Monday, November 30, 2015

Anonymous Commenting Leads to Trouble

Christina Young

Many news websites, social media outlets, forums, and other various websites have commenting sections in some type of format for users to discuss the media content they are viewing. In theory, comment sections are great because users can freely discuss their opinions in what should be a safe environment; but with the option to post anonymously, the trolls come out to play.

Some people abuse the anonymity to harass other users and/or leave viscous comments about the content or person/persons who posted it. The people trolling utilize this anonymity to cyberbully from behind their computer screens. Not only does this severely affect the people whom are being harassed, emotionally, but it also severely affects the news outlets and the readers who are searching for legitimate content.

Not all commenters have such destructive intentions; many users simply wish to seek information in comments that is relevant to the content so they can leave useful feedback. But with extensive amounts of negative comments from trolls, the comments with useful feedback become more difficult to filter through.

However, many websites, media outlets, and forums are being to take away the anonymous option. In AJR's Is Facebook the Solution to the Obnoxious Comment Plague?, Tim Ebner discusses USA Today's decision to require users who wish to comment on online stories to login into their Facebook accounts to do so. This changes the game for online commenters because they can no longer hide behind an anonymous mask. Whatever the users say can be traced right back to them.

In an email, a Gannett spokesperson stated,

"The decision to change our commenting tool was made to provide a welcoming environment that encourages high-quality and relevant contributions".

Although some users are still fussing over the new change, many feel that it will help the comment section be a friendlier zone.

Furthermore, Kevin Wallsten's and Melinda Tarsi's article It’s time to end anonymous comments sections in the Washington Post expresses,

 "anonymous commenters 'wield enough power to skew a reader’s perception of a news story' and shape their attitudes about public policy. Regardless of the specific complaint, however, opponents of anonymity believe that comments sections powerfully shape the beliefs, opinions and behaviors of those who encounter them"

With the anonymous option becoming less available, viewers may have a better chance at forming their own opinions because outrageous comments are less likely to be posted.

The Huffington Post is also one of the many news outlets to hop on the bandwagon of ending anonymous accounts on its online site. Jimmy Soni states in his article The Reason HuffPost Is Ending Anonymous Accounts,

"From its earliest days, The Huffington Post prioritized investing in its community. We wanted to create a positive environment for people to have a real conversation with each other".
Rather than letting trolls harass other online users or online content, websites are taking the stance to ride themselves of the anonymous Negative Nancy's to help produce a more conducive environment for legitimate decision and conversations on the web. I am 100% supportive of this movement and I believe that it will bring a massive positive change to the online world.

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