News Sites Take Issue with Anonymity - The End of an Era
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In the coming months a number of very high profile news publications are planning on doing away with anonymous comments, including The Washington Post. Before the paper finalizes this new policy, the publication is considering giving preference to commenters who are using their real names and e-mail addresses.
Doing away with online anonymity in the comments section of news sites may seem like a drastic and sudden change to some, but it's actually been a gradual process that began when major news publications like The New York Times and The Post began requiring their readers to register prior to posting comments. Though the readers provided information about themselves in the registration forms that would not appear online, it gave the paper's site administrators some much needed background in case anyone stepped out of line.
In an unprecedented move, The Huffington Post will soon undergo one of the most unique changes pertaining to reader comments. The website will begin ranking commenters based on how well their fellow readers and commenters know and trust their comments. Hal Straus, interactivity editor of The Washington Post, recently told The New York Times, "We want to be able to establish user tiers and display variations based on those tiers. The system is still being planned, but it's likely that readers will be asked to rate comments and that people's comments will be ranked in part based on the trust those users have earned from other readers." It's believed that The Huffington Post will follow suit with a similar rating/screening process.
Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, has been one of the most outspoken voices leading the way to demystify the identity of reader's identities. She recently told The New York Times that "Anonymity has always been the way things are done. It's an accepted part of the Internet, but there's no question that people hide behind anonymity to make vile or controversial comments." She added, "I feel that this is almost like an education process. As the rules of the road are changing and the Internet is growing up, the trend is away from anonymity."
One of the most obvious foils in this new plan is that commenters may not provide their real names and instead, provide false identities. Verifying each and every name would be too labor intensive and expensive for most news sites, but the theory is that making the demand for a name and an e-mail address should weed out a majority of the most offensive comments.
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