Huffington Post Eliminating Anonymous Commenting

No offense to our anonymous commenters, but I like this idea. Huffington Post is eliminating anonymous commenting.

“Trolls are just getting more and more aggressive and uglier and I just came from London where there are rape and death threats,” Huffington said in comments to reporters after a speech at Hubspot’s Inbound 2013 conference in Boston. The changeover will come in mid-September, she said.

“I feel that freedom of expression is given to people who stand up for what they say and not hiding behind anonymity,” she said. “we need to evolve a platform to meet the needs of the grown-up Internet,” she said. The current Huff Po system uses advanced algorithms to moderate comments plus 40 moderators, but that is not enough now, she said.

In print, letters to the editor have to include a name, address and phone number in order to be printed. Anonymity, on the other hand, is a shield that allows total latitude to say anything without any personal accountability.

I don’t know whether we’ll follow suit here (we don’t have the massive volume of commenters found at Huff Post). But what do you think? Especially our anonymous non-troll commenters? Would you be open to something like this here?

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  • Rita D. Lipshutz

    first thing huffpo has done in ages that i’ve liked. i’ve been commenting under my real name for ages, and gotten tons of insults and even threats from people who don’t.

  • dbtheonly

    I prefer to keep my personal privacy. Not that I’m ashamed of anything I post; but do not want to put myself out there for the hackers, spammers, fraudsters, or thugs that can inhabit the internet.

    • missliberties

      I worry less about myself and more about my family. I have edited my Facebook account not to protect myself, but to protect my family. I don’t know if I am being paranoid or not, but I don’t want anyone in my family to face retribution for what I say online. And I guess I think there are some people out there that could threaten their jobs, or making life more difficult.

      I post on some rightwing blogs using my facebook account and someone hacked my account it to reveal my age, instread of ‘top commenter’. (I am 61 years old). Somehow they thought that my ‘vanity’ or calling me a hag would silence my opinion with they found unbearable. Even more interesting was after the NSA/Snowden affair, someone immediately removed the slur attached to my facebook identity. Pretty crazy.

      • http://www.facebook.com/felonious.grammar Felonious Grammar

        Yeah. I have good reasons not to use my given name and one of those reasons is a violent ex.

        Women have been doxxed for speaking out about sexual harassment in the tech industry. Those rape and death threats happen here. The reason it’s being talked about in the U.K. is that people are getting arrested for making those threats.

        Instead of treating everyone like a potential sociopath, there should be more reporting and pressure for our authorities to pursue people who make threats on-line. I don’t walk around with a name tag with my full name in public, I see no reason to have to do so online.

        As for people who expect other people to believe them because they use their “real” names— whoop-di-effing-do.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=663669914 Sean Richardson

          I don’t know what Huff Po is doing specifically, but there is a level in between total anonymity and total revelation where the system is able to know your name, but you have some control over what name is actually displayed to the general public, with the understanding that threats of violence and other abusive contact will be treated as a criminal act.

          Sadly, I don’t think that your problem is remotely unique, so I would bet that if there isn’t a solution for it already, there soon will be. Now is the time to contact the HuffPo people, while they are still laying all the groundwork, they might still be able to update the policy to address your concern (because it’s a very valid concern).

          • Badgerite

            Exactly. I would think there would be some middle ground. Other than stupid insults, I’ve never seen any real offensive behavior at this site. Mostly it is just a lot of arguing and debating.

  • http://ramonasvoices.blogspot.com/ Ramona

    I feel the same way. I tend not to take “Anonymous” seriously whenever he/she comments anywhere. Anyone can create a handle, and sometimes it’s necessary if a commenter has a sensitive job or otherwise isn’t ready to go public, but using “Anonymous” is lazy and it’s confusing, considering how many people use it in any one conversation.

    Anon begone. Nobody will miss you.

    • http://ramonasvoices.blogspot.com/ Ramona

      Oops. Looks like she doesn’t want screen names, either. I don’t know how you enforce that. Anyone can open an email account with a phony name and then use it to comment. Good luck, Arianna. As I said, there are good reasons not to use real names on the internet and I think there’s going to be some major pushback on this.

      I’m noticing that more and more bloggers are using their real names. It makes sense, considering that many of us are or want to be published in other venues. Our blogs are our showcases and if we do this long enough eventually everyone knows who we are, anyway.

  • MontanaSid

    I agree also. No more anon.

    • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

      Says the guy with an anonymous user account.

  • Vic78

    That’s why we can’t have nice things. It might get to the point when we’ll have to use our real names any time we’d like to comment. The trolls have screwed us.

    • missliberties

      The trolls should be banned or suspended for months. The uncivil discourse is not helping America.

      • joseph2004

        The uncivil discourse is not limited, here and a lot of other sites, to only the “trolls.” Some “trolls” are relatively civil, but are nevertheless quickly corralled by the Cescan attack dogs.

  • Nefercat

    I see her point, but how are you going to enforce real names? Or real email addresses?

    I think the only thing that will happen is that the civilized people who play by the rules anyway and put their real names out there will be found and harassed ferociously not just on the site where they left a comment, but also in their email, real mail, facebook, etc. Because the people Huffington is aiming at will not play by the rules.

    I don’t care for anonymous, but why not screen names? They are as real as the names the trolls will use.

    On a related topic, I don’t comment on sites that use facebook not because I am ashamed of my views, but because I do not need every interaction I have everywhere, open to everyone that I have any sort of connection with. Boundaries, I haz them. If I have a conversation with someone about politics, I do not need it to be overheard or judged or commented on by people I wasn’t having the conversation with, like my sainted elderly aunt, or my employer, or someone whose only views I share are in regard to cooking.

    I’m sure I sound crabby, but I am of the age that grow up with the idea that a diary had a little bitty lock because of course your innermost thoughts were private and why would you inflict your adolescent angst on anyone, anyway? My kids have facebook status updates. Get out of my petunias!

    • missliberties

      Make a note of the fact that EveryThing on the Internet is perceived as public information. And this is without the big bad government, spying. This is something I have been aware of for a long time. Anything you post on the internet can be viewed by anyone else if they really really want to see it.

    • Dan_in_DE

      “Boundaries, I haz them.” Wins the internet! There’s nothing crabby about that.

      This is a point that not enough people are emphasizing. Trolls will easily comment from puppet email accounts over anonymized IP addresses. Many of them are doing that already. So, requiring commenters to register with their ‘real’ identities only results in HuffPo & Co developing a gold mine of data on their (non-troll) commenters.

      • MrDHalen

        Excellent point on the database building.

  • Vipsanius

    In the old days, anonymous letters to a newspaper were, most of the time, just thrown away. That cannot happen on line.

    I think that comments should not be anonymous. The owner, though, does know the IP address. So, anonymous is not all that anonymous.

    • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

      “I think that comments should not be anonymous”

      Everyone (exception: Scalzi) on this thread who has said this or something similar, is ……….using an anonymous account.

      “vipsanius”

      Those of you who like the idea should certainly feel free to use your real identity. Asking all of us to do so is another matter entirely, and would cause commentators to refrain from commenting on the site.

  • Draxiar

    I do and don’t like this idea. I like this idea for the honesty and the courage of conviction; I don’t like it because it can make people vulnerable to forces in their private life.

    For example, employers like to poke around social media sites to view the manner of an employee or potential employee outside of work (something I find deplorable) and actually base hiring or firing on that.

    Will my private life be affected? Unlikely (I say with the alias “Draxiar” rather than Andrew Coutinho- I just like the alias Draxiar). So for me it makes little difference. For others though it may impact them profoundly.

    • beulahmo

      Good point about employers. I live in Texas and really do worry about what my political opinions might do to my ability to find and keep employment, if my opinions were to be widely known. Call me a coward if you want, but in my real world, I gotta pay bills and have a job. I’d probably have to stop commenting here if I had to use my real identity.

      • missliberties

        What a sad state of affairs, that we have to fear for our political views.

        • beulahmo

          Listen! I don’t know if you know what it’s like here! I got aggressively tailgated and flipped off regularly by NRAers because of my Obama bumper sticker (and I live in “liberal” Austin). And I took the sticker off because I was traveling with my “play mother” (I’m white and middle-aged; she’s elderly and black) through east Texas, which is Klan territory. You can’t predict what hate-addled people there will do, so it’s best to avoid attracting their attention.

          • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

            I know exactly how you feel. I live in AZ, land o’ nutjobs, and got harassed for my Obama bumper sticker. Plus, many of my past and my current employer are very conservative so I have a very real fear of having my online stuff being held against me. I’ve been blogging for over 3 years now and if someone wanted to link my pseudonyms (I use two, IrishGrrrl and Ms. D. Ranged in AZ) to my real name it wouldn’t be all that hard. On the other hand, I refuse to live in fear of that kind of thing. I would literally rather go hungry than let close minded employers scare me into anonymity. I’m lucky in that I can always go and find another job opportunity. That being said, I know that others aren’t that lucky and I understand their concerns about being identified.

    • Nefercat

      “I do and don’t like this idea. I like this idea for the honesty and the courage of conviction; I don’t like it because it can make people vulnerable to forces in their private life.”

      Very well and concisely said.

    • RilesSD

      My thoughts exactly. I don’t want people to be able to google my name and see comments I’ve left online. I don’t care if Bob or Chez know my real name, but that’s different then it being on every blog.

  • ranger11

    It probably wouldn’t stop me from commenting but it probably would feel a little weird. When TPM went to Facebook comments my real name was used. But now when I search my name these comments invariably show up; which is slightly irksome. I don’t lose any sleep over it though.

  • missliberties

    It’s a fascinating question.

    The problem of hiding behind a non-identity can be solved by using the Facebook comment system, where your name is attached.

    I do think people are more careful what they say if they have to use their own name and as Ms. Huff mentioned, you actually have to stand up for what you believe in. The number of comments would go down drastically I am sure.

  • beulahmo

    I don’t mind if you know my real name, Bob, but I don’t feel comfortable letting every malicious jackass who sees my comments know it. Sorry.

    Edited to add: My reaction is strongly influenced by the recent death threats Goldie Taylor received on Twitter. They scared the hell out of me.

    • Nefercat

      “I don’t mind if you know my real name, Bob, but I don’t feel comfortable letting every malicious jackass who sees my comments know it.”

      I agree.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=663669914 Sean Richardson

      Yeah, exactly. The potential issue seems to be that this makes people who want to make anonymous threats take a step back and stop posting, but then they can see everybody’s info for themselves and harass them in other ways?

      Having said that, from the things I have read, the actual issue that they are trying to address here is advertisers. Anonymous trolling has led to comment sections being anathema to most people — it’s something like .1% of readers post on a high-post site — which advertisers thinks translates to less money for them. So advertisers and other corporate entities want this. Also, any corporation that is pursuing anti-piracy stuff, they want this to happen to. Not just at Huff Post, they’re trying to get actual federal laws passed (and slowly succeeding).

      Also famous people who get threats or even just insults on-line, they want it. And of course any security related industry, this would make what they do much easier.

      So, I’d say, it’s gonna happen. Probably within the 2016-2020 presidential term, they will attempt to pursue the elimination of Internet anonymity, that’s my prediction.

    • BillAndersoot

      Yup. The Internet is a bad neighborhood. I’d be no more inclined to let people know who I am online than I would be to post my name and address on the side of my car. Anonymity is not a bad thing.

    • Victor_the_Crab

      What beulahmo said.

  • missliberties

    Another solution for Ms. Huff would be actually banning hate filled comments. The bile people post is offensive. Go read the comments at Politico. The place has been invaded by the Souther Avengers and the mods there never ban anyone from commenting.

    The hate totally prevents any rational discussion and ends up being a third grade pie fight. I hate you. No I hate you more. But he said/ she said and on and on it goes.

  • Bill Hirschi

    I already post by my real name in most comment threads, except Daily Kos, where I have a screen name (which I’m thinking about changing to my first name & last initial, at least). I’ve been writing letters to the editor of local papers for 35+ years, and am a retired reporter, so I guess I’m just used to putting my name on what I write. I really don’t see it as too big a deal.

  • eljefejeff

    I love everyone’s nuanced answers, this is a tough one. On one hand it probably would improve the discourse ever so slightly. For this site though, I hope it doesn’t change.

  • Ipecac

    I work for the federal government and would just as soon not leave a record of political statements on the Internet under my real name. Not that I’m particularly worried about getting fired, but I don’t want any appearance of impropriety I also have a blog that’s under my screen name for the same reason.

    Ipecac

  • Hal Swann

    If it will bring one of these trolls to actually see me in real life to threaten me? You bet I am for it.

  • i_am_allwrite

    Charles Pierce’s blog uses the Facebook commenting system, and while the lack of anonymity fosters a real sense of community among the regular posters, there’s not a whole lot of debate or dissent. Here and at the Banter I’ve noticed that most of the hardcore pricks post under their own names anyway. Doing away with anonymity wouldn’t bother me, but I think a middle ground where people have to register under their name to post (allowing a moderator to ban them if they’re threatening or overly offensive), but giving the option of posting under a screen name would be preferable.

  • joseph2004

    As one of the so-called “trolls” on this site, I’ll just answer the way I’d be expected to: I prefer anonymity because without it I’d have to worry that Spike Lee (or as likely that psycho MrBrink) would send a hit squad to my family’s house (or some other family’s house with the same name).

    • D_C_Wilson

      Dude, if you think Spike Lee has a hit squad, you have more issues than just being a troll.

    • mrbrink

      Yeah, but you should be embarrassed of your general views and comments. Do people in your life really respect your views that are mocked and derided here for the sickness they represent? This ain’t for me. No. It’s for people who spout the crap you spout to civil-minded people who are generally mortified by your lack of empathy and remorse, and yet, you march right ahead like the first one killed in a sci-fi movie, or the one that sits there while everyone is eaten alive because you told them so. People with your intellect and stalker instincts scare the shit out of me.

      • blackdaug

        Please don’t kill him with your Spike Lee inspired hit squad Mr. Brink.
        I am awaiting my orders from Spike, and it could get messy if both our hit squads show up at the same time.
        Because people on the left and their hit squads, how can they be controlled?

        • mrbrink

          Sounds like Reagan’s Contra’s, or Fox News’s idea of protecting the identity of children, or Limbaugh’s words on women and race.

          We are the meek for a reason.

  • BillAndersoot

    I’d be forced to quit commenting. I own an online retail business and many of our customers are (very) conservative Republicans. If it came down to business vs. speaking my mind, I guess I’d have to choose keeping the bills paid.

    Most of us don’t want to be known for our views, which is why we choose to comment rather than to blog. It seems like there should be a better way to do it.

  • Robert Scalzi

    stand behind your statements – otherwise you are just a rat bag coward

    • BillAndersoot

      Do you think people who post on Craigslist should be required to include their real names and contact information?

  • nathkatun7

    I like the idea. This is one of those rare occasions I agree with Huffington.

    • BillAndersoot

      …said nathkatun7.

  • BillAndersoot

    “Trolls are just getting more and more aggressive and uglier and I just came from London where there are rape and death threats.”

    Arianna makes a strong argument against her own decision.

  • KABoink_after_wingnut_hacker

    Why worry about trolls? It’s a person’s choice to acknowledge or engage them and it’s their choice to just simply ignore them.
    Anonymity protects those who post (and their families) from prying bosses, curious clients and your average garden variety lunatics.
    If this policy happened here, I would leave.

  • BillAndersoot

    4Chan founder Christopher “Moot” Poole’s TED talk on the case for online anonymity:

    http://www.ted.com/talks/christopher_m00t_poole_the_case_for_anonymity_online.html

  • blackdaug

    You have a really good comment section here. You have a very large contingent of really smart thoughtful commentators…and you have about 5 actual trolls. Two or three of them use the same pseudonym over time, 3 more come in with a new name, get abusive, get troll hammered, rinse and repeat….One good moderator could handle all the trollage here pretty easily.
    There used to be a comment system that would allow the reader to just hide comments. The trolls were somehow notified that their comments were not being seen, and they would just give up and go away.
    It’s pretty funny Ariana just now noticed a problem with trolls, given her comment section has been a wasteland since about 6 months after she put up the site. I signed up to comment there in the first week the site was up. Within a few months, I noticed completly innocuous comments were being knocked out. When it happened to me, I just left.
    Later when I went back and read the comments again, it was about 80% troll, to 20% commenter….and it is that way to this day. They have “top commenters” there, that refer to other commenters as “libtards”….but then again, their content is also screaming doomsday headlines and click bait, so what do they expect to happen.
    Right now, this site is pretty unique. You are one of the few left whose comment section has not been completly taken over by the hair fire brigade. I wouldn’t be to hasty to make a major change.
    P.S. This guy has a really great troll policy, and his site gets a lot of traffic….and a lot of commentary. http://www.stonekettle.com/2013/08/wright-answers-mail-and-dispenses.html
    …..but he also has a stated policy…..which is very helpful.

    • D_C_Wilson

      I had the same experience at Huffpost a few years ago. Ironically, for an obstensibly liberal site, Huffpost was more likely to flag and delete posts critical of conservatives than liberals. It got so bad, people had taken to deliberately misspelling the names of conservatives (e.g. “H@nnity) just to get around the moderator bots.

      • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

        So true. I also experienced the same crap…….which is why I left and began commenting solely on Bob’s blog.

      • KABoink_after_wingnut_hacker

        “people had taken to deliberately misspelling the names of conservatives (e.g.H@nnity) just to get around the moderator bots.
        Geeze, I forgot about that nonsense over there. You gave me a flashback. :-)

        • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

          haha…..same here. :) I remember using all sorts of “creative” solutions to get specific words through the moderation process.

          Still, HP has a lousy mod system, and at no time is that more evident than when your completely innocuous post isn’t published, while the troll tormenting you is published.

      • blackdaug

        I remember watching the episode of “Real TIme” where Arianna was a guest announcing the launch of the site.
        The next morning, I found it and thought initially it would be a really great internet counter to Fox News (because the wing nuts had not yet figured out the internet).
        The comment section was the first thing to go south there, the content followed suit. Kind of the reason I am so hard on trolls. I just hate to see another good idea or blog go down the tubes.

        • Dan_in_DE

          Lol @ “wing nuts had not yet figured out the internet.” So true.

          “The comment section was the first thing to go south there, the content followed suit.”

          Exactly what I pointed out below. I also remember getting my comments scrubbed even though they were measured and respectful attacks, while the ad hominums from trolls calling me a “libtard” remained :D

        • D_C_Wilson

          The good news is, while they’ve finally figured out blogging, they still don’t understand social media. They’ll probably be five years behind the rest of the country in perpetuity.

      • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

        Me too! Why is that? Why would a supposedly liberal site like Huffpost eliminate liberal commenters? Like you all, that’s why I stopped commenting over there.

        • D_C_Wilson

          I think it was an overreaction to when Bill O’Reilly pulled a handful comments that were hateful to conservatives and claimed they “blog posts.”

          • blackdaug

            I remember that. Wingnuts were really late to the table on the internet. OReally couldn’t have clicked on a link to save his soul. He would have had to remove his drink from the cup holder on his desk top.
            Considering how they had taken over radio, it was a good thing.
            I remember public forums were basically limited to people who were already working in IT. Trollage was non existent.
            Then it seemed like everybody got a PC and an AOL account for christmas. Things have been going downhill ever since.

    • Dan_in_DE

      Hilarious that Arianna is just noticing her problem over there. Exactly! And, as some others have pointed out, it’s almost certainly born out of a scheme to profit off of peoples info rather than an actual concern about trolling. I also commented when HuffPo was brand spanking new, and I also gave up within a few months. I’ve rarely even clicked on a HuffPo link since then. I was looking for a site with interesting, intelligent commenters and, naturally, I ended up here :) Of course, the columns that HuffPo promoted also quickly became a bunch of breathless outrage-porn and link-bait (with a few gratis sideboob pics thrown in). So, by the time Huff knocked Bob off the front page to punish him for his posts excoriating that bloviating arse, Joe Brought-To-You-by-Starbucks Scarborough, I was done with it once and for all.

      I think it would be a really good idea for Bob, or even The Daily Banter as a whole, to come up with a clear, and prominantly linked comment policy. I’d also be reluctant to make any major changes though, because this comment section really is a diamond in the rough of political blog sites.

    • MrDHalen

      Ta-Nehisi Coates over at the Atlantic has a well moderated comment section as well with a lot of traffic. Trolls go there to be quickly burned and discarded!

      It can be done, you just need a dedicated moderator(s) with a set of rules.

  • BillAndersoot

    Danah Boyd, Senior Microsoft Researcher and Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at NYU: “Real Names” Policies Are an Abuse of Power

    http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2011/08/04/real-names.html

    • beulahmo

      Thank you. These debates frankly annoy me because, invariably, the people who advocate the “real names only” policy are people who are privileged, in that they are unlikely to have their livelihoods (e.g., political bloggers) or personal safety (e.g., people living in predominantly liberal communities) as vulnerable to harm as some of us are.

      • BillAndersoot

        And besides, Arianna can afford bodyguards. :) Josh Marshall floated the same idea awhile ago (he eventually settled on Disqus as a compromise). My case to him was that he chooses to add his byline to the things he writes–it’s how he makes his living. Me? I’m just trying to keep my customers happy and not piss anyone off. But letting off a little steam is nice every once in awhile.

        • beulahmo

          “…letting off a little steam is nice…” Yes indeed, since there’s little opportunity for me to be free enough to do so in real life.
          I’m a public school teacher, so I can’t afford body guards and I can’t afford to have my job jeopardized by enjoying the uninhibited, politically outspoken freedom professional commentators do. How cowardly and stupid of me. :-D

          • BillAndersoot

            But think of the freedom you’d experience if you opened up in the teachers’ lounge and told every one of your Republican co-workers exactly how you feel. :)

            Come to think of it, I suppose we should do away with anonymous voting too.

          • beulahmo

            Co-workers, hell–it’s principals and assorted other administrators (believe it or not).

          • blackdaug

            I hear you. I live in the south …well north of you..directly north, but not in any kind of blue dot.
            An Obama sticker would have got my truck, at the least keyed, and more likely ..slashed tires or even towed.
            It is like the Twilight Zone around here, everybody so pleasant on the surface, but get a few beers in them, or put them in a group, and they transform into the Obama Zombie Apocalypse Army.
            The internet is the only thing keeping a lot of people sane out here the Redlands….and being able to comment really helps.

          • beulahmo

            IKR?? I feel exactly the same way. Sometimes I walk around looking at people and wonder what they’d say or do to me if they knew how I voted, FFS. It’s not just the old-fashioned cold-shouldering and hostile-glances type of anxiety I’m feeling. These MFers are armed and fucking crazy. Yeah, fuck yeah, they do scare me.

          • beulahmo

            By the way, if you ever plan to drive your truck south to the Austin area, let me know and we’ll hang out and safely chat over a beer. :-)

          • blackdaug

            I haven’t been there in years, even though I have a sister living there..and relatives all over Tejas.
            I used to be in the music biz kind of…and would go to SBSW.
            It is a great place, it just needs to be moved…..!
            …but if I ever get down there again, barbeque and micro brews!

          • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

            Exactly my situation too. Surrounded by Conservatives who will smile while saying the most hateful things. And I have to just sit here and listen to it day in and day out. No wonder my blog is so full of cussing…..

  • BillAndersoot

    And as I close my case, one last piece of evidence:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Sense_%28pamphlet%29

  • Greyling

    Being a liberal woman harassed and stalked online and outside my own home by local tea party patriot-types, I now prefer to remain anonymous. Oddly, I’ve never been stalked or abused by liberals.

    If Bob Cesca/The Daily Banter want my real identity, or even vet me, that would be fine as long as I can still comment under my alias, and my personal information is kept confidential.

    I’d rather online commenting be eliminated completely than be forced to use my real name, for the reasons above. In my experience, RWNJs don’t care if people know who they are, and often use that as a cudgel to abuse those who post anonymously, and liberally.

    • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

      What she said. Absolutely.

    • BillAndersoot

      Yup. I agree. My wife has a Twitter account where she uses her real name, and where she only tweets about business. She also has a pseudonymous account that would shock and horrify many of our customers and probably get us picketed by teabaggers.

      I just closed my Huffington Post account. I’ve been commenting there for five years, and have posted thousands of comments. I’ll probably never go back. I take my online privacy very seriously.

  • http://phydeauxpseaks.blogspot.com Bob Rutledge

    I think such a system would only harm the ‘innocent’. By that I mean, trolls are, by definition, people who don’t give a shit. I suspect causing them to post under their own names wouldn’t lessen their trollishness a whit — and might actually give them “street cred” with their troglodytic compadres. Whereas, people such as our own missliberties, and muselet, &etc would (for reasons some of them have already expressed) be the ones forced to self-censor. I switched over to my real name (which, reading the linked article, it doesn’t really say users would have to post by real name, only not the eponymous “Anonymous”) because I don’t really give a shit what anyone thinks, nor am I likely to be applying for a job or such where my internet commenting history will be called to question [don’t expect a Costa Rican to say to me (in Spanish, of course), “Well, I’d really like you to build me an armoire, but you once said that George W. Bush is a ‘blithering idiot of the first water, and fit only for derision'”]. Most others don’t have that freedom from fear.

    I also think that the proposed system which would harm the ‘innocent’ is a feature, not a bug. We are talking HuffPo here, after all.

  • D_C_Wilson

    Huffpost has been a cesspool for trolls for years now. I don’t know if eliminating anonymity will eleviate the problem or not. I guess it’ll depend of some of them are worried about impacting their lives outside the intertubes. I think people should be able to post anonymously if that’s the case. I choose to post using my last name and first two initials (linked to my Facebook account), because I try not to post things that I would be embarrassed to say in person. That’s my choice. Others may have different circumstances and I support their choice to stay anonymous.

  • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

    I am completely opposed to the idea for a couple of reasons.

    1. I have been stalked online by conservative creeps. They extended it into RL because at that point I was using my “real” name online.

    I was terrorized with death threats, filthy letters, etc.. My local police said they couldn’t do anything about it.

    2. As someone else said, I own a small and struggling business, and I will not tie my political opinions to my actual identity.That would be a really bad idea for anyone that isn’t marketing solely to liberals.

    Huffpost? Really? As if Arianna gives a rat’s ass aboutr anything but the bottom line. Requiring actual identities in order to comment at HP is about two things:
    1. She will share information for $ with other companies/publications.

    2. She will save money moderating/handling the comment sections.

    One should be able to express political opinions without fear of reprisal. Even the damn trolls.

    • beulahmo

      Thank you. I feel the same way about Arianna Huffington (and HuffPo, which arbitrarily banned me as a commenter 6 years ago and I haven’t been back since) so I’m pretty unsympathetic to the “hardships” she faces due to having to moderate trolls. Bob, however, I DO care about. I’d be willing to give him whatever info he needs to manage the commenter/troll populations here, but I need to be able to protect myself from the general public.

      • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

        “I’m pretty unsympathetic to the “hardships” she faces due to having to
        moderate trolls. Bob, however, I DO care about. I’d be willing to give
        him whatever info he needs to manage the commenter/troll populations
        here,”

        Agreed, but my case, Bob and co. are already aware of my RL identity. If not for that, I would have no issues in giving them the info since I trust them.

    • mrbrink

      It seems more like a denial move than anything else. Like sweeping America’s collective inner psycho under the rug to allow the U.S. media family to pretend that everything’s alright now that we don’t have to deal with Uncle Wingnut’s take on the Michelle Obama Takes A Vacation On Your Tax Dollars post.

  • BillAndersoot

    I think I’ve solved it. It’s Block-O-Meter! On Twitter, when you get sick of being harassed (or, in the case of @ggreenwald, of being asked perfectly legitimate questions) you can block someone. What if there was a threshold? Like, if someone blocks you, you disappear as far as they’re concerned, but it X% of the people you’ve replied to block you, you get auto-booted? (I should probably code this myself and go into business…)

  • Christopher Foxx

    There is no practical way to stop trolls cold. Nor can you be sure folks are who they claim to be if they provide a “real” name. Sean Richardson (just to pick the first commenter I see on this thread with a real sounding name) may not actually be named Sean Richardson and the person in his avatar image may not actually be him.

    Best you can do is require people to register (using whatever name they are willing to provide). This avoids the anonymous poster who is difficult to block because they are indistinguishable from all of the other anonymous posters. If anyone makes enough unacceptable comments (i.e., threats, uber trolling, doing nothing but disrupting discussions, etc.) their account can be blocked. Doesn’t stop them from creating a new one, but short of requiring something like folks to mail in copies of drivers licences, there isn’t more you can really do.

    • BillAndersoot

      I got booted from TPM a couple weeks ago for getting into a heated exchange with a winger troll and telling the Mod to stay out of it when he wagged his old granny finger at me. It took me three minutes to open a new account. I’m assuming HuffPo is going to force people to log in via Facebook or whatever. That’s not about making things more civil. It’s about giving advertisers better intel.

  • roxsteady1

    I don’t have a problem with it and I think it will have the effect of spraying “Troll Be Gone” on those cowards who post disgusting comments while hiding behind their screen names.

    • BillAndersoot

      …said “roxsteady1″.

  • JMAshby

    I do not think it is necessary or warranted here, at least not right now. And I don’t have a Facebook account.

    • BillAndersoot

      Me either. I wouldn’t even consider it.

    • Dan_in_DE

      Have you seen any confirmation that that is what HuffPo is going to do? Require Fb login? It would make sense. That would be most pleasing to the corporate overlords. Of course, it still wouldn’t stop the hard core trolls from creating puppet Fb accounts to spew their bile under.

      • BillAndersoot

        What about Google+? That would be OK, right? Because Google does no evil.

        • Dan_in_DE

          I guess Google+ wasn’t a *complete* failure. No one ever added any profile info but, at least at first, everyone was ‘plussing’ each other. This would still provide them with data on interconnectivity between users.

  • KABoink_after_wingnut_hacker

    I’ve worked for decades in professional design firms with clients who have followed me when I relocated. My clients are of many religious and political backgrounds but as a professional providing services it doesn’t matter to me or them because there is a separation between business me and personal me.
    My professional life is separate from what I might choose to blog about or shoot the breeze about with my friends over a beer.
    Huff & Puff has made another bad decision destroying that separation line.
    So be it, it’s not for me.

  • cleos_mom

    This all seems rather vague. Are they going to require everyone currently on HuffPo to re-register under their real names?

  • BlueTrooth

    I prefer the “brand name” approach. I comment everywhere as BlueTrooth that allows twitter authorization. Huffington Post has made the changes already. I visited yesterday and there was my name and it “cannot be edited”. In response, I’ll probably comment less and lower the priority of the website. The timing was kind of interesting since I had recently decided I would increase my footprint there, but now I’ve reconsidered. I understand the fundamental push, which is verification that data is unique to a real consumer. The same process is taking place in the gaming industry with consoles that require registration and online verification of “unique” data. The consoles link to all wifi devices and ultimately all of your internet activity is traced back to the registration (multiple registrations of unique family members are marked with identifiers). The email accounts are the start point, but I’m fairly confident that in the near future all operating systems will (like the “next-gen gaming consoles will) have a registration requiring verification prior to initializing the device. With all of that boring stuff out of the way, the ultimate goal is to make the leap from virtual “life” to real life online. With real life online, elections and identifications and drivers license…birth certificates for cryin’ in the night! It can all be done legally from an online device. But the short term motivation is quite simple, the data on shopping habits and website visits is worth a LOT more when the data is verified as unique to a real person with a known physical address or phone number.

    • http://simplelittleelectrician.blogspot.com/ paleotectonics

      But the short term motivation is quite simple, the data on shopping habits and website visits is worth a LOT more when the data is verified as unique to a real person with a known physical address or phone number.

      + a whole damn pile

    • Norbrook

      I also prefer the “brand name” approach. I’ve used Norbrook on the Internet for 20 years (yes, really, that long), and it has an association with me going back 35 years.

      The funny thing is that if I wanted to be “anonymous,” I’d be posting under my real name. That’s because I have one of those very common names, which any search of the Internet would likely lead you to … the wrong person. Even if you knew which town I lived in, I’m not the only person with the name.

    • BillAndersoot

      I closed all my Google accounts after they instituted their real names policy. Closed HuffPo this morning after reading Bob’s piece. Never been on Facebook, don’t use Twitter. I really don’t care that much about any site to let them dictate proper online behavior to me. There’s always another place to hang. Besides, it’s the Internet. If it all shut down tomorrow, I could live without it. Probably be a lot better off.

  • http://simplelittleelectrician.blogspot.com/ paleotectonics

    I’ll register my name at a site I trust, one that I have been commenting on for years – I must trust Cesca, I send the bastard $6 a month. I’ve done so a handful of times. But only if allowed my screen name. For one thing, I’ve used it for 12 years, for another, as stated above by many, I need to pay the bills and have no need to mix universes, there is no upside. If that makes me a coward, fine, dude, you are clearly cooler than I am…
    I was on Fleecebook for some time, until yet another one of Markie Mark’s explosions at the castle doors; was sick of relearning privacy protocols, so fuggit. Pierce is awesome, and I would register there if that was a requirement, but no more Faceblargh.
    (scribblescribble, carry the pi, sashay lightly)
    In conclusion, I’m cool in general with private registration, but allowing screen names.
    And let’s face it, there is no internet privacy, anyone with decent haxxorsskilz can find anyone, no illusions. But I try as much as I can to make ‘em work for it.

  • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

    The abusive and threatening commenters have pushed the issue far enough into the spotlight that site owners are finally doing something about it. BUT the problem with anonymity on the Internet, how that psychologically affects people and as a result changes behavior has been around since the early days. I wrote a paper over ten years ago for presentation at an IT conference about this very topic. Basically what I’m trying to say is, we shouldn’t ignore the effect of anonymity and we should mitigate it where possible but we’re never going to be able to get rid of it entirely.

  • kushiro -

    I’ll be honest. The main reason I use a screen name is because I don’t want my friends to see all the really crappy jokes I make in comment sections. Anonymity gives me the courage to be lame.

    • RilesSD

      Ha! That’s one of my reasons too, actually… I don’t talk politics with my friends, that’s what you guys here are for!

  • Kitty Smith

    Eh, I’m fine with it, but my position in the race/gender scale kind of mean that I don’t really have to worry about it.

  • theronware

    I love the idea!

  • Victor_the_Crab

    If people want to use their real names as their usernames, that’s fine by me. But I’d rather see profiles be kept anonymous for the reasons people have stated. All it takes is one crazyperson with an agenda to make someone’s life miserable.

    It’s fun to play whack-a-troll, but if a troll becomes far too toxic, then the best way to deal with them is to report them to Bob or Ben. This past weekend, I got Ben to ban a very racist one off the Banter named Johnny Empire who started posting some disdainful shit here.

    And besides, I like my username. Twenty years ago, I drew up cartoons of a crab that represented me trying to laugh at the observations and difficulties in my life. His name was Victor, of course.

  • http://www.twitter.com/bobcesca_go Bob Cesca

    I think the consensus is no — keep the current system. Of course I never really had any intention to change the username system anyway. Just wanted to get a sense of where everyone falls on the subject.

    • Kitty Smith

      That sounds fair, and is probably for the best. I can see why people would stay anonymous, really, even if it’s not a major concern of mine. Well, okay, it’s not a major concern, but I do have a small amount of it. It’s not like I’m worried abotu ebing threatened or losing a job or anything.

  • muselet

    My opinion on the subject is known, at least to Bob and long-time denizens of these parts.

    I’m not sure it’s necessary, to be honest. This is a small community and we don’t really have abusive trolls. Most of the trolls we do have are just pests, demonstrating no wit or panache.

    I’d be okay with registration scheme of some sort—except through Facebook, which I refuse to have anything to do with because I don’t trust the company as far as I can throw a fit—but I’d rather not use my real name in comments. Not because I have a realistic fear of reprisal or physical attack, but because (a) I have a name that’s hard to spell and harder to pronounce, so it’s a distraction; and (b) I like to keep the real world separate from my online jollies.

    My £0.013.

    –alopecia

    • mrbrink

      Yeah, I think it’s a matter of accountability, too. For me, I’m accountable to Bob, Ashby, the community, the reputation of the blog, and at least 10 people in my life who know me personally know that I post under this pseudonym. So, for me, It’s a matter of accountability.

      I was reading comments on the wackaloon Minutemen blog earlier tonight, and a seemingly well-regarded commenter said, ” If I had my way, Obama would be hung for Treason.”

      Who’s accountable for that?

      For me, the internet serves many purposes, one of which is exposing the ugliness and mental derangement that we’re all up against. Why not hold that bloody Medusa head up to democracy for all to see?

      • muselet

        Some people can handle being pseudonymous and behave themselves. Others can’t and don’t.

        Sadly, No! is one of the most freewheeling sites on the internet, and the management there has had to resort to comments moderation because the trolls became too obnoxious to ignore and too shameless to slink away when they’ve been bested. (For the record, I don’t comment there, but I visit more than occasionally and enjoy the wonderfully weird directions the comments threads take. And the puns. And the food porn. Mmmmm, food porn.)

        If we truly get overrun here with determined and clueless trolls, then I’d be fine with monitored/moderated comments, the application of a banhammer that’d make Mjölnir look like a child’s toy, registration, even real names. We haven’t reached that point—we’re not even close—and I hope it never comes to that.

        As I’ve said, I don’t post anything online that I wouldn’t say in person, including the insults. It’s not as if I made a conscious decision to behave this way, but I do have to live with myself afterward. I think most of the regulars think much the same way. That’s why I call this place a community, and it was a community before I arrived.

        Some people just weren’t raised right.

        (If this doesn’t make sense, blame the wine.)

        –alopecia

        • mrbrink

          A conscience helps.

  • moelarryandjesus

    I just checked out HuffPo and there are as many fake names there as there ever were.

    So I created another one.

    Like so much else about that site, their policy is bullshit.

    Edit: Ah, just read the story and the new system isn’t in place yet. But it’s still idiocy and will be easily avoided.

  • DetroitSam

    HP is just another right-wing site masquerading as progressive, as is Arianna Huffington.
    The moderators allow just about every right-wing troll’s comments to go trought but censor most progressive comments.

    • everynewday

      Nonsense. A quick look at just about any HP thread shows that statement to be false.

  • everynewday

    “Trolls are just getting more and more aggressive and uglier and I just came from London where there are rape and death threats,”
    Yes, we must make sure they have accurate names of the people they intend to do harm… um, okay…

  • everynewday

    I think the solution to the problem is quite simple. It will be a lot of work for a while, but still it is simple. Moderators need to stop worrying about whether or not they agree with a comment and instead focus on the content (this is the true purpose of their job). Posters who are consistently abusive, who are clearly trolls with no interest in dialogue, etc. but rather seek only to stir the sh*t pot and create division and drama should have their accounts closed. Sure they will come back under a new name, close that one too, and so on and so forth. Eventually they will tire of it and find some other way to get their cheap jollies.

    The problem is that HP is agenda driven. They have allowed abuse for quite some time because those guilty of the charge have supported the HP outlook and perspective. They do not take kindly to opposing ideas or opinions and their commentators are a direct reflection of this. You can not (or at least you should not) win the day by forcing the opposition into silence. If HP was a public institution, the UN would have been investigating them long ago for human rights violations. Huffington Post is a run away train. In short, the problem at HP is self created and easily fixed.

  • ajs1210

    Good. Now there won’t be anymore bully dems being keyboard commandos trolling around looking for sheep to bring into their bullying den of hypocrites.