The Importance Of Anonymity And The Wonders Of YouTube's Saddest Comments

from the sharing-doesn't-always-need-a-name dept

First off, while I've linked to a few of its stories lately, if you're not listening to the TLDR podcast you are seriously missing out on some really fantastic stories concerning fascinating and amazing things happening online. The story of Vile Rat, for one, is incredible (in short: one of the guys killed in the attack on Benghazi, an IT manager there, was also a huge presence in the virtual world Eve Online). But I wanted to focus on another recent episode that touches on some concepts we've discussed before. It's about a guy named Mark Slutsky who has created SadYouTube.com, a site that highlights incredible comments found on YouTube videos.

Yes, you're saying, but YouTube comments are the absolute worst on the whole internet. But, even in all that crap, there are moments of poignant interest, and Slutsky finds a bunch of them -- often involving someone writing detailed, interesting and (yes) sad comments about an emotional memory connected to a song. Some of them are really fascinating glimpses into someone's life -- and in many cases, those glimpses are the kind of things that people are willing to post anonymously, rather than associated with their real name.

But, of course, YouTube has recently changed its system to push people to use their real names with the comments. We've been pointing out for years that "real names" proposals aren't such a great idea, often stifling important and interesting conversations, and this seems like yet another example. Yes, YouTube comments are notoriously terrible, though it's arguable if they've really improved at all since pushing people to put their names on them. But this new policy almost certainly means fewer people will be willing to share such random, poignant memories when they can easily be traced back to who wrote them.

As we've noted plenty of times ourselves, while having a rather open comment policy can encourage some crazy comments, it also leads to plenty of fantastic comments. Each week, when we look at our best comments of the week as voted on by the community here, there are plenty from completely anonymous users. I recognize the temptation to "fix" bad comments, but there's a real risk to throwing out plenty of good stuff when you don't let people post anonymously.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 6:06pm

    are there actually any bad comments at all? I think, for better or worse, all have a certain value (ok, I make an exemption for spam bots, they are just trash). It might not be insightful, it might be offensive, Hell, it might be the most resentful, offensive, ignorant and downright abusive trash ever, but it still has a value. The value is not necessarily in the comment itself, but to determine the credibility of the poster in question.

    These people actually do a service, because they show without any doubt where they stand in a given discussion. And quite frankly, regardless how much I might hate people for stuff they post, I rather they post that if it is their honest opinion, then posting a slimy bullshit post that says essentially nothing just to offend nobody.

    The Best way to deal with this kind of people is to *not* block them, *not* censor them, because they will show, for all the world to see who and what they are.

     

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  2.  
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    art guerrilla (profile), Jan 31st, 2014 @ 6:22pm

    Re:

    HOLY GUACAMOLE !

    there *IS* another person who believes in total, unfettered free speech ! ! !
    i thought i was the last one *sniffle*

    seriously, you make a great point...
    i don't hang out at youtube a lot (mostly for technical tutorials on specialized channels), and read the comments even less, but obviously am exposed to the online meme of how worthless/disgusting they are...
    whatever...
    some one wrote some 'bad' words...
    oh my, i'm -um- like shocked and shit...
    some one laid into the poster unfairly...
    gee, that's never happened in 'real' life, how odd it should happen here...
    i don't know, all the censorship people want to do, for -you know- 'good' reasons, by the time everyone got their own censorship in, there would be nothing left...
    no, that isn't the way to go: let it all hang out, babeeeeeee...

     

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  3.  
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    out_of_the_blue, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 6:27pm

    See that name? It does provide a lot of entertainment.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 7:20pm

    Youtube comments

    There's a video, this one:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cX-wP2X19BU

    It's in Thai and it describes how the coup plotters of 2006 gave themselves a veto over democracy.

    I wanted to write a translation subtitle for it, but how could I give it to the video owner anonymously? Send by message needs an account, post as a comment needs an account.
    I can't do it anon of course. Even using a fake Google account, Google would track it.

    If the coup plotters get their way and install their own people again, I would be vulnerable to retribution. Google would hand that data over as its done so many times before.

    Anonymous speech is essential.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 7:57pm

    Yeah well it sucks that some sites allow comments with a point of view other readers disagree with be hidden. But guess what? It's a private site whose owner can do whatever he likes with his private property, So stop crying bitches.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 8:09pm

    Re:

    It may be a private site, but how will that stop us pointing out the life threatening nature of removing anonymous speech?
    Private site or not, it's wrong.

    If you think I'm talking hyperbole, watch this video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsI8Ixy-0xw

    It's what this dictator lot did last time they got into power in Thailand. People didn't like the judicial coup that put these corrupt crooks in power and this is what they did to suppress the protest.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 8:11pm

    Love anon

    I love posting anon - and pretty much do so EVERYWHERE.

    One of my anon comments has been "most insightful" here on techdirt in the past years, and that's a great honor :)

    There are plenty of sites where I can't post anon and it drives me nuts.. Failblog is a perfect example - if there's any site that absolutely SHOULD allow anon comments, that is it. I don't know how often I want to educate the people who post there, and I can't, not without some sort of login which I refuse to do.

    The world is full of information - information doesn't have to be tied to a name or account, sometimes it's free for everyone to consume. I am the type of person that wishes to give away information, and I don't need to be credited for it.

     

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  8.  
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    garge, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 8:56pm

    my opinion

    yes, just keep the cacophony flowing

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2014 @ 9:58pm

    Like commenter #2 and #6, I won't post if I can't post anonymously. I don't do Disqus, I won't do Google and it's youtube, nor any of the other places that want you to sign in from your Facebook or what ever account. No, I don't do Facebook either.

    I'm good with that. If those places that some how think they can control spam or try to reduce the conversation into correct society verbiage then they are very wrong in their approach. Honestly I don't need someone looking over my shoulder to keep it civil. I won't accept being counted, folded, spindled, and mutilated, just to comment. It's simply not worth the privacy loss.

     

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  10.  
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    Watchit (profile), Jan 31st, 2014 @ 10:53pm

    yeah I just use a fake name on my google+ account, which I kinda just ignore, since I use it for youtube only. I go by "Watchit Van Walraven"!

     

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  11.  
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    M. Alan Thomas II (profile), Jan 31st, 2014 @ 11:44pm

    I think that it's important to note that those high-voted quality comments are, well, high-voted. That is, people can distinguish between insightful and horrible thoughts. The existence of the bad comments does not lessen us because we know they are bad comments; the lack of good comments would.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2014 @ 2:34am

    "...push people to use their real names..."

    The if-you-haven't-done-anything-wrong mentality the apologists for No Such Agency, et al., spew is becoming endemic.

    Being advised you've done something wrong by the jack-booted thugs who kicked down your door in the middle of the night is often a surprise.

     

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  13.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Feb 1st, 2014 @ 2:55am

    Re: Youtube comments

    You could simply have your translation as a text file, go to an internet cafe, open up Gmail, create a new Gmail account with bogus information and use that for Youtube.
    If Google is ever asked to cough up the personal details of that account, then they can only say "Well, the account was made by "Mr. Fake Name" and the IP address corresponds to this net cafe. So anyone could have made it".

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2014 @ 4:43am

    Re:

    Ditto.

    I'm also one of those Luddites that are:

    1. Not a member of FB, Twitter, G+ ad nauseam; and
    2. Refuse to enrol in Disqus.

    The result is that one is effectively prohibited from taking part in most discussions.

     

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  15.  
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    Violynne (profile), Feb 1st, 2014 @ 6:29am

    I'm going to have to make a small correction regarding the article.

    First: YouTube isn't making anyone use their real names, they're making people use Google+, which was a separate Google program people trusted enough to use their real names.

    Second: Given the above, all it takes is an update in Google+ settings to remove the real name. Once this is done, the "anon" can easily be restored.

    However, the bigger issue isn't the anon in comments: It's that Google is forcing this crap on people who wanted to keep their comments and social program separate.

    This gets even worse when Google is now allowing anyone with a Google+ account to email your Google+ account despite not having an email address. All it takes is a Google+ account.

    See where this is going? This whole bullshit of the "One Google" is the problem.

    I've actually closed my Google+ account because of these recent changes, and I'm also on my way out of closing my Gmail account.

    After Google's ridiculously stupid merging of all their services under one account, I can't trust the site to protect my single account from accessing my photos, documents, and other digital content because of this massive security flaw (and coming from a company which tells others not to share security credentials, you can see the major problem with their one-login setup).

    It's a shame Google has done this, chasing Facebook because their billions aren't enough revenue.

    While this article is a good start, it needs to go further to really drive home the point anonymous comments are going away: Public security is turning into a single point of entry, which means the least concern is someone knowing my real name.

     

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  16.  
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    Dankyogurt, Feb 1st, 2014 @ 7:35am

    Anonymity

    Huffpo is the latest to quell free comments, I don't mind a handle or even email registration attached to my nick, but to require a FaceBook account is an all time low of, not only censorship but blatant corporate sponsorship.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2014 @ 8:05am

    But you still call us "Anonymous Cowards"

    I prefer Anonymous Heroes , Thank You.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2014 @ 8:06am

    Re:

    you know the difference between a hero and a coward? the coward lives to tell the tale...

     

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  19.  
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    Rekrul, Feb 1st, 2014 @ 10:20am

    I used to have a single YouTube account, which worked great. Since they started forcing people to tie their YT account to Gmail and then to Google+, I've somehow ended up with three different identities and I'm not sure how to get rid of the ones I don't want. I don't want to delete the wrong thing and erase the YT identity that I've used for years.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2014 @ 6:26pm

    i guess i'm going to stay away from google+, so i'll have to find other places to maintain my anonymity. what i wanted to say is that my aunt once gave me a 12-dollar shirt.

    i had never had a 12-dollar shirt, and i'm afraid i wore it past its looking good.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2014 @ 8:20pm

    Hmm..I still can't choose my old youtube name

    New accounts cannot have them? What a crock of shit if so! I managed to do something, I don't know what exactly, that created a g+ account for me to add to the small annoyance of having to choose between my screename and "my real name" which is bullshit anyway.

    It's sad that I have to buy seedboxes and link them so I can vpn through 4 nodes to feel safe to do what I did on the internet up to about 2010. They have the advantage of making it easy to build ratios on private trackers, but normally private trackers wouldn't be needed. Finding things on Usenet and uploading them as new torrents is also incredibly rewarding....but I'm losing my whole point now.

    I tend to do that when I give people hints at how to protect themselves, and generally they give me the same damn reasonable counter-response : but that's getting expensive. Indeed, although not if somebody pays for a single vps...

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 2nd, 2014 @ 6:05am

    Re: Re:

    or gets shot in the back while running away.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 8th, 2014 @ 6:13am

    1995-2014>>>

    Information Wars

    Key points to remember

    1. You are not under threat from Muslim Extremists any more than you are from a car crashing into your house in the next 5 minutes.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/06/14/1215687/-Odds-of-Dying-by-Terrorist-Attack-20-000-000-to-1

    2 . Muslims of all distinctions however are under threat physically, economically, politically and socially due to geo-political wars for Oil and Gas that have been launched on the pretext of 9/11 in the Middle East

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jul/22/government-silence-british-muslims-attacks

    3 . The World is a much more dangerous place now than it was pre 9/11 because the West has demonized Muslims everywhere whilst destroying Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.

    http://www.nairaland.com/22202/britain-now-worse-than-years

    4. Internet anonymity does not protect big criminals, paedophiles, murderers, fraudsters and hackers anywhere near as well as does our current system of governance.

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/jan/09/financial-crisis-why-no-executive-pr osecutions/

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20067409

    http://holliegreig.info/2012/02/robert-gree n-hollie-demands-justice-campaigner-jailed-today-in-scotland/

    https://www.eff.org/nsa-spying/how-it-w orks


    5 Internet anonymity does however protect those of us who wish to fight back with the weapon of truth against the lies and deceit that ultimately causes fellow humans to hurt, oppress and kill one another for the benefit of a few psychopathic cliques. We are the real target of the NSA-GCHQ spying/hacking operation because we pose a much more serious threat to their geo-political plans.

     

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