Julie Zhuo, a product design manager at Facebook, writes in Tuesday’s New York Times that reducing anonymity is the first step that Web publishers need to take to civilize online discussions.
It might be a bit self-serving for a Facebook employee to argue against anonymity, given that the social network is a well-known proponent of “real names” and profits from that policy. But she effectively points out that publishers who are unhappy with the current level of discourse on their site have a few options:
“Instead of waiting around for human nature to change, let’s start to rein in bad behavior by promoting accountability. Content providers, stop allowing anonymous comments. Moderate your comments and forums. Look into using comment services to improve the quality of engagement on your site. Ask your users to report trolls and call them out for polluting the conversation.”
Zhou points to several experiments in this direction, including a self-policing system being tested at Gizmodo. What she doesn’t note is that some publishers, including Poynter.org and many other media-related sites, have begun using the Facebook Connect registration tool to provide “real name” authorization for Web commenters.