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. identicon
    Oh No!, 31 Mar 2010 @ 11:30pm

    Anonymity is required sometimes

    I know of the case of a bunch of parents in an Indian International School in Singapore (that is, private school, not run by government) who tried to improve the school their kids attended. The school had quite a few problems or issues but they absolutely wanted none of it coming out through the internet (surely they must have had their own things to hide). However a bunch of parents went online using screen names in an internet forum. The school would have none of it, and even cried "defamation" for critical views and sharp comments. They were able to identify only one or two parents who had signed up or set up the forum (and therefore not fully anonymous) to and make life really hard for them and their children. Recently Singapore Attorney General has thrown out the criminal defamation proceedings started by the school but unfortunately much of the damage is already done. If anonymity was held sacrosanct, the parents and their kids would be protected from tyranny. I think this is a genuine case where anonymity is required.

    As users of the internet we should also develop a sense of what is frivolous and what is not, so that we can filter out the frivolous even if it is not anonymous !

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