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Huffington Post to end anonymous comments

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The Huffington Post, which has logged more than 260 million comments in its history, will end anonymity in those comments, founder Arianna Huffington said Wednesday morning.

Arianna Huffington“Trolls are just getting more and more aggressive and uglier and I just came from London where there are rape and death threats,” Huffington said in comments to reporters after a speech at Hubspot’s Inbound 2013 conference in Boston. The changeover will come in mid-September, she said.

“I feel that freedom of expression is given to people who stand up for what they say and [are] not hiding behind anonymity,” she said. “We need to evolve a platform to meet the needs of the grown-up Internet.”

The current Huff Po system  uses advanced algorithms to moderate comments plus 40 moderators, but that is not enough now, she said.

Whether or not commenters on blogs and news sites should post with their identity — and how that identify is verified — is part of  a long-running debate in the internet age. Many sites have guidelines that allow anonymity but prohibit the use of profanity, threats and other abuses.

59 Responses to “Huffington Post to end anonymous comments”

  1. Carol Griffiths

    My name is registered on my account. Why can’t HuffPo take care of their problems with trolls with info. they already have? If they have threats, etc., I definitely don’t need giving someone access to my real name!!!!! Bye, Bye!!!

    • Ralph Rigor

      The real reason they are doing this is to get a viable list of names to sell for marketing purposes. With a real name and credit card number or phone number they can find out everything about you so marketers can target you accordingly. They will know if you need a new car, how many kids you have, what you buy, where you work, how much you make etc. Makes NSA spying look like kindergarten.

  2. mamajama55

    It’s going to mean that there are topics I can’t discuss, because of professional implications. But, I still think it’s worth while, and will be a positive change. Adults have to model discourse for children. We’re not doing that well.

    • brian mouland

      I use my real name and have had my workplace and home address posted on the internet by gutless trolls behind user names. I live in Canada and proposed changes to laws in two provinces may expand the definition of cyber bullying. The days of insulting and lying about someone without consequence are soon coming to an end

  3. ricknelsonmn

    I use my name as moniker, do whatever you want with anonymity it wont affect me. Trolls however are likely to not be affected either. They’ve become paid or part of volunteer groups, right! So, what do they care, they’re the types who want a cause and effect, so they’ll go to the lengths they think will achieve their aims. The main aim being to shape discussions toward their bias, propaganda and goals. The thing I think about, it these trolls whom have become aggressive and hateful are the ones to go after, but the others will not go away. What their percentages are will influence the success for HuffPo.__Good luck with this endeavor.

  4. I like Arianna Huffington`s idea. I am tired of trying to enage in conversation or learn something each day only to see people post stuff that is nasty or not relevant to the topic but then again, we could be exposing people to attacks in their homes, in public or losing friends and family based on posting something that someone else may not like if we have to use our real names.

  5. Freedom of Speech

    “It is undoubtedly the Duty of all Persons to serve the Country they live in, according to their Abilities; yet I sincerely acknowledge, that I have hitherto been very deficient in this Particular; whether it was for want of Will or Opportunity, I will not at present stand to determine: Let it suffice, that I now take up a Resolution, to do for the future all that lies in my Way for the Service of my Countrymen.” This was written to the New-England Courant under the author name of Silence Dogood. For those who do not know Silence Dogood was a persona or anonymous user name of Benjamin Franklin. You might ask why one of our nations founding fathers would have used a persona. He did it because he knew that many of the people who read his post would not like what he had to say but for the sake of our nation and freedom he knew it had to be said. His words would have been a crime according to England at the time.

    • ricknelsonmn

      What few comments are a crime now? The analogy you make does not appear to fit our time. Yet I think it possible you espouse it because it could be used to propose the use of visceral commenting. Such that one could foment the demise of others. That one could be visceral toward and create the notion of how to treat someone or other group of others unlike you. I think there are enough places on the internet still that will expose someone willing to feed off the trough of hate.

      Become a writer against such hate. Show how you would word such assertions against hate. Be an example.

  6. The ironic thing is the Huffington Post blocks negative anonymous comments if they have a right wing flavor, but they allow the liberal vile to remain as posts on their pieces. No news here. Just Huffington trying to portray her site as considerate,when atthe end of the day the laft venom will remain.

  7. Tom Mallory

    Moving to real-name comments improved the tone and quality of comments on our regional news site immediately. Anonymity allowed people to post all sorts of dreadful things they would never say in person, the communication equivalent of flipping a stranger off on a freeway.

    • ricknelsonmn

      No, there are very few “better sources” !!! The source of information is the lone better source.

      Something very few people do is check the source of assertions. It must be done to be informed!

  8. Tetracycloide

    The problem with the theory that ‘anonymity is bad’ is that it completely ignores the possibility that there are individuals who are proud of their spite, their hate, their ignorance, their cantankerousness, or their whatever other origins of trollish behavior. Essentially it’s the assumption that all trolls can be shamed but the reality is there are jerks in real life who are jerks face-to-face and no amount of using their ‘real identity’ is going to stop there from being jerks.

    What it will stop is those who are actually afraid their words may have consequences for them. This can mean anything from getting fewer death threats to getting fewer political anecdotes from within countries with oppressive regimes (like the US and the UK!). I’d take the good with the bad on that one though but that’s just my opinion.

  9. Dennis D. McDonald

    I know that some folks are trying to turn this into a civil liberties issue but I see the need to experiment like this. Not everyone pays attention to the “no assholes” rule, unfortunately, and Huffington’s approach, while imperfect, is a reasonable response. I’m hoping that there is a formal and transparent analysis of what this does to commenting. True, it may not be possible to measure the number of “legitimate posts that were not made because Huffington discourages anonymity” but the impact on different sections of the pubication can at least be tracked before and after changes are made.

    Dennis McDonald

    • Tetracycloide

      It strikes me as a lazy response more than anything else. Moderation is time consuming and expensive. Removing anonymous comments is less about reduce the number of ‘assholes’ and more about reducing the amount of commenting being done in general. Thus the task of moderation is easier.

      I think your error is thinking that when people say things you would be ashamed to put your name on that they feel the same way. I just don’t think that’s true. Additionally there’s a lot more than anonymity at work on the internet. There’s also a bravado of separation that doesn’t go away when people sign their names.

      Neither are effective at actually stopping jerks in real space. People are routinely assholes to one another even in person. Removing anonymity is not the magic bullet for ‘mature dialogue’ that’s being suggested and because it seems so obviously not the magic bullet it makes some wonder why it’s still being suggested as one.

      • Dennis D. McDonald

        I’m sure there are examples of everything you say. That’s why you should test it out.

        No need to lecture me about the difficulty of or time required in moderating comments. Been there, done that. It’s one of the prices you pay for attempting to maintain a private forum in public.

        I agrree, jerks and assholes are always with us and in my experience reducing anonymous commenting does reduce the total number of comments when combined with any kind of registration or validation and moderation system.

        It also reduces the number and ratio of intemperate, vile, and hateful comments.

        Does it reduce the number of valuable comments that might be made by people who have a ;legitimate reason for preferring anonymity or who prefer not to register directly or though another system? Maybe. Does it increase the likelihood of meanigful and intelligent dialog? Perhaps; I know I stay away from discussions where there is a preponderance of assholes and jerks.

        I definitely agree with you there are no “magic bullets.”

        Dennis McDonald

  10. Bryan Ruby

    Although I run a much much smaller website, I made the painful decision to end anonymous commenting on my own sites a couple years ago. It was the best thing I ever did. While visitors have decreased, the quality of the conversation and the quality of people participating has gone up.

  11. David Hussey

    Say goodbye to 90% of your traffic Arianna, most of the clowns at Huffpost wouldn’t dare expose who they really are. Especially the ‘Villagers’ who act as they own the site.

  12. Better late than never. No it won’t stop those determined to hide behind fake identities but it is a step in the right direction if you want your brand to be taken seriously. It’s just incredible that across the internet it’s taken this long for brand owners to wrest control of their products from the idiots who advocated that anonymity was a good thing, that content should be “set free”, and that Google was a force for good.

    • Pseudo Hipster

      “No it won’t stop those determined to hide behind fake identities but it is a step in the right direction if you want your brand to be taken seriously.”

      If your brand is tied to comments and not the actual quality of the articles your doing something horribly wrong……

      • Christina Coad

        Actually if this DOESN’T happen HuffPo will lose people.
        Many people have left because of the trolls. It used to be that most of the comments were real comments and a few were trolls, now depending on the story you’ll have trolls making most of the comments, for example unless you want to just read VERY racist comments or endless variations of “if Obama had a son…” Or “where Sharpton now” you can’t even read the comments on any story with a black person in it

  13. Valentine North

    Heh :)
    I don’t know about trolling, but I have three email addresses each for a different identity, one entirely for games, one for real life contacts and another for stuff like this :D

    The truth is, it wouldn’t really matter, because they can still log the IP of the users, rendering any other form of identity irrelevant. Anyone bothering to use a VPN or a proxy to disguise even that bit of data, will surely have taken steps to create a false identity.

    I work as a web developer, making actual websites, and from what I saw recently, even the most basic authentication modules store IP addresses of users by default. It can be easily removed, but a web site owner will usually want as much data as possible for various reasons, and anonymizing it won’t be anyone’s priority.

    Oh, and if I seem like a jackass sometimes, it’s not on purpose.

    • Christina Coad

      Good. It’s insane on there anymore, the other day I had to go through 3 pages of comments on a story in the crime section that didn’t mention the persons race. And many of those were a variation of the same 3 or 4 things
      – “if Obama had a son…..”
      – “where Sharpton now?”
      -“why isn’t this on the front page, because he’s black”
      Then you got into the really bad ones about “killing all those animals” and on and on.
      Alot of users have already left because its too full of trolls