Amid the uproar over the Huffington Post’s announcement that commenting now requires Facebook verification — which itself requires supplying Facebook with a phone number — some users found a loophole: They could still use their old usernames (and not their real names) when commenting via HuffPost mobile apps.
Reached via email, Tim McDonald, HuffPost’s director of community, told Poynter that Facebook verification will be required in the apps once they’re updated next week.
Asked for his reaction to the reaction (we’ve seen 225 overwhelmingly negative comments and counting on yesterday’s post), McDonald expressed optimism about the long-term effects of the new policy:
“Any change will come with a period of outcry. We expected many users would not be happy with this transition, but are confident that as we move forward, this will make for a more engaged and diverse community.”
At issue for many HuffPost readers is what they saw as a guarantee in August from Managing Editor Jimmy Soni that existing accounts would be grandfathered in and not subject to new de-anonymization measures:
“As of next month, Huffington Post users won’t be able to create anonymous accounts to post on the site; going forward, their identities will have to be verified internally. HuffPost recognizes that many people are not in a professional or personal situation where attaching their name to a comment is feasible, and this change will not require users to identify themselves in connection with each comment. Rather, we will ask users to verify their identity when creating an account, which will reduce the number of drive-by or automated trolls. The change will only affect users creating new accounts on HuffPost. Existing accounts will be grandfathered into the new system.”
McDonald responded on Twitter to the charge that the site failed to keep its word:
@JuliaOceania I'm sorry. We didn't change our stance, but did change the grandfathering.
— Tim McDonald (@tamcdonald) December 12, 2013