The value of anonymous commenting systems

At a time when newsmedia outlets around the world are moving to commenting systems that don’t allow for pseudonyms or anonymity, the U.S.-based Gawker is going in the opposite direction, recently introducing a new comment system, called Burner.

In the new system, users can submit information or add commentary without disclosing their identities. 
Gawker Media is flying in the face of conventional media wisdom. While other outlets are doing away with anonymity, we’ve built anonymous accounts into our new comment system. We’ll accept some disorder if that’s the price of freedom in one’s personal life, in politics and the press,” wrote Gawker Media founder Nick Denton.

Nowadays, media organisations’ resisting anonymity is one of the reasons many newspapers and other sites have outsourced comment systems to Facebook, GigaOM noted.
In its new system, Gawker continues its tradition of anonymity and further fortifies it; Gawker says no username, e-mail address or password could compromise a user’s identity even if it was hacked.
In 2010, Bill Reader, a professor at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, wrote that “banning unsigned online comments undermines the media’s role as a forum for debate” in the  American Journalism Review. Though some anonymous users might abuse their power, the there are two historical merits of anonymous comments, he stated:

On a philosophical level, anonymity allowed opinions to be considered on their own merits, without regard for who was stating them; on a practical level, it gave people a way to disagree with leaders without getting beaten and/or thrown in jail.”

However, online security is of concern to Gawker users. Gawker encountered hacking problems in online security two years ago. The Guardianreported at the time that hackers breached Gawker’s system, which exposed e-mail addresses and passwords of 1.3 million registered users, as well as Gawker’s publishing system and source code.
This entry was posted in anonymity, commenting, democracy, Journalism. Bookmark the permalink.

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