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Should Patch Commenters Have Anonymity?

Everyone has opinions. Patch is the place to share them.

From news organizations to social media sites and blogs, forums and comments on the Internet are everywhere. Anyone with access to the world wide web can say what they want about whatever they like (or dislike) whenever the mood strikes.

Recently, the Daily Record newspaper's online platform switched over to a Facebook-style of comments, trying to "improve the environment for conversation" and reduce anonymity, the company said.

So, Long Valley Patch wants to know what you think about the situation, and if you feel Patch should follow suit. Or, is it the ability to be anonymous that draws you to Patch's sites?

Be sure to vote in our poll, and express your opinion in the comments section below–anonymously or not.

Thomas Lotito December 22, 2011 at 02:17 PM
Posting in your own name should be a voluntary. However, mandatory FB style posts would improve the quality of the conversation. Circuitous remarks by posters who get more caught up in personalities than the substance of the story would be greatly curtailed.
RGJ December 22, 2011 at 05:54 PM
What are "real names"? You aren't taking credit cards here like in the old AOL/Compuserve forums. In fact, many forums *disallow* real names due to the problem of people pretending to be a real person. Something to think about. Signed, Eli Manning
Hookerman December 23, 2011 at 12:33 AM
First of all, the Daily Record switch is a complete failure. The anonymous posters have just started Facebook account using their assumed names, and are still posting the same inane comments as before. Secondly, I would assume that the moderator of a blog would prefer anonymous monikers so that people don't post under the real name of another person in order to sully that person's reputation. Why do I choose to post anonymously? Because some people can get very litigious over what others say online. One prominent blogger in this community filed charges against another over what he said online. A local politician tried to sue several local bloggers who he claimed destroyed his election chances. Nobody wants to deal with that kind of nonsense in their life. The better plan is to monitor the forum carefully and bounce those posters who don't stick to the forum rules.
Bill Leavens December 23, 2011 at 04:27 AM
As with letters to the editor in a print publication, anyone submitting should be prepared to prove their identity. Phone numbers, email adresses on file, home addresses, whatever. After having been modestly savaged by trolls elsewhere, it's easy for me to ignore anonymous posters. Unfortunately, they still get their share of electronic 'ink' and get to have undue influence in a discussion. Best answer is for editors to monitor what is being submitted. That takes time and effort if comments are made on a particularly hot topic. But good journalism always verifies sources. We DO want good journalism, don't we?
AnonymousPatchUser December 23, 2011 at 08:18 PM
As Hookerman (and Eli) stated, and online identity is not reliable. Even if the online identity is verified to a real identity at the time of registration, that doesn't mean that it will always be that person. Consider people who leave themselves logged in at home, library, cyber-cafe -- allowing anyone to post under their identity. Similarly a weak password could enable an online intruder into an account. There is a greater danger with "real IDs" -- assuming that the identity is valid. With many online IDs, you do not have to provide any sort of real identification. The verification most sites employ (including Facebook) only verifies your email address. I don't know about you, but my email address is not on my birth certificate. Anyone (even you) can create any number of Facebook accounts using any names they want. You simply need to be able to create a separate email address for each account. This is trivial for anyone who can do a Google search.
Barack Obama December 23, 2011 at 08:31 PM
Regarding the topic, it is not really so much a question of should anonymous posting be allowed -- as it is already possible to post anonymously to patch.com, Facebook, etc. Is it a good idea? It sounds like the real intent of the question is to address the quality of comments/feedback. As stated by "Hookerman" and "Bill Leavens", an effective way to control the quality of community contributions is to moderate. Moderating "hides" or removes comments that the other community members or content owners do not like. Of course removing comments is censorship by definition. It is however the right of the website/content provider to employ censorship on their sites. Unfortunately if all unpopular ideas were "moderated", our country would not have made the progress it did. Equally, most readers (myself included) can easily get side-tracked from constructive discussion by unmoderated comments. So as with all things, balance and moderation of the "moderation" are key.
LV Mom December 23, 2011 at 08:34 PM
If these people had to use their real names, they wouldn't be able to post some of the nasty things they say on here.
Hookerman December 23, 2011 at 09:59 PM
I would not support removing a post simply because it is an "unpopular idea". I think all opinions, even those in the minority, are relevant, as long as they are pesented in an objective way. The ones that should be removed are the ones that break the forum policies, which are in part; "defamatory, abusive, obscene, or profane; is threatening, harassing, promotes racism, bigotry or hatred; is inaccurate, false or misleading; is illegal or promotes an illegal activity; etc."
cecile marie December 25, 2011 at 10:00 PM
Nasty or not, comments should never be censored and people should be able to hide their identity. Fear of reprisal from the government and disagreeing residents is real. (I have had fights with people on my own property who took down my political signs because they did not represent their candidate) Although I personally have been attacked by some of the anonymous posters, I will fight for their right to say what they choose. I expect them to do the same for me. Sometimes, as painful as it is, there can be a kernel of truth in the negative, outright nasty things - if you are able to get past the BS. Freedom of the press and freedom of speech are basic rights and fundamental to the US. Our freedoms are being taken from us every day, bit by bit, and people do not notice. One day, when people wake up, the fight to set things right will be far greater than they imagined and perhaps too late.
Thomas Paine December 30, 2011 at 03:17 AM
Anonymity can certainly be abused, but it can also defeat abuse. These forums are frequented by cowardly individuals who anonymously attack real people rather than addressing the content of that real person's post. The recipient of such an attack then feels compelled to defend his/her reputation and the conversation goes downhill from there. The attacker thereby puts the poster on the defensive. If the original poster is using a pseudonym, however, then there really is no need to defending against the personal attack, therefore the topic remains in play. The attacker ends up looking foolish by trying to attack "Thomas Paine". I'm also reminded that the founders publishing under pseudonyms such as "Phocion" (Hamilton), "A Citizen of America" (Webster), "Publius" (Madison), "Senex" (Henry) etc. etc. And who can forget "deep throat" in the 1970's?
Hookerman December 30, 2011 at 01:58 PM
Furthermore, the most vicious and mean-spirited attack I’ve read in recent days is from a poster who uses his actual name, so requiring anonymity is not going to necessarily stop the personal attacks anyway.
Thomas Paine January 01, 2012 at 07:12 PM
It's really up to the forum moderator to remove the troublemaker posts. It's AOL's site so we are all guests here and subject to whatever standard they want to impose.

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