Web Commenters Shouldn't Be Anonymous

Monday, 31 Mar 2014 10:19 AM

By Michael Reagan

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Anonymity is not the foundation of a polite society.
But as long as there are gullible tech reporters, public relations operatives will be able to persuade journalists to cover products that conceal identity. The latest story is from Associated Press reporter Barbara Ortutay who writes about “a new class of mobile applications aims for a bit more honesty.”
This is a strange way to characterize software that allows the user to comment on others while their own identity remains hidden.
A friend points out that the first social comment site that featured anonymous evaluation and judgment of others was a Magic Marker and the bathroom stall. And although new technology updates the experience and certainly exposes the comments to a much wider audience, the atmosphere — no pun intended — remains the same.
The “honesty” Ortutay seems to prize so highly is more often than not slander, insults, rumor, lies, bigotry, and/or hate. There is a reason these people want to remain hidden in the shadows and it’s not because they are angels in disguise.
Two former Google engineers have come up with the latest aptly named product: Secret. It joins Confide, Whisper, and Yik Yak in the market niche for people who lack the courage to stand behind their comments.
In the electric Eden inhabited by the reporter, people are eager to share the warmth and dispense online hugs with abandon, but are reluctant to do so if people know who they are. Frankly, I had no idea there were so many anonymous benefactors out there who are paralyzed by crippling shyness.
Of course reality doesn’t measure up to her fantasy as even she reports, but somehow overlooks: “Secret, meanwhile, has been especially popular in Silicon Valley and its satellite technology communities outside of the San Francisco Bay Area. Startup gossip — from personal attacks on company founders and venture capitalists to acquisition rumors that turned out to be false — has been a mainstay of Secret in the less than two months since its launch.”
What a valuable contribution to society at large!
This is exactly why reputable sites are banning anonymous comments and requiring online users to attach their real name to their “innermost” thoughts before posting them online. The effect on the tone of discourse is immediate and positive.
Certainly there will always be a niche for the craven commenter on current events who wants his identity to remain in the shadows. In the 1930s they wore hoods and joined the Klan, while later they wore Guy Fawkes masks and participated in Occupy riots. While the more sedentary download Secret.
Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan. He is president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation and chairman of the League of American Voters. Mike is an in-demand speaker with Premiere. Read more reports from Michael Reagan — Go Here Now.

© Mike Reagan

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