talk 'big smack' because they can- yes. However, there are also many people who don't necessarily say offensive things, just radical things. Would those people still speak if they couldn't be anonymous? At the end of the day it is better to have more people involve themselves in a matter because they feel freely to do so (taking the smack talkers as well) than less people because people feel the need to censor themselves.
Journalists, who use these anonymous comments as sources should use their own discretion.