Should comments be anonymous or use real identities?

The debate over anonymous comments has been ongoing in newsrooms. According to Martin Kaste, the Internet space is becoming less anonymous: YouTube is encouraging commenters to use real names, and many news sites allow users to log in from Facebook. And anonymous comments are bringing legal risks to the media.

Judge orders Spokesman Review to reveal the identity of an anonymous commenter within 14  after the online commenter posted disparaging comments, which the Republican Party official in Idaho named Tina Jacobson claimed defamed her, Poynter reported. The anonymous commenter insulted Jacobson’s appearance, as well as indicating that she stole party funds.

“You know, it’s against the grain for a newspaper to give up anonymous sources of any kind,” the paper’s city editor, Addy Hatch, responded. “And we just felt like we had to take a stand.”


Even Journalists themselves are not sure whether to protect anonymous commenters or not A columnist of Spokesman Review, Shawn Vestal wrote a column comparing anonymous commenters to monkeys “throwing poop.”
For Vestal, free speech does not necessarily require anonymity. “I don’t begrudge anyone their right to say anything they want to say,” Vestal says. “But I don’t know that it’s our job to go to court to protect their right to say it anonymously.”
However, Dave Oliveria, who runs Huckleberries Online, said he feels differently. “To have free speech in this community, I think you have to have anonymity,” Oliveria argues.
Earlier this year,  New York State legislature outlawed anonymous commenting on all New York-based websites. The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Dean Murray and Senator Thomas O’Mara, was expected to combat cyber bullying. However, many critics say the bill would jeopardize speech freedom.

When news media outlets around the world seem to be moving towards commenting systems with real identities, the U.S.-based Gawker is going anonymous by introducing a new comment system earlier this year. In the new system, users can submit information or add commentary without disclosing their identities. Gawker says no username, e-mail address or password could compromise a user’s identity even if it was hacked. 
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