Let’s chat about online comments

Real names, only for online commenters?

Let’s chat about it.

A Garden Island reader recently suggested we establish a policy that wouldn’t allow anonymous sources to post comments. The idea being that it will lead to more civil, respectful conversation. There are sites where people must submit verification of who they are, so it’s nothing new or extraordinary, just a way of dealing with a growing number of people posting rude, disrespectful, angry comments.

Here is a summary version of what the reader suggests:

“Many people say things from the security of their home computer hiding behind online names, and they are trollish, things are said that would not be said in a face-to-face conversation, as well you folks have to monitor the posts.”

“If you make all people sign in using their real name, it would be fantastic, let all folks hear our opinions, and let’s be adults about it.”

“Free speech is a blessing, but using fake log-in names leads to people saying things that they simply would not say if they could not hide from their name being exposed. If you look at the folks who use their real names as log in names, you’ll find their posts to be more polite, not that I agree with their views, but by making us all stand up and post who we are will reduce your time monitoring and will allow us all to know who stands where.”

“If you have a comment and are not willing to stand behind it as who you really are why should you print it?”

“Please consider the change, it would truly be a blessing to all, and probably save you folks hours of reading and sifting through crap posts that are not printable.”

Is this reader correct?

Seems these are valid points. It’s easy to insult, belittle, rant and go off on someone or something when you have no accountability for your words because no one knows who you are. It’s easy to rip on someone when they can’t defend themselves. Many of those who post comments on TGI stories are respectful. They have put some thought and reason behind their words. Others are not respectful. Some are sounding off based on emotion and rhetoric and the same, old tired arguments, rather than facts or substance or new perspective. If you have to put your real name behind your comments, you’re likely to be more balanced and constructive.

TGI does monitor comments. Probably 95 percent are cleared. Those that aren’t, it’s usually because they offer nothing more than name-calling, insults or threats. On the flip side, anonymous commenters can and do provide informative, thoughtful analysis. They can and do offer another point of view that they’re afraid to air publicly, with their name, for fear of retaliation and backlash. Being able to speak anonymously provides the freedom to state what’s actually on your mind, no filters.

Many comments, too, are posted on letters to the editor. There is an irony that letter writers provide their name and town and phone number for verification, while anonymous commenters often criticize them online.

That hardly seems fair. Pretty much for that reason, one major daily newspaper on the Mainland stopped allowed comments on letters, instead, encouraging people to write letters of their own, using their real name, of course.

We’d like to hear from readers on this subject. Are anonymous comments positive or negative? End anonymous comments? Keep things as they are? Let us know what you think — letters to the editor, with names, town and phone number would be great, but online comments, even anonymous ones and ones with fake names, are OK, too.

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