Reuters Dumps Anonymous Comments: Throwing Out A Bunch Of Babies With The Bathwater?
from the it's-not-the-anonymity dept
This probably isn’t a surprise. Lots of traditional journalism folks have been busy slamming “anonymous” commenters online, often falsely blaming them for things they did not do. Earlier this year, we pointed to an excellent defense of anonymous commenting, by the Washington Post’s Ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, with the key line being:
For every noxious comment, many more are astute and stimulating. Anonymity provides necessary protection for serious commenters whose jobs or personal circumstances preclude identifying themselves. And even belligerent anonymous comments often reflect genuine passion that should be heard.
We’ve seen it here. We’ve always allowed anonymous commenters, even as we’ve continually added more and more features to make it worthwhile to identify yourself. And yet, if people do want to be anonymous, we’re fine with that. To be honest, in over a decade of doing this, I’ve really seen no difference in either the level of “bad” or “good” comments from anonymous commenters as I have from named commenters. We have anonymous commenters who are brilliant, insightful, well-informed and add to the discussion all the time. In fact, with a few of them, I can even recognize that they’re the “same” commenters via their writing style (even as some of them are totally anonymous, via proxies). At the same time, some of the commenters who freely admit who they are, can be some of the rudest, most obnoxious and uninformed commenters around. And, of course, the reverse is true as well. Certainly there are plenty of anonymous clueless commenters and plenty of insightful named commenters. The point is that the anonymity is the wrong thing to blame. We’ve seen no indication that anonymity leads to a higher level of clueless comments.
Unfortunately, however, some have decided to go in a different direction. Reuters is apparently now the latest to ban anonymous comments on their site. This is unfortunate, as among the big news providers out there, Reuters often seemed more “aware” of how to best embrace the internet, but this move seems like it’s a mistake. It won’t stop snide comments, but they may lose many valuable community members who, for whatever reason, did not have enough incentive to reveal who they were.