YouTube Wants You To Comment Under Your Real Name

from the accountable-community dept

I've written before about the benefits of having an open commenting system on websites, complete with anonymity, and I still believe in that stance. I've also made the point that the comments and communities a site develops can often be as much the stars of the show as the original content. So, it goes without saying that the more you enable your community to provide awesome and relevant commentary, while not locking the system down, the better off you're going to be. I think Techdirt does this well, by still allowing for anonyous comments while providing benefits for having a profile with a comment history (participation in contests, credibility through history, etc.).

YouTube (famous for its often-awful comments) has never been completely open, but the majority of commenters use standalone accounts with pseudonyms. Now, according to a recent CNN article, YouTube is actively encouraging users to link their accounts with their real identities (via Google+, of course), not just by prompting them to do so but also by asking them to explain why if they decline.

“Try to comment on a video today and a window will pop up with the title “Start using your full name on YouTube,” which will sign you in with your Google+ account. A YouTube spokesperson told BetaBeat that this option has been offered since June 29 and that users with a Google+ account will see the same thing if they try to upload a video.

If you don't want to use your Google+ account, you can refuse — but then you're taken to a second prompt, which asks “Are you sure?” Then, like some kind of Internet degenerate, you must explain why you don't want to use your full name.”

Now, this may be a tad irritating to anyone who insists on commenting anonymously, but I think if the strategy works to get more people to comment while being accountable then the benefits will outweigh the annoyance. Because if there has been any single great all-encompassing truth about the last decade, it's this: if you're looking for a reason to hate humanity, spend 20 minutes browsing YouTube comments.

Having said that, it's important that YouTube still allow the option to comment anonymously. Without that option, you may lose valuable comments from people with legitimate fear of reprisal if their name is associated with their words, whether that reprisal comes from friends, family, their employers, or the government. But being proactive in encouraging users to comment under their accounts is a good thing, which may very well breed a better commenting community.

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Comments on “YouTube Wants You To Comment Under Your Real Name”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I agree more with Charlie Jane Anders’s thesis that usually trolls aren’t trolls just because they’re online and get away with it, but that’s how they would react to others in real life. ( for the article) The whole “use real name” thing serves more to silence people that don’t need to be silenced(victims of stalking/vendettas, people who work for an organization or company that mandate total social reclusion online for no good reason, amongst others) than actual trolls who probably live in a social situation that supports their perspective.

kyle clements (profile) says:

While the loss of privacy is certainly a concern, I joined YouTube six years ago when I was still a child in school and I was paranoid about online privacy and anonymity. So, to protect myself, I picked a really, really stupid name.

But over the years I have built up a following, and I really don’t want to lose that by starting fresh with a new account.

I use YouTube for marketing my artwork and my random projects, and it kinda works. Art is very much a reputation economy, and this channel is a valuable tool for me. But I’m still stuck with this stupid name.

So any option to change that is a welcome addition in my books.

Also, I’ve made some comments today and haven’t been presented with any windows yet. Is this feature only being rolled out in select countries, or to a small number of select users?

Anonymous Coward says:

I have company G+ and YouTube accounts. Logged in yesterday to answer a question about one of our videos, and as soon as I hit reply I got the pop-up asking if I wanted to link the accounts. I declined, picked my reason, and after that, I could no longer respond to my customers via commenting. I could send them messages, but answering in the comment section helps others with the same questions.

Went and joined the accounts, and I could reply.

My personal account, I have no G+ account, and I can reply all I want with no prompt.

I was actually thinking about a G+ account as they’ve relaxed a bit on the real names there if you can prove you’ve got an online reputation using your psuedonym (which I can), but not now.

They don’t seem to know what their own privacy policy should be. They’ll blur your face in a video, but show everyone your real name, ban some accounts for using a fake name, but not others, allow psuedonyms commenting without a G+ account, but disallow it with a G+ account.. It’s madness I tell ya’

Christopher (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Sounds to me like you were right at the beginning of the last paragraph: they have no idea what their privacy policy should be.

Until these websites stop banning people for things like “comments harmful to minors” (Newsvine) and speaking out against societies viewpoint on some subjects (especially sexual viewpoints) I’m not going to use my real name nor a permanent e-mail address.

We need to have the First Amendment/the right to free speech (which is supposed to protect free speech even when it isn’t government trying to clamp down on that) mean something online before I would support this.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

> We need to have the First Amendment/the
> right to free speech (which is supposed
> to protect free speech even when it isn’t
> government trying to clamp down on that)

No, it isn’t. The 1st Amendment clearly states “Congress shall make no law…”

By both the plain text of the document and the stated intent of the Founders, it only restricts the government from censorship. It’s not ‘supposed to’ apply to private individuals.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well I was going to say if it was optional, it seems like it could be an interesting study into privacy, and the various reasons people have for it.

If it’s essentially mandatory though, that is going to drive a lot of people to just not comment at all, and quite possibly quit using the service.

Assuming your case isn’t just a glitch in how the system is supposed to work, the fallout from this should be interesting.

Mike says:

Re: Re: Re:

Ummm… If you use Gmail you do, indeed, have a G+ account.

When you are in Gmail look in the upper left corner. You will see a “+” sign and your name, i.e. +Mike.

Click on that and you be taken to your G+ page.

I suppose I could comment that it’s nice to see anonymous commenters posting tech opinions but no nothing about the tech they use. But, I won’t.

Schmorgluck (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’ve been consistently using the same pseudonym online for over a decade. It allowed me to voice my opinion on controversial matters, and it also lead me to be recognized over various websites (and other internet places), to the point someone, in a blog comments discussion, served me a quote from myself dating back to eight years before. It was consistent with what I was saying, I think my interlocutor was being meta-facetious, because the subject at hand was precisely the usefulness of pseudonyms.

So, online, I’m not really anonymous, but I do my best to be pseudonymous, which is different.

On the other hand, I’ve had to create a new nick recently, that one openly related to my civil identity, for use in tech areas, because in tech jobs, your online contributions in the domain are more and more looked at. I participated in tech talks over the years, but only as Schmorgluck, which is inconvenient for my carreer.

Donald K Punchovich says:

Re: Re:

I admit I don’t know you from the hole in my bum so I could be wrong, but I’ve noticed over the years that those who label themselves as being “controversial” or “brutally honest” are either trolls, or are so self-deluded that they don’t understand how socially-inept they are being in their online interactions.

See, it’s just that opinions of just about any sort can seem controversial on the internet. It doesn’t matter how tame or reasonable your opinion is, someone out there will find a reason to argue with you about it just because that’s what anonymity and the unearned sense of bravado that comes with it does to people. I’ve seen people have 20 page arguments with one another on forums over video-game consoles of all things for crap’s sake. On the flip-side, you can find people on the web who will agree with whatever insipid opinion that you can pull out of your rear-end, and probably about a dozen websites devoted to discussing it to boot. So maybe if your opinions are being received more extremely than other people’s it’s not because they’re controversial, but rather, it’s because you don’t know how to express them without coming off like a huge troll.

Perhaps instead of pretending like you’re hot-crap and that people just can’t understand the brilliance in your opinions, you should consider that maybe you’re just insufferable and that you rub people the wrong way. Just a thought.

Then again, if your opinions are something like that screwing kids is alright, then there’s no way to express an opinion that sick that won’t have people calling for your head. So maybe I just wasted my time and you ARE controversial, and you’re wise to continue to hide your name on Youtube. I dunno. Whatever.

tamsin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’ve several youtube accounts, only to keep my many and varied interests separate and one for business purposes.

However, my real name a/c is constantly spammed by a linked gmail a/c and so I never log in to that one.

My name, like yours is easily searchable (unusual). ‘Emily Rogers’ last Wii 2 rumours (well, sort of)’ ring any bells? or your comment (nice one) on some story regards a bar girl in Seattle? Together with much more info, and that’s through just one ‘people search’ engine and 2 minutes.

No. I don’t want my real name published where all and sundry can ‘look me up’.

I did think the writer of this article’s saying ‘If you want a reason to hate humanity, just spend 20 minutes looking through the comments on Youtube 😀 But it does depend on the video’s subject matter … sometimes. I’ve learned some stuff through other people’s commenting, and they mine. But not that much though …

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The AC 2 above you points out that isn’t exactly true.
Because (s)he (hey its an AC never assume), when you have a G+ and don’t link it you get cut off… to replying to a video they had put up in the first place.

Google has yet to get a unified front for Nyms, I’ve seen people approved, then unapproved, then petition to get approved again, get put back on only to hit another person who deletes the account.

It seems they need to spend more time getting the message unified before pushing this idea out the door.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Google is just caving in to the idea that the world will be a better place if we all use our real names. That is a short sighted asinine idea, given how well it damaged the launch of G+ one is surprised they keep pushing forward with it.

Do we think that SophisticatedJaneDoe, DieTrollDie, Me, and many others who are active in the anticopyright troll fight would be as open as we are?
We have lawyers filing bogus lawsuits already, whats one more to try and shut up and shut down the message?
Not being an easy target is important skill to have when dealing with underhanded lawyers.
All of the VPN’s, Proxies, and other tools in the world are worthless when a service provider demands real names.

This nuisance might drive some people away from the platform entirely to someplace else. It will not slow down trolls who are going to troll no matter what, but average people might not want to give the upper hand to the trolls. Here is my real name, now use Google and learn all you can about me and bother me because I disliked random cat video you love.

This should bite Google in the ass, the problem is it will only after the trolls start using it to drive away parts of the user base who will not come back. Remember they accepted a photoshopped “McLovin” license to validate a real name for G+, expect comedy.

I am TAC, and I approve this message.
Would the message resonate more if you had my real name?
Didn’t think so.

Loki says:

Re: Re:

Agreed, What is more is that regardless of policy, the people they claim they most want to strip of anonymity to be held accountable for their (bad) actions will never reveal/use their true names. Furthermore, the more you try to force people to give up their privacy rights, the more even general honest people will rebel. For example, when I started using Facebook years ago, maybe 90-95% of the people I knew used their real names. Today that number is closer to 50%.

I also think these services vastly underestimate the value of an online Pseudonym and its potential reputation. Five years ago, had you Googled my biological name, you would have found very little information about me, since there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of people with the same name as me. Had you Googled my primary online handle, the first three pages of results, with the exception of a few DeviantArt links, were all me.

In some ways, “anonymity” actually allows for more uniqueness, individuality, and identifiability among honest, decent people, and trying to strip that away ignores the fact that mean, dishonest, or immoral people will always find ways to cause problems without being held responsible (otherwise identity theft wouldn’t be such a big “real world” problem these days).

These policies simply make life more difficult for the people they are suppose to be helping, while doing little to really stop the issue it was designed to address.

See also:
No Child Left Behind
Operation Zero Tolerance (in schools)
War on Drugs
War on Terror
War on Piracy

Fanic says:

Re: Re:

You took the words out of my mouth. This will not slow down the trolls who want to troll and will always troll. This only benefits them because now they not only know what you said but who you are and god only knows what will happen when the trolls start getting a hold of information of the actual intelligent people who oppose them.

This same way of thinking is used everywhere. Like gun control. Making guns illegal will only pull the guns from the good and leave them in the hands of the bad. Can anyone honestly say that keeping Pot illegal is helping to keep Pot off thing street? Yeah I didn’t think so.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m more worried about big corporate shills. ie: Those that work for the MPAA/RIAA, the big media and pharmaceutical cartels, IP extremists, etc… Those who benefit from anti-competitive laws.

Anti-competitive laws are immoral and those who persuade our government to enact them have no regard for morality. Moral citizens do not want immoral thugs with no regard for morality coming after them because there is no end to how low these thugs will stoop and moral citizens are unwilling to respond immorally which limits their behavior and ability to withstand such attacks. Just look at the IP extremists here on Techdirt. They lie, they have pretended to be IP opponents just to make them look bad (and haven’t gotten away with it because Mike can see their IP address), they never address arguments but resort to name calling instead, and IP extremists that benefit from government established monopolies will go through great lengths to suppress and oppress those who challenge their wrongful and undeserved status. They also have a lot of influence over the government and industry interests and will seek to ostracize and fire any reporters or journalists or others who criticize them or challenge their status (there are better examples of this but I can’t find them now).

But eliminating anonymity will harm the shills even more, assuming they don’t figure out how to circumvent any obstructions to anonymity. When I read Techdirt, for example, shills have a much higher probability of posting anonymously than sane citizens who want more reasonable (IP and other) laws (or no anti-competitive laws). I still have no problems with anonymity, I post anonymously, and I think such an option is often important. But if shills don’t want anonymity they should be careful what they wish.

Anonymous Coward says:

Just like I don’t have a Facebook account, I don’t have a Google+ account either. Not going to have one. I can do fine without supplying the government all the data they could possibly want on a platter.

I comment here because I can do so anonymously. When it starts to datamining with tying your RL name to everything else, simply because someone wants to know, I don’t think so.

All Google is doing is making sure I never show up to comment. Be that good or bad is probably a matter of opinion but I’ll never comment on anything under those conditions.

Pete Austin says:

The problem is single identity

I will never comment on a YouTube video, using my own name, because I work in the IT industry and I want people who search for me to find things that are somewhat work-related. My opinion of some cat video – or, worse, some political video – is not relevant to them.

The real solution may be for social networks like G+ or FB to allow multiple identities. But until they do, Anonymity must fill the gap.

Anonymous Coward says:

the way YouTube is behaving lately, it needs to be told to ‘fuck off’, in no uncertain terms! rolling over and playing into the hands of the entertainment industries by blocking mp3 tools etc was bad enough, now expecting people to give up anonymity when posting comments (to please the US law enforcement/government?) is taking the piss!

Anonymous Coward says:

Any plan for Youtube entering China?

As lots of you know, Youtube has been blocked with China “Great Firewall” for a long time.

China has requirement to log all comments made to forums with accounts that can be associated to real user identity.

Combining these two facts, any chance the Youtube want another attempt to enter China market?

Anonymous Coward says:

I think Techdirt does this well, by still allowing for anonyous comments


The sociopathic douchebag that runs this sorry astroturfing Google blog regularly spies on IP addys, and outs supposedly “anonymous” posters when they’ve incontrovertibly shamed him here.

So yeah, you’re a fucking moron for posting such pure bullshit.

too funny.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Your projecting your own issues again.

He outs you as the same moronic poster over and over who makes rude comments and is generally an asshole… and on the internet this makes you stand out how?

So are you the death threat dickwad or one of the other cavalcade of astroturfers working for the cartels looking for something you can call a win?

Please highlight some incontrovertible shaming of Mike.
And make sure its real and not imagined, then in the lightning round we’ll have someone list all of your epic failures on the site… since we all know who you are. *creepy muhahahahahaa*

Oh you left off pirates, chubby, and yellow journalism.
You have not met the requirements for troll coverall bingo, no bonus for you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Outs what exactly? That some trolls here are prolific? That’s not ‘outing.’ Outing would be posting names or IP address, not stating the fact that some ACs have commented from the same IP address more than once.

Also, it’s really counter to your argument to call this an ‘astroturfing Google blog’ on an article that paints one of Google’s policies in a negative light.

That you think anything you’ve posted is ‘incontrovertible shaming’ is absolutely laughable.

Richard Chapman (profile) says:

I foresee a problem

The reason much YouTube commentary is mind-meltingly dumb is that it is literally written by people with unfinished brains: Teenagers and even children. Displaying a lack of basic humanity on the site does no one else any real harm, but if they are persuaded to comment using their real name they could be harming themselves. Their juvenile idiocy will be only a search away for the rest of their lives.

Ophelia Millais says:

Re: Re:

Oh but they just need the phone number “to protect your account”!

Phone numbers are data-mining gold, one of the few snippets of info that ties together formerly unlinked profiles in a way many other clues don’t. With a phone number, suddenly that person connecting from a Dallas Metro IP address who comments on the video heavily linked from pregnancy blogs is now known to be a 29-year-old female professional educator in a particular school district who lives on 8th Avenue and uses a loyalty card tied to that phone number every time she buys psych meds at the Walgreens on High Street…and her insurance company is very interested in this info, as are the kids who hacked into that company’s servers. Paranoia? Perhaps, but the people collecting and using this info have precious-little incentive to be in any way forthcoming or ethical in what they do, and Google’s privacy policy is cold comfort.

The choice of where and what kinds of things you comment on, not just the comments themselves, can be very revealing, and is often easily accessible just through ordinary web searches. Tie that to your real identity, be it a G+ account or whatever, and it may expose you and people you work and consort with to unnecessary risk and exposure. Work for a sensitive branch of law enforcement, the government or the military? You’re security risk if you can’t afford to be outed in some way. If your comment history reveals certain things about you, personally, it can be bad…really bad. Not only can you be blackmailed over “dirt” you want kept private, but it’s a really short trail from your G+ account to e.g. your Facebook account, where you live and work and play, and who your friends and family are.

So when the Google employees who cooked up these reasons to chip away at privacy give me (1) their identifying and contact info, (2) full disclosure of exactly how my info is used and by whom, (3) permanent access to the same data-mining tools and personal info about them that they have regarding me, and (4) a legal obligation with stiff penalties for misuse of said info, then maybe I’ll consider sacrificing my pretense of anonymity, delusional as it may be. But as it stands, revealing (or just confirming) our identities gives Google and other people more power over us and potentially exposes us to risk, and we get very little in exchange for that, other than access to things which we expect to be free and unfettered, such as the ability to leave inane comments on videos.

Khaim (profile) says:

Re: Re: Phone numbers

Two-step verification via phone eliminates roughly 99.9% of account hijack attempts. I could be wrong about that number though; it might be 100%. That’s mostly because criminals are lazy, of course; your phone itself is easy enough to ‘hack’ (via social engineering on the dumb-as-rocks phone companies) but so far no one bothers.

I mean yes, clearly Google just wants to invade your privacy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Here is what I was planning to do.

I would get a Gmail account and post on the Google docs a spreadsheet with all my lab work done and the progress of my disease like a diary, showing what have tested, what happened, the important numbers.

Because I tried to find that out and it is hard to see what is happening to you without any statistical information, so I decided to share that sensitive information, but I am not putting my real name on it ever that much I do know.

Anonymous Coward says:

Everyone and Everything

Google and Facebook think that everyone should share everything with everybody…but to what end?
If they know who I am and where I am,then will they be dropping by for dinner sometime?
Maybe they have this idea that if they know more about me then they can send me more advertising that would be more relevant to my lifestyle and therefore make my online experience better.Like the ads I get in my gmail inbox based on the subject of my emails.

I get the feeling that there’s a lot more to it than just wanting to sell me something.

What could it possibly be?

The feds already know who I am and where I live and where I bank at and how much I make and what I spend my money on, so that’s not it.

I know!
If they know what I THINK, then they will be able to offer me a more relevant Rendition Package.

That’s what I love about Google. Always looking out for my best interest.

Michael says:

You have to ask yourself an important question: considering how both Facebook and Twitter have given employers and other authority figures a convenient tool to monitor and punish people for expressing themselves, what do you stand to gain by giving Google/YouTube your personal info? I can’t think of a single benefit. On the other hand, Google/YouTube, the copyright police, law enforcement, government, and anyone else who wants to find out about you would have an instant reference point.

And there you are.

Anonymous Coward says:

Who's watching the watchers

I have a gmail account,but not g+
So I went to youtube to check this out using firefox on my desktop and was not logged in to Gmail.
I pulled up a video, went to comment on it, and it automatically brought up my gmail sign in.No other messages.
I then used another computer with ie, on the same ip and was presented with a signup screen to comment.No Gmail id came up.So I set up a fake id and was able to comment.
Just one more reason not to use Google for anything.
I do have a Facebook account to stay in touch with family and friends, but I use a separate computer with no other history…

So I use one computer for one thing and a different one for other things.

Snail Mail may be slow but I never felt like I was constantly being watched and monitored.

Anonymous Coward says:

“(…) you may lose valuable comments from people with legitimate fear of reprisal (…)”

I’m sorry but this made me laugh =)

I understand your point and completely agree with it on a theoretical level but Youtube has absolutely no constructive or pertinent discussion in their comments. The thought that somebody might want to post something important on Youtube and for which they might be persecuted by their government is quite funny.

I imagine Martin Luther King in the 21st century, giving his “I have a dream” speech on Youtube. The only responses he would have received would have been “lol wut?” and “stfu gay nigga faggot”.
On the plus side he probably wouldn’t hav

But again, as a matter or principle I agree with your point – anonymous commenters can contribute a great deal, often even more than non-anonymous people.

Ophelia Millais says:

Re: Re: Re:

Way less funny.

Anyway, it’s not just the content of the comments that matters. It’s the fact that you comment on certain kinds of videos, or videos which tend to be linked from certain blogs, for example. If 90% of your comments are posted to videos that are linked from whistleblower sites, your employer might be interested in that little tidbit.

not very anon. says:

phone numbers and google accounts

As Khaim points out 2-step verification has a very valid use beyond tracking you, which may or may not make it worth the tracking risk. However they want a mobile number which is much less useful to accurately track anyone’s whereabouts or identity of user at any given time,giving even less weight to Ophelia Millais’ scenario.
The more information that has to be inferred the less useful it is.

Osman Musa (user link) says:

LOL They are now forcing Google Accounts and not asking

I just accessed Youtube while logged in and guess what? They forced the plus profile on me so now my Plus name and photo are showing up. They want to turn Youtube users into social network users to increase their dominance so they can better compete with Facebook. God why can’t someone come out with a major Youtube alternative.

John says:

MSN redone home page- BORING-PLAIN-UGLY

MSN, they say things sometimes change for the good especially if the vision for what is to be created appeals to the masses. But msn’s revamped site just misses the mark.

I don’t get it, the site was so much better until someone decided it would look better empty!!! Fire that moron and bring back the old page. How about giving the user more design options??? Make it fun to use and enjoy. THIS IS NOT IT MSN.COM. I MAY HAVE TO GO TO YAHOO.

Thank you.

Ted Leo says:

Low to no character or ethical fiber!

I would not and will not ever use my name on the net.. I totally get why this is an issue however. Why? Please help me understand (rhetorical) why the need to be an ass? If the answer is – I’m anonymous so I can – then kill yourself! You’re wasting good air by continuing to breath! And I know what you’re thinking..”damn man, you’re a major ass!” …I can be, but only if I’m needlessly, randomly, insulted with no context, you know, like a pre-schooler.. I’m weirded out by how “ok” it is to be a penis. Some people are born with no filter. Couple that with the younger generation’s inability to understand that there is unacceptable behavior.. Hey, there are no penalties or jail time or whatever for being a walking butt plug.. What concerns me is these generations have NO desire to be serious human beings. It’s like they’re living life with a cheat sheet that only has a selfie of their dick. …nothing sacred, nothing! It’s like they were taught by strippers..because a lot of them put off the “dead inside” vibe..very sociopath-like. And I know most of you know exactly what I’m talking about..

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