Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Anonymity, schanonymity

In my opinion, the worst thing about reading newspaper stories on line is the reader commentary that follows. Not because I am against readers interacting with the media and each other (quite the opposite, in fact), but because so much of what is posted is stupid, inflammatory garbage that serves no purpose other than to incite anger and shock.
The St. Pete Times has taken steps to clean that up by requiring registration from those who would choose to comment.
Of course, that won't eliminate it completely. People can still make up an alias, but it's something. It doesn't restrict or inhibit free speech, it only assigns some level of accountability, which is not too much to ask.
And I should point out that not all people who post anonymous feedback are cranks. I allow anonymous comments here on this blog and very, very few of them have been anything less than pleasant and complimentary. But I don't get that. Is it possible to feel just passionate and confident enough about your opinion that you would want to take the time to write it down and share it with an audience but not so much that you feel like you can put your name on it? I guess people have their reasons.
Still, I'm glad the St. Pete Times has finally decided to take these measures. I believe you should be allowed to stand up and yell "FIRE!" in a crowded movie theatre (especially if there's a fire) but you should be required to provide your name if asked afterwards.


Mariella said...

If a whistleblower needs to remain anonymous for fear of losing their job, or someone can't speak freely because of fear of some kind of serious reprisals, that's understandable. But some people seem to just hide behind a mask so they can be jerks in the internet world, while pretending, in real life, that they're not jerks. It's especially cowardly & unfair when people throw stones at other people while hiding behind a phony name.

Personally, I don't say anything publicly that I'm not willing to sign my name to. If I found myself wanting to say something, but not wanting to stand up for it, with my real name, that would be a clear sign to me that I shouldn't say that thing.

Wildhair said...

I know it only applies to the articles and not the blogs, but being a person who has been attacked personally on a blog or two of the St. Pete Times, I like this idea. When I complained to the authors of said blogs, they said it wasn't worth the effort to seek out the IP addy of the attacker who hid behind a pseudonym. Weenies.

Why, it's Clark! said...

Good point about the whistleblowers, Mariella.
And I remember when you were being attacked, Wildhair. I guess nobody should be surprised that certain elements would misuse the easy access to information sharing afforded by the internet. I just hope that measures to assign some accountability aren't interpreted as attempts to restrict free speech. I'm pleased to see that so far, that has been the case.