Anonymous Online

November 28, 2011 | By | Comments (1)

Debate: Is it important to protect people’s rights to comment anonymously online? Or should  commenters use their real names? Both sides make good arguments, as you can see from this week’s “Sunday Dialog” in the New York Times.

Reasons to Require Names:

1. Cyberbullies. Anonymous comments are more likely to be “hate-filled and inflammatory.”

2. Responsibility. Sites that allow comments have the right and responsibility to moderate them. If you wouldn’t publish language that’s hateful, racist, homophobic or anti-Semitic in your magazine or on your newspaper’s “Letters to the Editor” page, why would you allow it on your website?

Reasons to Allow Anonymity:

1. To protect unpopular ideas from suppression or retaliation.

2. To give people a forum where they can speak opinions they’d be afraid to state in real life.

I’m on the side of civility, and there’s no question that people are more likely to post comments that are mean or thoughtlessly cruel when they comment anonymously. As Christopher Wolf, a privacy lawyer, wrote in the Times, “Human dignity is also a cherished value. And uninhibited free expression online promoted by anonymity can result in an assult on human dignity.”

Readers, what do you think? Let us know your thoughts (anonymously is fine).

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