Columnist Claims Anonymity Is Bad For Our Country

from the federalist-papers? dept

Connie Schultz, a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and a supporter of special copyright laws is back with another nonsensical column, this time weighing in on the recent debates about anonymous comments and her own newspaper's decision to reveal the name of a commenter. Her summary: anonymity is just evil and should be done away with. Not just evil, but bad for the country. Seriously:
Maybe that's the foolish optimist in me, but I want to believe that we will finally admit -- to ourselves and to the public at large -- that allowing people to hide behind anonymity has not been good for our industry, our culture or our country.
Apparently, Ms. Schultz is unfamiliar with The Federalist Papers, which were (*gasp*) written and published anonymously, and were instrumental in ratifying the US Constitution. Apparently, that was bad for our country. And, apparently, Ms. Schultz is unfamiliar with the concept of anonymous sources or anonymous tips that often drive important investigative reporting -- the same kind of investigative reporting she thinks will die without special copyrights to protect her employer.

No one denies that when anonymity is allowed people may abuse it. But getting rid of anonymity completely is going way too far and greatly diminishes and limits certain important conversations -- which are not bad for "our industry, our culture or our country." Instead of whining about anonymity, why not focus on providing incentives for people to better identify themselves?

Filed Under: anonymity


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  1. icon
    PopeHilarius (profile), 31 Mar 2010 @ 10:30am

    I think her problem isn't actually with anonymity per se, just community management:
    It makes for many an ugly day, discouraging thoughtful discussions and repelling readers who don't have the stomach for the daily dose of vitriol. The Plain Dealer's John Kroll leads the heroic effort to keep the site civil, but it's an ongoing challenge.

    Some argue that allowing anonymity is a way of outing the bigots among us. But reading multiple posts, often by the same person using a variety of identities, amplifies voices and exaggerates numbers. The haters are small in number, but they are tenacious, and the resulting echo chamber fuels a growing climate of fear and rage born of false impressions.

    Her problem is that (allegedly) anonymity leads to trolling and sock-puppeting. Both of those are problems TechDirt has resolved quite well (in that trolls here just make poor arguments, instead of "u r retarded" Youtube fare).

    Mike, you ought to be referring to several of the great posts you've written about developing a good commenting community, not pointing out the Federalist Papers were written anonymously.

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