NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

March 26, 2012

Time's up for anonymous commenting

Effective Monday, April 2, The Daily News will end the posting of anonymous comments on our website. People who comment will be required to identify themselves by their real names, using a new process to create an account.

The process is explained on our website and in the accompanying article on this page, and we encourage people who want to continue posting to transition over as soon as possible.

This is a decision that we did not come to lightly.

Like many newspapers and media outlets, we started hosting anonymous comments several years ago, when the phenomenon spread widely across the globe. It's proven to be a very popular feature, but it's become clear that its downsides outweigh the benefits.

There have been many well-considered and thoughtful comments posted on our website, and there are many posters who have consistently held themselves to a high standard. There have been productive discussions between people of opposite minds. If this were the norm, there would not be any problems.

In our years of hosting anonymous comment boards, we've seen that anonymity tends to lower the bar and encourages people to do and say things that would otherwise be out of character. Some posters have viciously attacked individuals, spread rumors and lies, made false accusations of criminal misconduct, threatened one another, and in at least one case attempted to meet up with an online enemy in order to fight in person. In recent months, the level of anger and maliciousness has escalated.

We have attempted to encourage respectful behavior by deleting offensive comments, blocking repeat offenders and explaining to posters why comments have been removed and some have been banned. We've sought ways to curb the kinds of comments that anger people and inflame situations. It hasn't worked.

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