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Anonymous comments are not welcome here

Lately, Ive been getting a lot of anonymous comments on my blog, enough to reiterate my policy.

Because The Telegrams policy differs from mine and I am in charge of this little bit of online real estate.

When you comment elsewhere at this site, you are not required to give your full name. They do ask for your email address (not for public use) but this can easily be faked.

However, on my blog, I insist that people sign their full names. If the comment is particularly contentious, I will follow-up via email to confirm their identity.

In my view, anonymous comments have turned most media sites and blogs into dark, faceless moshpits, where everyone is pushy and mean but no one is accountable for their behavior.

My blog, with its subjective commentary, is especially susceptible to this sort of abuse. I welcome comments and dont mind harsh criticism at all I just ask that you sign your name to whatever you write.

I am convinced that, without the cloak of anonymity, people tend to be more thoughtful and respectful in stating their views. The sickos, hatemongers and political plants tend to shy away from divulging their names and thats a good thing. Their absence makes for more intelligent debate.

There are those who think my policy constrains public debate and the free flow of ideas. I dont agree. What it constrains is mean-spirited comments, often with crass, hidden political motives.

Just recently, I received a couple of anonymous comments that appear to be from a political operative.

This is what Hubey had to say about my previous blog, on the delayed whistle-blower legislation:

Why is the telegram giving this space to a Liberal partisan to campaign on. Shouldn't the other parties have media news blogs too?

What's next? Meaker's buddy Westcott on here spewing about his newspaper ? How pathetic is the Telegram at all?

And then there was this comment, from Randall:

All that Labrador blog is a bunch of constant anti-Danny Williams rants from a person who appears to have never had a job that wasn't connected to some Liberal's election win. Who cares what Wally McLean thinks? (Answer: You, Lono and Hollett).

Both of these comments arrived about four minutes apart, and originated from the same IP address (that is, from the same asshole computer). I sent a note to both email addresses - both were fakes that bounced back.

First, this is not a Liberal partisan blog. I am not a Liberal supporter. And the comments this idiot makes are typical of the drive-by smears I have seen at other blogs. I wonder if he does his trolling in isolation, from some stinky basement, or if he has been actively recruited by the party? (There is an open invitation for any disillusioned party operatives to please contact me if they should ever want to spill.)

Oh, and interestingly enough, I do plan to run a guest column very soon from Craig Westcott. But it has nothing to do with partisan politics. Its because Westcott is an articulate critic of Premier Danny Williams, and, in this current political climate, we need more opposing voices to bring balance to public discussion.

I know of several reporters who have had their online stories sullied by rude anonymous comments. I invite them to add their views and experiences below.

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Recent comments

  • Kerri
    July 27, 2010 - 14:53

    Ah yes, Geoff. You are referring to John Gabriel's Greater Internet F*ckwad Theory (http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19/) or the Anonymous-Asshattery Paradigm (http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/Anonymous-Asshattery_Paradigm)

    This is the climate that I'm learning how to be a reporter in, and because of that I've accepted at face value that there will be commenters who are mean-spirited just for badness.

    Being a columnist for a certain national news website, I have been hated on fairly extensively by people who never have to be accountable for their words. (Embarrassingly enough, I try to read most of their comments).

    Repeatedly, I have been called a spoiled brat, a horrible young writer, a waste of tax dollars, and more. I'm sure the comments that don't get published are even worse.

    But the attacks really only make me angry when they go quite far beyond my work and the article in question.

    One guy on CBC told me to never to play music again. (Sidebar: I used to sing and play guitar in a few local bands). My past was not mentioned in the article, not even in passing. Obviously it was just someone from town trying to hurt my feelings because they could. And it worked!

    Though we may be annoyed by particular comments or sense sketchy motives, it's important to tread lightly in terms of moderation and rules to keep your integrity in tact, as you know.

    Moderating and/or making the rules for comments on your own articles makes you particularly vulnerable to criticism, whether you deserve it or not.

    I agree that the comments you posted were a little rude, but I wouldn't call them vandalism based on their content alone. (There's a stronger argument to be made for that based on the fake e-mail business, however).

    A first and last names policy isn't a bad idea, but it's not fool-proof either.

    Good luck with it.