Anonymity at the WaPo

I like Brady quite a bit, I met him down at the WeMedia event in Miami. Smart guy and pretty well tuned to the requirements to win in online. Having said that, I’ll give up my right to be anonymous when the WaPo gives up it’s right to quote anonymous sources.

Brady, executive editor of The Washington Post’s online division, said during a panel discussion at the Digital Hollywood conference here that he would like to see a technology that could identify people who violate site standards–and if need be–automatically kick them off for good.

[From wants identities of readers who post comments | Tech news blog – CNET]

3 thoughts on Anonymity at the WaPo

  1. Sites are the property of their owners, aren't they? In that case, they are the ones with all of the "rights" and you are just someone with an opinion.

  2. This is all true Mark. The WaPo could do anything they want with comments and there is nothing I could do but complain… 'err register an opinion. Having said that, what happens when newspapers put their comment system behind a registration wall that requires more than pick a username and password? Simple, participation drops to a negligible level. So it's statistically evident that community participation declines proportionally to the degree to which authentication is required. It's also evident that print and online media alike are racing to involve communities in their publishing process, deeming them critical not to editorial process but to their advertising revenue model (the more time you spend on a site, the more revenue they can generate, that's what commenting systems are all about). So if a community sets the rules by which it will participate and the WaPo has a vested interest in maximizing community participation, it would be foolish for Brady or anyone else to ignore the fact that communities thrive when anonymity is enabled. It's just my opinion, but an informed one nonetheless.

  3. Mark, I thought about this some more. There are currently systems in place to report abusive comments, SFGate has it on their comments and it seems to work quite well. What Brady is proposing is both unworkable and troubling. Unworkable because it's easy to get around authentication systems if you are motivated, and would you feel comfortable giving credit card or other personal information to a newspaper to store just for the purpose of authenticating you as a commenter? It's troubling because of the subjective nature of the word offensive… at what point does the WaPo begin banning commenters who are simply critical of the paper itself? It's actually stunning that the executive editor of a major U.S. newspaper would suggest that they alone should be the determiner for what is constructive debate.

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