Anne Rice Battles Mean Anonymous Amazon Trolls, Ignores Fact Many Anonymous Users Add Great Value

from the baby-with-the-bath-water dept

Anne Rice appears to be taking a break from sexy rock and roll vampirism to take on a new form of monster: Amazon trolls. The author claims there’s a growing wave of “bullying and harassment” of authors going on in the Amazon books reviews section, and as such she’s started a new petition demanding that Amazon do something about it by eliminating anonymity entirely from user reviews. The move is necessary, Rice claims, because some people were once mean to her on the Internet when she was busy trying to help aspiring authors:

“Then the bullies, trolls, jerks, whatever you want to call them, found the thread. That’s when the attacks started happening. It got very ugly very fast … With each attack, Anne tried to diffuse the situation and out these people for what they are: bullies. Well, that just made them frenzy even more. Eventually, I left the thread. It got too ugly for me. Anne stuck it out for a while, but finally she called it quits, too.”

It sounds to me that Anne might be new to the Internet, and hasn’t quite learned yet that it’s unhealthy and pointless to spend too many calories battling (or feeding, as it were) the vitriolic troll hordes. Rice’s complaints also seem to falsely believe that said trolls have started targeting authors in particular, as opposed to them simply enjoying getting a rise out of her. The assumption seems to be that people would be nicer if they weren’t anonymous, which simply isn’t the case if you’ve spent any amount of time around the general public. In the petition however, Rice argues that killing anonymity can change everything for the better:

“By removing their anonymity and forcing them to display their real, verified identities, I believe that much of the harassment and bullying will cease. It may continue elsewhere on the web, but not on Amazon, the largest online retail marketplace in the world, where it really counts. Buyers of products on Amazon must have their identities verified, so it should be an easy transition to implement a policy whereby reviewers and forum participants must also have their identities verified.”

There’s a difference between Amazon needing better comment moderation (violence and the worst sort of miserable commentary being deleted more quickly, obviously) versus killing off anonymity in the belief it will somehow magically deliver elevated discourse. As we’ve long argued at great length, anonymity in online comments can actually benefit the website, community and the overall discourse immensely. For every “Hotstud77” making fun of your nose, there’s someone who is using a nom de plume to potentially add something useful to the conversation they might not have been able to anyway (a publisher or author that has something to add, for example, but doesn’t feel free to do so under their “brand” name).

Yes, opening your comments to the anonymous hordes results in lots of crazy comments, but it also results in plenty of excellent insight that might otherwise never see the light of day.

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Comments on “Anne Rice Battles Mean Anonymous Amazon Trolls, Ignores Fact Many Anonymous Users Add Great Value”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Yeah because it is not like some author wrote a buncha porn under a name that wasn’t her own… oh wait.

Perhaps they should get a better poster child for forcing real names… like that guy from Googl… er nevermind.

Perhaps it would be best for people to learn a simple concept.
You do not have some magical right to not be offended, you are not special. Attempting to control other peoples feelings and comments is as useful as selling out your novel to become a Dan Aykroyd Rosie O’Donnell vehicle.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You mean the same author wrote very well known and best selling B&D incestuous porn under a pseudonym and then wrote a very good series of very well written books (the Vampire Lestat, Memnoch, Queen of the damned etc – that were 1 zillion times better and more relevant to the mythology than Twilight) and then ‘sees the light’ to become a Born Again Invisible space zombie worshiper???

Surely you’re mistaken.. That would mean she’s a hypocritical person who though can write extremely well has no freakin clue about anything else (and has major personality issues)

Anonymous Coward says:

Yeah – stupid move on Anne Rice’s part.

But … that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with her for being sick of the trolling. Good for her for saying something (but the draconian measures sought here are absurd).

Every time somebody faults Rice for “being new to the internet” or “being a baby” etc it minimizes the acts by the bad actors (trolls); it shifts focus from the bad actors to a probably-well-meaning-but-ignorant-and-filled-with-self-importance actor (Rice); and discourages others who are sick of bad behavior from speaking up or doing something.

Issues aren’t black & white, right?

Bad for her for her approach; good for her for not being complacent about crappy behavior.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Doesn’t change the fact that trolls are bad actors.

Minimizing their actions = condoning those actions.

Seeing some value in what she’s done doesn’t = supporting everything she does.


She sucks (ha) but so do the trolls. I’d rather ignore her and shame the trolls than vice-versa.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

does it need to be said:
one person’s troll, is another person’s socratic interlocutor…
WHAT ‘rules’, ‘guidelines’, etc are YOU (since -like catching liars- you are apparently of the BELIEF you ‘know a troll when you see one’) going to set out for all us ignorati so we can kill the troll bastards ? ? ?
you can’t, no one can, but gummints WILL given the support of non-thinking nekkid apes who just want the trains to run on time…
free your mind, its already jailed…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

It’s especially frustrating to find somebody who seems to appreciate nuance still get it wrong:

This article is about “the vitriolic troll hordes” and Rice’s response.

Not only did I not bring “troll” into the discussion, I certainly didn’t make any attempt to describe what is (or isn’t) a troll.

In the context of this discussion of this article, it is a GIVEN that trolls are a part of the conversation and it is a GIVEN that their behavior can be “vitriolic.” Not because I-said-so but because the friggin’ article says so (supra, FFS).

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Minimizing their actions = condoning those actions”

That’s not nuance at all. It’s also not exactly true. Criticizing Rice for not knowing how to handle trolls is not minimizing the actions of trolls at all. Just as criticizing copyright law is not minimizing the actions of pirates. Even if it does minimize, though, minimizing is not condoning. If I say burglary is worse than shoplifting, that is (by this logic) minimizing shoplifting. It’s not condoning it, though at all, though.

That’s nuance.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Yes, “minimizing their actions = condoning those actions” is overstating & oversimplifying it.

To be more explicit: if, as appears to be the case here, Rice is the SOLE target of scorn, there is an implication that others involved have NOT engaged in anything deserving of scorn.

“If I say burglary is worse than shoplifting, that is (by this logic) minimizing shoplifting.”


If, as appears to be the case here, you were discussing a burglary (which somehow-magically-for-the-sake-of-argument occurred as a response to shoplifting) and that discussion revolves around the inherent bad-ness of burglary but fails to mention that the initial act of shoplifting is also bad, then you implicitly minimize shoplifting.

That doesn’t mean that you believe that shoplifting is acceptable – only that you have made a decision as to what you are going to say and what you are not going to say; for some reason you have opted to not condone shoplifting even though shoplifting plays a critical role in your narrative.

And curious reader wonders “why would John opt to not condone shoplifting?”

“Maybe there was a word limit – maybe John has an aberrant version of auto-correct – maybe somebody made John omit it…”

The reason for the omission is left to that curious reader and this omission will be regarded by some as tacit acceptance.

So, rather than contribute to a misunderstanding that you somehow find shoplifting to be acceptable, maybe it’s better to state your feeling about it in your initial discussion: “Y’know, not to excuse shoplifting, but burglary is worse.”


John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“maybe it’s better to state your feeling about it in your initial discussion: “Y’know, not to excuse shoplifting, but burglary is worse.””

This is the same problem as when talking expressing my opinion that copyright law has become egregious. I used to add a disclaimer that my opinion doesn’t mean that I am in favor of piracy, but have stopped for two reasons.

People who are inclined to make the illogical leap in thinking that condemning one thing means condoning another aren’t going to be persuaded otherwise by a disclaimer.

More importantly, it doesn’t even matter. Even if I really did believe the opposite of what I’m addressing is OK, that’s not what I’m talking about so it’s largely irrelevant to the point.

Anonymous Coward says:

Sooner or later you learn on the internet either grow some skin, know when to leave, or suffer the consequences in gaining some education about the internet.

Seems this was Anne’s time.

I always hate to see someone who has a speck of famous try to use that as a bully pulpit. It results in a net that is far less useful.

I personally am very glad for Mike’s tolerance for anonymity. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here. Call me crazy but I refuse to sign up, be folded, spindled, and mutilated all for someone else’s profit. I won’t pay that price to comment.

This is the reason why I no longer do more than read some articles from time to time at Torrentfreak. They’ve lost my commenting for sure, for better or worse. In addition I have very little readership loyalty to the site from lack of participation, unlike this site that I’ve set my homepage to. Had it been different it might have went the other way.

Anne needs to learn you don’t control the trolls by firefighting them with gasoline. You ignore them and they will get tired and sulk away unless they have some other hidden purpose like you see here often enough in troll behavior. Tilting windmills won’t win her any fandom.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Amusingly, I signed up and started posting as a registered user for a while before I realized it didn’t matter, and I had no interest in doing it.

Like you, I probably wouldn’t post comments if anon was disabled here. In fact, I’ve stopped posting comments in a LOT of places that disabled anon comments, and I guess that’s their loss.

Ole Juul (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I always use my real name on the internet and I’ve commented on Torrentfreak too. I should probably have known better, but it is a mostly childish crowd there. As soon as I figured that out, I also knew that there was no value in reading the comments nor participating. No big deal though. But why would it matter if they knew my name there?

However, this site is unusually free of idiots and ill behaving kids. Very nice. Also, if Techdirt didn’t support anonymity, I wouldn’t feel good about participating here. Regardless of any benefits or lack thereof, it is simply the ethically correct policy.

Ole Juul (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Another thing about anonymity and this site compared to Torrentfreak and why I don’t mind using my real name in either place. On TF one is likely to get nasty comments for no intelligent reason. The fact is that they are just insults. That’s all they are, and therefore meaningless. On a site like Techdirt, If I got a nasty comment, I would suspect that it could possibly be intelligent and therefore I would read it twice instead of ignoring it. In either case, I don’t feel that there is anything wrong with having it attached to my name. I would feel very uncomfortable using anon, but (like I said above) it is extremely important to have it for those that want or need it.

zip says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It’s interesting that TorrentFreak is mentioned here. One comment I posted on TF about a convicted-pirate-turned-enforcer got noticed by Tim Cushing and became the basis for a feature article here on Techdirt (which I only discovered a year later).

Another one of my “just setting the record straight” comments I posted on Torrentfreak was quickly deleted, but about a year or so later an article appeared on Torrentfreak that covered about everything I had said (and agreed with the points I made) in that long-since-deleted comment.

But Torrentfreak seems to be typical of most sites, following the standard pattern of allowing maximum user freedom in its early years, and then gradually increasing the level of moderation (i.e., censorship) as the site’s popularity (and amount of comments) increases while the average quality of user comments correspondingly decreases.

And that’s what makes Techdirt so unusual. With most site owners, the “cuteness” factor normally wears off within a few years and they eventually get very tired of having to spend time dealing with such things as trolls picking fights and stirring up controversy, and respond by locking threads and getting quick with the “delete” button in an attempt to clean-up the site and encourage troublemakers to leave. It’s a slippery slope that’s often self-defeating.

On the other hand, sites that are not well-policed can turn into a troll haven that drives away many users, whether due to the trolls themselves or from the resulting anti-troll enforcement. (I’ve had to train myself not to be too complimentary, as I discovered this is often interpreted to be insulting sarcasm in some places). I’ve always ended up moving on if I start getting a lot of my comments deleted, even if it’s (presumably) due to a mistake of some kind.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Who, After All, Is Anne Rice?

I think I once bought a couple of Anne Rice’s “vampire” books in a used bookstore, for fifty cents or a dollar each, but I found both of them sufficiently boring that I did not get more than a few pages in before tuning out. I do not believe Anne Rice is in quite the same league as the following third-or-fourth-tier writers, who are now mostly forgotten: Thomas Dekker, John Cowper Powys, Sheridan Le Fanu, Clara Reeve, Granville Barker, Frederick Rolfe, Arnold Bennett, W.H. Hudson, Augustus Baldwin Longstreet, and of the non-English-language or non-western writers, Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin, Mikhail Bulgakov, Fyodor Gladkov, Joannnot Martorell, Mariano Azuela, B.Traven, Benito Perez Galdos, O.E. Rolvaag, Kamala Marandaya, Cao Xue Qin, Marivaux, Michel Bernanos, and Henri Troyat. I was reminded of Eliza Dalby’s observation, in her book about Japanese Geishas, that “the conversation of seventeen-year-old girls is primarily of interest to other seventeen-year-olds.” As for Anne Rice being a peer of Shakespeare, or Chaucer, or Emily Bronte, let’s not be ridiculous.

Crusty the Ex-Clown says:

Wait a minute...

“The assumption seems to be that people would be nicer if they weren’t anonymous, which simply isn’t the case if you’ve spent any amount of time around the general public.”

I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, but in my sixty-plus years it has definitely been the case that anonymity frees people from social restraints. Often (but not always) they then use this freedom to act like total numb nuts in a flurry of antisocial behavior rather than contributing anything to public discourse.

A quick and dirty breakdown of online anonymous postings might work out as 15% trolls/jackanapes, 75% clueless, and only 10% actually contributing anything useful. So, yeah, there might be a 1:1 ratio between Hotstud77 and Socrates. Most comments, however, tend to be vapid and nescient.

trollificus (profile) says:

No, things are NOT simple...

I love the “Underpants Gnome” logic that’s always at work in proposals like that of Ms. Rice:

Step 1: Remove anonymity of posters/gain access to real IDs.
Step 2:
Step 3: Comments of greater maturity, seriousness, and, ultimately, value!

Of course, the vague, non-specific “process step” 2 is nothing other than the exercise or threat of real-world status, wealth, legal pressure and other resources which constitute REAL bullying, as opposed to the verbal kind which Ms. Rice finds so unacceptable.

I find it disturbing that so many well-intentioned folks, in the name of “internet civility”, are eager to restore these irrelevant-to-discourse advantages to the powerful and famous.

Anonymous Coward says:

OMG… she has been at this 10 years.

She left this review on her own book in 2004. google it.

Seldom do I really answer those who criticize my work. In fact, the entire development of my career has been fueled by my ability to ignore denigrating and trivializing criticism as I realize my dreams and my goals. However there is something compelling about Amazon’s willingness to publish just about anything, and the sheer outrageous stupidity of many things you’ve said here that actually touches my proletarian and Democratic soul. Also I use and enjoy Amazon and I do read the reviews of other people’s books in many fields. In sum, I believe in what happens here. And so, I speak. First off, let me say that this is addressed only to some of you, who have posted outrageously negative comments here, and not to all. You are interrogating this text from the wrong perspective. Indeed, you aren’t even reading it. You are projecting your own limitations on it. And you are giving a whole new meaning to the words “wide readership.” And you have strained my Dickensean principles to the max. I’m justifiably proud of being read by intellectual giants and waitresses in trailer parks,in fact, I love it, but who in the world are you? Now to the book. Allow me to point out: nowhere in this text are you told that this is the last of the chronicles, nowhere are you promised curtain calls or a finale, nowhere are you told there will be a wrap-up of all the earlier material. The text tells you exactly what to expect. And it warns you specifically that if you did not enjoy Memnoch the Devil, you may not enjoy this book. This book is by and about a hero whom many of you have already rejected. And he tells you that you are likely to reject him again. And this book is most certainly written — every word of it — by me. If and when I can’t write a book on my own, you’ll know about it. And no, I have no intention of allowing any editor ever to distort, cut, or otherwise mutilate sentences that I have edited and re-edited, and organized and polished myself. I fought a great battle to achieve a status where I did not have to put up with editors making demands on me, and I will never relinquish that status. For me, novel writing is a virtuoso performance. It is not a collaborative art. Back to the novel itself: the character who tells the tale is my Lestat. I was with him more closely than I have ever been in this novel; his voice was as powerful for me as I’ve ever heard it. I experienced break through after break through as I walked with him, moved with him, saw through his eyes. What I ask of Lestat, Lestat unfailingly gives. For me, three hunting scenes, two which take place in hotels — the lone woman waiting for the hit man, the slaughter at the pimp’s party — and the late night foray into the slums –stand with any similar scenes in all of the chronicles. They can be read aloud without a single hitch. Every word is in perfect place. The short chapter in which Lestat describes his love for Rowan Mayfair was for me a totally realized poem. There are other such scenes in this book. You don’t get all this? Fine. But I experienced an intimacy with the character in those scenes that shattered all prior restraints, and when one is writing one does have to continuously and courageously fight a destructive tendency to inhibition and restraint. Getting really close to the subject matter is the achievement of only great art. Now, if it doesn’t appeal to you, fine. You don’t enjoy it? Read somebody else. But your stupid arrogant assumptions about me and what I am doing are slander. And you have used this site as if it were a public urinal to publish falsehood and lies. I’ll never challenge your democratic freedom to do so, and yes, I’m answering you, but for what it’s worth, be assured of the utter contempt I feel for you, especially those of you who post anonymously (and perhaps repeatedly?) and how glad I am that this book is the last one in a series that has invited your hateful and ugly responses. Now, to return to the narrative in question: Lestat’s wanting to be a saint is a vision larded through and through with his characteristic vanity. It connects perfectly with his earlier ambitions to be an actor in Paris, a rock star in the modern age. If you can’t see that, you aren’t reading my work. In his conversation with the Pope he makes observations on the times which are in continuity with his observations on the late twentieth century in The Vampire Lestat, and in continuity with Marius’ observations in that book and later in Queen of the Damned. The state of the world has always been an important theme in the chronicles. Lestat’s comments matter. Every word he speaks is part of the achievement of this book. That Lestat renounced this saintly ambition within a matter of pages is plain enough for you to see. That he reverts to his old self is obvious, and that he intends to complete the tale of Blackwood Farm is also quite clear. There are many other themes and patterns in this work that I might mention — the interplay between St.Juan Diago and Lestat, the invisible creature who doesn’t “exist” in the eyes of the world is a case in point. There is also the theme of the snare of Blackwood Farm, the place where a human existence becomes so beguiling that Lestat relinquishes his power as if to a spell. The entire relationship between Lestat and Uncle Julien is carefully worked out. But I leave it to readers to discover how this complex and intricate novel establishes itself within a unique, if not unrivalled series of book. There are things to be said. And there is pleasure to be had. And readers will say wonderful things about Blood Canticle and they already are. There are readers out there and plenty of them who cherish the individuality of each of the chronicles which you so flippantly condemn. They can and do talk circles around you. And I am warmed by their response. Their letters, the papers they write in school, our face to face exchanges on the road — these things sustain me when I read the utter trash that you post. But I feel I have said enough. If this reaches one reader who is curious about my work and shocked by the ugly reviews here, I’ve served my goals. And Yo, you dude, the slang police! Lestat talks like I do. He always has and he always will. You really wouldn’t much like being around either one of us. And you don’t have to be. If any of you want to say anything about all this by all means Email me at ■■■■■■■■■■. And if you want your money back for the book, send it ■■■■■■■■■■■■. I’m not a coward about my real name or where I live. And yes, the Chronicles are no more! Thank God!

redacted cause she is an idiot(not a coward)

LOL… fan critics complained that she needed an editor. She post that*. People edit it (add paragraphs) to understand it.

Chris says:

I agree with Anne

If someone is earning a living by selling their products through on an online website, like Amazon, then the website should take steps to protect their sellers, from anonymous comments that hurt their business. Having trolls reveal their true identity seems reasonable to me. If someone chooses to go to a site, where someone is earning their living, to make repugnant comments, then they should be required to let the world see who they are.

You can’t go into someone’s place of business, with a mask on, and shout obscenities at them every day, because you’d be identified and charged with harassment. It should be no different on an online commerce-based website, where people also earn their living. It’s one thing if people want to be trolls on an online forum, where people don’t earn a living, but it’s something entirely different to make insidious comments that have a negative impact on one’s living. Anonymous troll comments would be reduced. Aspiring authors would stand a better chance of being able to earn a living as an author, if trolls were identified, because they’d be less able to hurt aspiring authors, the moment the newer author begins to gain some traction with their products.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I agree with Anne

Yes – indeed, online is exactly the same as real life. Film at eleven.

It’s all about the Benjamins isn’t it. Let’s carve out a niche for those with moneyed interests and allow them some special privileges because – you know – they are the makerz and the rest are all scumbag takerz – amirite?

People do not have a right to not be offended. It really is simple. The thin skinned whiny get attention and probably have since they were children. Some people never grow up.

zip says:

Re: I agree with Anne

I’m sure the vast majority of corporations and individuals selling things on Amazon would strongly favor this “no anonymity” rule.

Forcing commenters to reveal their true identity would also allow the author — or snakeoil salesman, scam artist, etc. — to SLAPP the naysayer with a libel lawsuit if they refuse to apologize and make amends.

Some merchants might not even want an apology, but would rather exploit a lucrative business model — Prenda style.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: The rights of the trolls are your rights too

Such would require someone to determine who is and is not a ‘troll’, and therefor deserve anonymity, and good luck having a decision like that being in any way fair, for as has been pointed out above, one person’s ‘troll’ is another person’s ‘insightful commentator’.

Alternatively, it would require everyone to post using their real names(and the process of verifying such, to keep people from putting just any random name would require sharing a lot more personal details than I, and many others, would feel like sharing), just in case they turn troll later.

Also, and this is a very important problem with your suggestion that sites should ‘protect sellers’ from comments that ‘hurt their business’, who, exactly, gets to make that determination? A review absolutely trashing a book as a piece of crap is likely to be seen by the author and their fans as ‘trolling’ after all, and is quite likely to harm future sales, whereas the one who wrote it could simply be giving their honest impression of what they thought of it.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: The rights of the trolls are your rights too

I’m not planning to buy 50 Shades of Grey because I’ve heard it’s crap. Okay, its sales have been hurt a little (I’m not buying it based on some hilariously bad reviews where the commenter goes through it chapter by chapter. Heck, even George Takei got in on the act) but it’s still popular.

Nobody has an obligation to protect the sales potential of any item, ever.

I appreciate being able to post anonymously as I’m posting from work during breaks. Having to use my real name would create a huge chilling effect on my posting here because I’d have to temper my opinion – or not post at all to avoid upsetting my employers’ sensibilities.

lars626 says:

Verified ID

Verified ID. That’s a joke.
Does she want Amazon to do what Huffington Post did and force you to use your ‘verified’ Facebook ID. You can get one of those by giving Facebook your cell phone number. No thanks, I’m not crazy. I get enough crap in my email. I don’t need it on my phone.

Yes, I stopped posting on the HuffPost, and it appears a lot of other regulars did too.

Dan Felix says:

Anne Rice Comment

Anne Rice is correct for a variety of reasons.

1. The romantic viewpoint that the Internet is the 1997 freedom inspired outlay to society is patently outdated and wrong. Most of it has evolved into a commercial necessity no different than any city main street or highway. While no site should be mandated to deny anonymity, it would be in Amazon’s best interest to force real names. Amazon is a business first. Let trolls open up their own domains and anonymously kvetch about anything they want, all they want, but stop clogging up commercial thoroughfares.

2. The stats are wrong. “For every Hotstud77” there is a “someone.. to add something useful” is nonsense. There are thousands of Hotstuds per “someone.. useful” and their numbers make the forum unusable. Additionally, if the “useful someone” is unable to reveal themselves then their usefulness is questionable. Their name is their ethos and by extension the usefulness of the comment.

Anonymity is not cowardice, but I don?t know of any true revolutionary that did not boldly paint their cause with their real face and name.


That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Anne Rice Comment

First and foremost, I just have to say I find it rather funny to have anonymity attacked on a site that in no way requires people to use their real names, and yet seems to be quite fine despite, and in fact flourish because of, it.

On to the points though…

While no site should be mandated to deny anonymity, it would be in Amazon’s best interest to force real names.

And then watch a massive number of people who aren’t trolls but don’t want to use their real names suddenly stop reviewing products entirely. Yeah, that’ll be a big help. /s

Additionally, if the “useful someone” is unable to reveal themselves then their usefulness is questionable.

Say for the sake of argument that I don’t believe that you’re using your real name currently(I really don’t care either way, but for this example I’ll pretend it matters). Does that mean I should dismiss your comment entirely, since you’re not willing to ‘sign’ your post with your real name, backed by evidence that it is your real name?

The answer is, or should be, ‘Of course not’. Who cares what someone calls themselves online, the only thing you should concern yourself is how they present themselves and the validity of their comments/arguments.

Also, as far as ‘real names’ go, what’s to stop someone from just making something up? If people can just put down whatever name they like(like they currently can), then nothing’s changed.

If however you have to verify your name somehow, then you’ve got some other, rather large problems to deal with… In particular, the process needed to ‘verify’ that someone is who they say they are would require handing over a lot of very personal information to a third party, something many people would rather not do, especially these days, and especially to ‘combat’ a problem that is able to be managed without such drastic measures, via reports, downvotes and the like.

Anonymity is not cowardice, but I don?t know of any true revolutionary that did not boldly paint their cause with their real face and name.

Thomas Paine might disagree with you on that one, though it’s not like he ever wrote anything important, so it’s not like he counts.

Also, and perhaps more to the point, why in the world are you suddenly comparing internet trolls to revolutionaries? You give those people way more credit and importance than they deserve.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Anne Rice Comment

stares at you
“Additionally, if the “useful someone” is unable to reveal themselves then their usefulness is questionable”

I give you Evan Stone, Prenda, Malibu Media, and a host of smaller copyright trolls my anonymous comments helped stop/hurt.
I give you 6 Strikes, where I helped with bits and pieces of the full story.
Yes I am a flaming ass, I troll with the best of them, but to pretend I’ve never contributed a single thing is dishonest on your part or calls into question your ability to ignore things that don’t support your narrative.

Yep no revolutionary ever… Who was that Poor Richard asshole anyways?

Too Right says:

Re: Re: Anne Rice Comment

Yep no revolutionary ever… Who was that Poor Richard asshole anyways?

Oooh, oooh! I know! Benji Franklin, father of the $100 bill. (And, ironically, the only thing that really matters to Anne Rice and her followers. The money.) Oh, and he was also some revolutionary dude who authored some important pamphlets for the American colonies using a (wait for it!—>) pseudonym. Amiright?

zip says:

Re: Anne Rice Comment

“I don?t know of any true revolutionary that did not boldly paint their cause with their real face and name.”

The world is full of anonymous revolutionaries of all kinds, and always has been. I’ll name just one example of anonymous heroism that’s recently been in the news: the Vietnam-era “hippie” activists who broke into the FBI headquarters and leaked COINTELPRO, and then kept their identities secret for another 40 years after the Statute of Limitations had expired and they were free from prosecution.

Diane says:

Re: Anne Rice Comment

Thomas Paine, Mercy Otis, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay….need I go on?

As to Anne Rice and her claims of trolls, I’ll believe it when I see it. She has a long history of freaking out anytime someone dares to question her genius. I keep hearing about these awful, terrible trolls, yet I’ve never seen a single link to prove it.

Either way, taking away the anonymity of millions of customers, just to stop a few bad apples is like using a missile to swat a gnat.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Anne Rice Comment

Implying an idea is irrelevant because you don’t know who said it. Oh you!

Implying the inverse that an idea is more important because that person said it. Oh you!

Implying I can’t go into a shop and complain about a dodgy product without first showing my papers. Oh you!

Anne Rice is WRONG.
She is the one who started berating fans who criticized her latest book. (10 years ago)

As for the “romantic viewpoint”. You mean an attempt at a meritocracy. The web is for everyone. The internet is ours.
Fuck it… Someone wants to sell shit.
The internet is only for those who pay. The web is only for those with an ID. Ideas are rated by who said them.

EVERY OPINION is a “troll” to someone.

Proud to be Anonymous says:

Weeks ago I actually took the time and read through much of the forum thread where Anne Rice claimed she was bullied, and frankly I didn’t see anything the was threatening or harassment. I saw disagreements and her sidestepping questions, such as why she posts the snarky negative reviews of her books on her Facebook page knowing full well her fans will just attack the reviewer.

She has been whining about the negative reviews for years, so I am not convinced this is even about internet trolls. She even spent a lot of time last year chastising reviewers who gave Charlaine Harris’s last book a 1-star review simply because they hated the ending.

And what an insanely stupid idea of giving the vendors and authors access to the customers real identities. You just have to remember the article Techdirt ran last month about the insane vendor Hannah’s Attic to know what these authors really plan to do with that information. And it is not about building a more civil internet.

IrishDaze (profile) says:

Why real-name commenting doesn't work


Real Name policies are simply unenforceable. Show me a site that requires a ?Real Name,? and I?ll introduce you to Riot.Jane or another online persona. Generating a burner web mail account and online persona are not a challenge to a determined troll. It?s also not a challenge to a non-troll like me who simply doesn?t want prospective hiring managers or HR departments Googling me and finding out non-job-related opinions. Yes, they?re not allowed to use that sort of thing against me in a hiring decision, but I?d never know if it was done in order to bring the law into play. There?s more than one reason I blog pseudonymously, but that?s the primary reason.

Real Name policies are an extremely poor substitute for quality moderation, moderators, and moderation policies. Quality effective comment moderation involves more than searching for curse words or wielding the almighty [Delete] key. Media presences open comment forums ostensibly to have a conversation with their readers but then don?t hold up their end of the conversation! Moderators need their own forum-active personas, and they need to be willing and authorized to implement clear and productive moderation policies that are both publicly posted and extend beyond the [Delete] key. Moderators should be speaking up, calling out trolls, redirecting the conversation when needed, and filling in the conversation holes that trolls exploit. When the [Delete] key must be invoked, they need to explain why it was invoked; nothing inflames trolls like apparently capricious persecution. Stop slacking here!

Early commenters set the tone of a conversation. Once a negative tone has been set, it?s well-nigh impossible to redirect a conversation. Once your comment forums have devolved into a cesspool, don?t even try to recover them. Close them. Post-mortem what went wrong. Develop a moderation policy to address what went wrong (consider reaching out to other organizations with the kind of comment forums you?d like to have and asking them how they accomplish it). Re-train or replace your moderators and give them the authority to accomplish #2 above. Try opening up comments again. See how things go. Lather, rinse, repeat until you get it right.

Somehow, The Economist has a robust non-trolled comments section that doesn?t require real names. People disagree there constantly, but they are troll-free. How do they do it? Quality moderation. Someone at HuffPo really should call them and ask how they?re doing it or find out what consultant they used. Every corporate site should look to The Economist for the comment forum Gold Standard.

Online anonymity has important social benefits. As a culture, we will pay a price for eradicating it.

Mark says:

It's about libel....

Guess what? This is about libel, pure and simple. The fact it is written commentary on the Internet doesn’t give it special protection.

It’s not about “freedom” or “honest discourse.” It’s about a bunch of anonymous cowards doing their best to hurt the sales of authors they don’t like by lying about them. ie libel. And *that* is actionable in court.

You can damn well bet that fear of a libel lawsuit will keep a troll in check when he’s required to back up his vitriol with his own name.

More power to Anne Rice.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It's about libel....

look into it for yourself ffs.

She argues with people (FANS) who post valid criticism. The reviews are from fan critics who don’t like the ending or that a character done this. They don’t like the “new” writing style etc…. Go read them for yourself.

Judge for yourself. Stop being a parrot.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It's about libel....

“This is about libel”

I was unaware that expression of one’s opinion was considered libel. When sis this occur?

In the past, the word libel referred to a false statement communicated to others resulting in some form of harm to some reputation. So I find it of interest that this is no longer the case. Please elucidate.

Proud to be Anonymous says:

Re: Re: Re: It's about libel....

Exactly. And by removing the veil of anonymity, these authors will now be able to send their lynch mobs after a real person and make their own attacks far more personal. The offensive reviews in question are a personal issue and not a legal issue.

Any author who believes otherwise hasn’t been around the internet long, because that is what authors and their rabid fans have been doing for years every single time the author vents their anger over a reviewer. And much of this is happening OFF of Amazon, which they would not be able to control.

I don’t doubt that stopping anonymity would curb the number of hurtful reviews, but it will never stop them. And the damage of such a policy would be far fewer honest reviews on nearly all products.

Proud to be Anonymous says:

It's about libel....

“This is about libel, pure and simple.”

Mark, please do provide an example, as proof has yet to been shown on any of the sites discussing this petition.

If (and I do mean ‘if’) an author has a true case of a libel, there are legal steps they can take. Sites like Amazon can be forced to reveal the identity information they have on file, and cooperate with law enforcement. However, most authors supporting this petition know they do not have a legal case of libel so this step will never work for them.

If you read the comments and blogs supporting the petition, you quickly realize it is not motivated by those who want the legally defined libelous comments and attacks stopped (which, honestly, are very rare). This petition is far more about protecting the authors feelings, and squashing the legally allowed ‘opinions’ that stings or might hurt their sales. It is also about removing the gap between the real person and the anonymous name so authors can take justice into their own hands, and behave equally or worse towards a real person.

Bad-but-legal reviews are nearly always the catalyst to the author/reviewer problem. When we hear about an author raging mad about a reviewer, one can always find two things: 1) a bad review (the opinion), and 2) an author trying to ‘fix’ the review (arguing with them in the comment section, emailing the reviewer asking/demanding they remove it, or venting in public trying to shame the reviewer). I have seen this happen HUNDREDS of times.

It is no secret that Anne Rice and many others authors take to their Facebook page, blogs and forums to publicly single out and vent their anger over a negative reviewer, which nearly always ends with their lynch mob attacking the reviewer. But none of the ‘author ventings’ I saw were ever about a legal case of ‘libel’. (Again, I ask you for proof).

And while we are speaking of libel, the forum thread Anne Rice uses as her reasoning for the petition had no cases of libel. She only refers to that thread as having trolls and bullies, and if you read the thread (as I have) you will see she engaged for weeks with people who simply shared opinions of which she did not agree with. Her behavior should be accountable too, which she fails to take responsibility for. She is (once again) taking the roll of the victim.

So sorry, I don’t believe for one second this is about libel. Any real case of libel toward an author has yet to be shown, and what is readily shown is what most internet users refer to simply as ‘butt hurt’.

Anonymous Coward says:

Meet Anne Rice: Internet newbie

Only newbies whine about anonymity.

Only newbies whine about trolls.

Only newbies whine that something much be done!!

Only newbies whine about being criticized, parodied, satirized, and lampooned.

Only newbies whine in their weakness and cowardice, in their unwillingness to simply install a spine and deal with it.

I think the solution here is simple, Anne: get off the Internet. We don’t need you. You won’t be missed. Really, log off and stay off. Forever. You are expendable.

Binko Barnes (profile) says:

The primary problem with using your real name on the internet is that there are entities out there who are actively crawling the internet and attempting to link every use of your name together and create a comprehensive profile on you.

This profile will be used for their profit and your detriment. And it’s entirely removed from your knowledge, consent and review.

The next step is that this online profile is linked to your shopping habits through your use of loyalty cards and your cell phone records and your TV viewing habits and so on endlessly. Your entire life becomes an open book to government and business.

This is why you don’t want to use your real name on the internet any more than you absolutely have to.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This. I comment anonymously for this precise reason. Removing anonymity will result in the silencing of at least some people who have interesting, useful, or insightful things to say. Removing anonymity would reduce the amount of useful conversation. I would not interact in public forums at all if I could not do so anonymously.

Further, I see no evidence whatsoever that removing anonymity would reduce trolling. In forums where nobody is anonymous, I see the same trolling as I see anywhere else.

Just Me says:

I hate to break it to Anne Rice, but Amazon already disallows anonymous postings. She needs to get her facts straight, or Amazon could just say “Dear Anne, we will not allow anonymous postings, just like we never did in the first place. Thanks for the enlightening petition. Regards, Jeff”

A truly anonymous post is when the site receives no information about the person posting, so everyone is in the dark. But Amazon requires a full user account with a lot of personal information, and nearly all accounts are attached to a credit card. This is a lot more personal information than pretty much all social sites on the internet today gathers.

So if any of these authors ever did have legal cause to know a persons real identity, they would hit a jackpot of personal information about them. Of course, as was mentioned earlier, the author needs to take the legal roads to get to this information. Amazon is not going to freely serve that information up lightly.

What I assume she MEANT to request was the end of pen names, which Amazon simply would never be able to enforce. Not when you can open an Amazon account with a burner email address and an Amazon gift card. How could that possibly verify a persons real name?

Gleefully Anonymous says:

Consider the possibility of a person who’s favorite type of book is dystopia, like me, for example.

The person reviews a lot of dystopia, and the text of the person’s reviews reveals a generally skeptical view of government and big corporations. Thanks to Amazon’s new Anne-Rice inspired real-name policy, the reviewer uses his real name.

Then said real-name non-troll reviewer needs a new job, badly, to support his family. He shaves his beard, puts on a conservative blue suit and shows up for the interview with a Big Evil Corporation. Big Evil Corporation takes a look at the Amazon profile, and decides to choose another candidate who would “fit in better with our corporate culture.”

If we are forced to use real names online, that might be okay for conventional people whose choices in books, clothes and movies raise no eyebrows–maybe these choices even seem comforting and appealing to employers since they are so mainstream and ‘not weird.’

But for the rest of us–those of us who are rebels, gay, counterculture or even just independent thinkers– a real name policy online backs us into a corner. We have to either remain silent online or, worse, or change who we are to conform to the public image we may need to maintain in order to put food on the table.

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