Huffington Post will end anonymous comments

GigaOm

Trolls are just getting more and more aggressive and uglier, and I just came from London, where there are threats of rape and death threats,” Barb Darrow reports Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington said at a conference in Boston. Huffington said the site would rescind anonymity in September: “I feel that freedom of expression is given to people who stand up for what they say and not hiding behind anonymity.”

In an email to Poynter, Huffington Post spokesperson Rhoades Alderson confirms the move and says HuffPost’s army of moderators — it has about 40 — “will be freed up to engage more with the community, facilitating the kinds of productive conversations our community members want to be having.”

Jeff Sonderman wrote last fall about how The Huffington Post handles comments: Justin Isaf, then the organization’s community director, told him he and the site’s moderators “work really hard to keep the community safe and enjoyable by investing significant time and energy into pre-moderation to keep…bad actors out.” The Huffington Post receives 25,000 comments each hour, Sonderman wrote.

Some news organizations have said they’ve seen an improvement in comment quality by using Facebook, which requires real names. But Gawker Media honcho Nick Denton wrote a stirring defense of anonymity last year, saying that deputizing commenters would effectively mute trolls.

Related: How the News Got Less Mean (Time) | How to handle personal attacks on social media (Poynter)

Previously: Anonymous comments can be ‘a frothing, bubbling cauldron of insanity’ | Anonymous comments not the problem, ignoring the conversation is | Cleveland.com embraces its anonymous commenters

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  • Robert Knilands

    They can’t defend their position. Exhibit A: This thread. They haven’t come up with a single reason yet, outside of paranoia, for what they want.

  • Robert Knilands

    Full agreement. The people who believe in “voting” on posts are worse than the anonymous posters. It’s another symptom of extreme paranoia, fear, and ignorance. Don’t agree with something? Vote it out of your sight so you don’t have to think about it!

    Spam is yet another reason to restrict anonymity. The reasons for restrictions are many, and there are very few reasons for not restricting anonymity.

  • Robert Knilands

    The fascination is actually easy to understand. It’s rooted in extreme paranoia and fear — fear of the government, fear of anything that might be different from a strict Tea Partyesque theme of extreme ignorance.

  • Robert Knilands

    Grizzly is actually arguing against his own point, as I mentioned earlier. He’s another of the paranoid conservative bunch who flow in here from time to time. They were especially fearful back in December after the evil government actually attempted to respond to the school killings. His idols actually encourage the spreading of fear through anonymous drones — yet another reason to question anonymous posts.

  • Robert Knilands

    You have a right to post anonymously on message boards? Show me the part of the Constitution that says so.

  • Keith D.

    I don’t understand the fascination with “liberal” bosses firing “conservative” workers for voicing their opinions. As a liberal-leaning little-L libertarian myself, I see at least as many conservative bosses doing this sort of thing to liberal workers. I guess as an example case, it’s fine to define it in these terms, but try not to make it sound like that’s exclusively a liberal boss problem when it’s absolutely not. This should be a problem when ANY employer does it, not just liberal employers.

    As for myself, I’d rather not waste my time working for someone who’s so narrow-minded and self-centered that they’d retaliate against an employee for having a difference of opinion. That’s just ridiculous. Why would you want to use the limited number of days you have on this Earth making someone like that richer? Go find someone who isn’t such a self-important jerk to make rich instead. If everyone were to do this, then those people wouldn’t be in a position to employ ANYONE anymore, and we’d finally be rid of them (at least in positions of power).

  • Keith D.

    Why would anyone want to work for a boss who fires them or otherwise discriminates against them over something meaningless and stupid like a difference of opinion? As far as I’m concerned, let them start doing that so that EVERYONE knows who those fuckwits are and we can be rid of them in short order. (Also, liberal boss? You must be a conservative, because conservative bosses are just as likely to do that as liberal bosses are. It should be equally disdainful coming from either side if you ask me, or even from someone not quite of either side.)

  • Keith D.

    I always expand those comments, and you might be surprised at just how ineffective that actually is. It works as long as the majority of your users are of a similar viewpoint or demographic, but as soon as there’s dissent, the system crumbles to the point of worthlessness. And spam still ALWAYS manages to get through despite the voting system.

  • moon_bucket

    Is this the trompsky?

  • moon_bucket

    I have a fake name facebook account. So…. this really solves nothing.

  • http://brooklynfoodcoalition.org/cheap-retro-jordans/ cheap retro jordans

    You should read the Constitution sometime. cheap jordans from china

    Grizzly is actually arguing against the need for anonymity with all of those claims.

  • GrizzlyBearClaws

    LOL — well, let’s not forget we’re talking about the freaking Huffington Post. So it wasn’t like the Left leaning moderators there weren’t ALREADY keeping themselves busy by frantically deleting any non-Leftist comments to begin with.

    Truth be told, I predicted this day would come when Arianna Huffington sold the operation to AOL, in order to merge operations and customer bases. Because given AOL’s much broader scope of consumers, it was obviously going to increase the number of Right leaning or Middle of the Road moderates suddenly flooding in and posting there.

    The problem obviously being that Arianna, her reporters, and certainly her beloved and tyrannical message board moderators like things to be ALL left, ALL the time.

  • lancesackless

    Suurrree it does.

  • lancesackless

    In other words, the whiny babies can’t handle a difference of opinion.

  • Robert Knilands

    This again? The First Amendment deals with government, not private businesses.

  • Robert Knilands

    Actually, I just want to see an end to dumb posts made under the protection of anonymity.

    Opposing voices are OK, if backed with some sense and some credibility. Ignorant voices, backed with nothing, are not.

  • Robert Knilands

    If they are simply paranoid, then yes. There is no benefit from people posting unproven details simply to spread fear and ignorance — and we saw that here a few months ago — under an anonymous handle.

  • GrizzlyBearClaws

    NO — your boss should know IF you’ve committed an illegal act, that jeopardizes the company or workplace.

    But your boss has NO NEED and — in fact — it is ILLEGAL for your boss to pry and ask who you voted for… where you stand on political issues (Federal spending, healthcare, gay marriage, etc)… your religious beliefs… etc, etc, etc. All of those things — and your personal choice to (at times) speak up on them — are protected under the 1st Amendment Free Speech rights, not to mention modern Federal and Personnel workplace law regarding worker privacy rights.

  • GrizzlyBearClaws

    Translation: Soloman was 100% correct. All you’re really interested in is seeing opposing viewpoints and voices silenced, in a roundabout way.

  • GrizzlyBearClaws

    LOL – so says the guy who thinks everyone in life should give up their personal privacy, no questions asked. And who not only wants to play Internet cop, but clearly wants to silence opposing voices by all means. All behind the truly LAUGHABLE argument of “combating paranoia” and “ending disservices” to free thinking and Net centric information flow.

  • GrizzlyBearClaws

    Given that it’s estimated something like a full third of all Facebook accounts…and Google+ accounts as well …are created by people simply plugging in fake names and info, so they can create an account to surf the web and post comments while protecting their REAL names and to give themselves at least some sort of privacy shield…

    …Gee, here’s an obvious prediction. A heckuva lot of people who post there will simply create all-new fake named accounts. Which I’m willing to guess a lot of them already have on the side, to post at other sites that likewise try to pull this lame, laughable and totally invasive “give us your real name, so you can be tracked at all times” garbage.

    So, nice work, Arianna.
    This latest bonehead move takes all of 30 seconds to get around.

  • Robert Knilands

    No one says you have to comment.

    Problem solved.

  • Soloman

    A conservative such as myself could, outside the workplace and in my own personal time, post very intelligent, thought provoking comments that are as articulate as this comment. Yet if my employer or supervisor is a liberal person with a strong political bias, and should he happen upon my political comments in a forum with my name attached, it could be problematic. In theory, I could lose my job for no reason other than my personal opinion which I am expressing and which has no bearing whatsoever on my performance as an employee, because my employer can’t separate his own personal opinions from our work environment.

    Therein lies the problem of comment sections that force a person to self-identify and offer no possibility of anonymity.

  • Robert Knilands

    In the words of a great philosopher: So?

  • Robert Knilands

    No reason, other than no recent FB update.

    How about your name, old sport? Why not offer that?

  • Robert Knilands

    You forgot the fear. And paranoia. You should have mentioned those first, as those drive you.

    Great argument, by the way. I’m sure that will convince the Huffington Post.

  • Joan Sutton

    Voting is anonymous – it’s a signpost of democracy.

  • Jono

    Why don’t you post a picture of your real face, Topper?

  • Jono

    Robert, it is trolls like you that make people want to remain anonymous. The thought of you knowing my full name makes my skin crawl.

  • Jono

    And if I am a Coptic Christian in Egypt should I tell the truth under my own name, or lie and say that the Muslims are simply toasting marshmallows?

  • JTFloore

    wrong.

  • trompsky

    Hatred and evil hide behind the mask of anonymity. Be a man (or woman) and say things to peoples faces, not behind their backs, like cowards.

  • trompsky

    YOur boss should know if you are a hate-mongering troll.

  • LeefellerGuy

    Really do not know what they need to do anything, except we do seem to be going into police state mode as individual rights seem to be trampled.

  • Robert Knilands

    Do you think that if the NSA is tracking you, it needs a name on a comment section?

  • Robert Knilands

    I think you answered your own question. Requiring an ID would solve some of these problems.

    OK, now you come back with a bunch of paranoid reasons for why that can’t possibly work. Really it comes back to the anons’ “argument” of: “We want to post anonymously! So there!”

  • Robert Knilands

    Thanks for pointing out the details. Wait, you didn’t point out any.
    Just to help out you and the other Facebook straw men: It doesn’t have to be Facebook registration. A site, such as Huffington Post, can set up its own form of registration and require a name. Can people fake that? Probably. Is that really the point here? Not really. The point is whether people need to be anonymous to post their stupid, illogical crap, and as you and others have shown, you have no real argument for why that needs to be the case.

  • scmurley

    “Also, it has to be repeated: You. Can. Change. Your. Settings. Then that information won’t show up. I know many people on Facebook who display almost nothing outside their network of friends. You should have someone explain it to you.”

    How charmingly naive you are about “privacy” on Facebook.

  • scmurley

    People can make up gibberish and use a “real name” on any service. Unless you require a credit card or some form of meatspace ID. What, you think all those facebook nyms are real?

  • Robert Knilands

    So you think having a good journalist and likely at least one editor deciding which comments deserve anonymity is no different than blanket anonymity?
    You don’t seem to be grasping much.

  • JTFloore

    various arguments in favor of anonymous posts have been made very clearly by any number of people on this site. even you should be able to grasp it.

  • Robert Knilands

    Your reasoning — extreme paranoia — is all the more reason to require non-anonymous posting. When posters like yourself are out there spreading paranoia and fear, based on partisanship, it’s a disservice.

  • Robert Knilands

    If you go to a site like Yahoo, you’ll see the anonymous behavior is far worse, though.
    Even if there were total equality in that behavior between anons and named posters — and that concept in itself is generally the sign of a non-argument — the response, as one great philosopher once used, would be: “So?” You’d still have some chance of sorting through posts, instead of what we have now — “Guest,” “mark67,” “libsaredumb,” and on and on.
    Your entire argument so far seems to be: “I want to post anonymously! So there!”

  • JTFloore

    strike “anons” and replace it with “people.”

  • Mark Sullivan

    OK Bob… I’m all done here, ok?

  • Robert Knilands

    How does your weak insult equal to you making those points? I’d say your imagination is stronger than your reality.

  • Mark Sullivan

    actually my point had to do with self-importance…and subtlety… but, never you mind, BobbyK… best of luck with the anon crowd… keep up the good work…!

  • Robert Knilands

    That doesn’t make much sense. How is “anons throwing stones” pulled off by people signing their names? You should think first, then post.

  • Robert Knilands

    Not really. I’d say it is a particularly weak couple of days for the people arguing for the anon crowd, though. What’s your point, again? Oh, that’s right. You don’t have one. Must. Try. Harder.

  • Mark Sullivan

    Slow day in Knidland, eh…?

  • Mark Sullivan

    Oh, no…!

  • LeefellerGuy

    Ones safety by anonymity of opinion seems important, for safety from repercussions from work, acquaintances, neighbors and the NSA?
    For instance an atheist may not have an A tattooed on their forehead,
    but feel the importance to express their opinion to someone with a C
    tattooed on their forehead, after all heretics where burned at the
    stake, abortion doctors have been shot for their opinions and politics seems
    little different today when one looks at the Tea Party, supporting the plutocracy? For years some people demanded a friend of mines real name, I suspect for divisive reasons. The good news is my name is Leefeller Guy and is not going to change like Cruz dropping his Canadian citizenship and Bachman getting her Swiss citizenship.

  • Chris Reed

    I believe this hypothesis does fully explain the practice in question.

    http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19

  • Robert Knilands

    Thanks for illustrating the “twist into straw man” technique I described earlier.

  • Robert Knilands

    If you are talking about the incident from June, that has little direct connection to comments with a Facebook account.
    Nice try, though.

  • JTFloore

    so you think your “solution” will have only, say, ph.ds in philosophy arguing issues, and THAT will raise the level of discourse so that everybody agrees on what arguments are right and which are wrong. please. you should know better.

  • JTFloore

    every single one of the things you cite — anons throwing stones, twisting reasoning into straw men, illogical responses etc. — are done every day on thousands of sites by millions of people who DO sign their names. your arguments, as they say, do not hold water. not even a drop. your solution would prohibit almost nothing.

  • Inattentive Vigilant

    You are stupid.

  • Tmurphy

    I’m going night night Bobby. Thanks for the spar. Best wishes to you. And by the way..it’s quite easy to create fictitious FB profiles.

  • RagnarDanneskjold

    Prepare for the avalanche of “John Smith” trolls.

  • Robert Knilands

    Probably want to change those Facebook settings, then.
    Funny how one excuse undercuts the other one.

  • Tmurphy

    Got to blame my erstwhile parents for that one Bob. They always told me for security reasons a woman should only use her initials when corresponding with strangers.

  • Robert Knilands

    Your name is Tmurphy? You should try a lot harder.

  • Tmurphy

    But this is my name Robert. I just choose to not flesh out the T. You’re still delightful! Please, go on.

  • Robert Knilands

    And you must be one of the many people who cower in fear of putting your name on a post. After all, someone might know who you are! But I’m sure your cover story about Facebook will grant you cover.
    Let me know when you’re brave enough to use a name.

  • Tmurphy

    Are you the famous curmudgeon banned from message boards far and wide Robert Knilands? Then Sir, it is an honor to be insulted by you!

  • Robert Knilands

    Actually, your response is a prime example of why anonymous posters are the bane of the Internet. No real point or argument. Lots of mistaken logic: “I CAN’T change my settings! I’m going to just keep arguing this, right or wrong! After all, no one really knows who I am!”
    Again, you can change your settings. When you keep using that as a “reason,” you don’t help your cause.

  • Tmurphy

    Wow! You’re one of those rude individuals the Huffpost probably wishes to be rid of. Your condescending replies are uncalled for.

  • Robert Knilands

    Weak response. First, if you don’t think Huffington Post is worth it, you can opt out.
    But once someone starts with the “Do you have ()?” response, as if that person is somehow better for having (), I know that person is not even trying to come up with something sensible.
    Also, it has to be repeated: You. Can. Change. Your. Settings. Then that information won’t show up. I know many people on Facebook who display almost nothing outside their network of friends. You should have someone explain it to you.

  • Tmurphy

    I really don’t feel huffington post is worth it. My Facebook is for family and friends only. Not for general viewing. Do you actually have a FB? Do you have children grandchildren? There are photos, discussions about vacations. All kinds of information to trace. My settings are private, but if HuffPo wants real names and FB verification, I’ll just stick with Media Matters to express my views.

  • Robert Knilands

    Posts should have a real name behind them. The reasons not to do this are generally weak, with one category of exceptions. At sites like this one that routinely allow anons to throw stones, twist reasoning into straw men, and post illogical responses with no purpose other than to trash reasonable posts, it is sometimes necessary to use a cover ID. That is the only time.
    Anonymous posts are like people spray-painting graffiti on a wall. Those posts have almost no credibility.

  • Robert Knilands

    Not sure how Disqus fixes anything. People can still make up gibberish and post under that.

  • Robert Knilands

    The difference, of course, is you’d have Bob Woodward deciding which anonymous quotes to use and likely having a good reason. On the Internet, you have none of that screening process.

  • Robert Knilands

    Not a very good reason. Facebook allows people to change security settings.

  • JTFloore

    it SOUNDS good to say ‘people should not be hiding behind anonymity,” but it is obvious that many people have more freedom to comment if they can. and it doesn’t take a genius to know it. wasn’t it the esteemed bob woodward who said news stories should contain MORE anonymous quotes [to try to get at the truth]?

    (this reminds me of a recent case of the college newspaper saying it would no longer interview people by e-mail because they can lie that way. how frigging ludicrous is that?)

  • Tmurphy

    Exactly. I use a variation of my name, but if I had to use my Facebook, that would be too scary for me to expose my location and children.

  • BrotherMatthias

    There has to be a way to end such postings without ending anonymity. Disqus, e.g., I like.