Internet trolls love comment sections because they can be as awful as they want while hiding behind a digital mask of anonymity. But now one newspaper is changing its policy so that commenters’ names are exposed, both going forward and retroactively. This, predictably, has a lot of people up in arms.
The Montana Standard has always required users to register with the site by providing their real names. Once commenters are through that process, though, they can use a screen name when they post comments (this is fairly standard stuff). As of Jan. 1, 2016, the Butte, Montana-based newspaper is making all comments, going back years, appear with attributions to commenters’ real names.
It’s one thing to tell users that all their future comments will be attached to their real names. But is it fair to suddenly unmask people who believed they were posting anonymously? The Washington Post quotes Paul Levy, of the Public Citizen Consumer Law & Policy Blog, who expressed concern about how this might imperil some long-term users:
[I]t is…quite possible that some of the commenters may have made comments that place their economic or even physical security at risk from the individuals or companies that they criticized in online comments. Or, their comments might have revealed something about their own experiences or past conduct that they were willing to share with the public anonymously, making a valuable contribution to a discussion, but would never have been willing to provide had they known that their own names would be attached. The Standard could be putting livelihoods and more at risk through its retroactive changes.
David McCumber, an editor at the Standard, emailed a statement to the Washington Post. He says he “extensively investigated that possibility” that previous comments could be omitted from the change, but that “content-management software experts [told him] that such a configuration is impossible”:
Based on that, I am trying to do what is most equitable to all of our readers. I believe that some of our challenges here are unique to community journalists. When a relatively small city is at the center of your market, just about everybody commented about is known, and the anonymous comments sting. I personally believe that very few of our readers are concerned about employers’ retaliation; I think that instead the relatively few posters who consistently offer destructive and noxious comments enjoy the cloak of anonymity in order to avoid community accountability. I believe that our site is and should be a community meeting place, and as such, rules of conduct should apply. That said, I am as ardent a believer in free speech as you are likely to find in this profession. I also believe in transparency and accountability.
There’s a lengthy comment reaction thread to the policy change on the Montana Standard site. Suffice it to say, most people, understandably and perhaps justifiably, aren’t very happy.
(h/t Washington Post)
‘He’s empty’: Psychiatrist warns Trump is in a ‘psychotic-like state’
Dr. Lance Dodes warned that things were going to get worse under President Donald Trump in 2017. That's precisely what happened.
"Is that what we're seeing this week?" MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell ased the psychiatrist.
"Absolutely. Donald Trump, because he has a fundamental need to be all-powerful and all loved, can't stand challenges," Dr. Dodes said. "And the nature of democracy is that it challenges people. We have more than one opinion. So the more -- it was predictable once he got into a position where people would challenge him, there are two parties, he would become more unhinged.
Elementary school cheer squad parents raffling off an AM-15 automatic weapon as a fundraiser
Just weeks after a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio killed nine people, only 200 miles away in Richmond, the cheer squad is selling raffle tickets to sell a semi-automatic gun.
Fox19 reported Wednesday that the Junior Lions Cheer Team have infuriated Heather Chilton, who's 7-year-old daughter is on the squad for the first time.
"This is absurd, you're having elementary kids sell your AR-15. Why?" Chilton said. "I highly doubt that something would happen with the gun, but say it did. Say one of the kids in the high school got a hold of it — got the AR-15 or AM-15 and shot up a school with it, and I'm the one that sold the raffle ticket to his dad?"
I think Trump’s people sit around ‘thinking up new ways to be cruel’: Senator
On Wednesday's edition of MSNBC's "All In," Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) tore into the Trump administration for its treatment of migrant children, as yet more reports come in of children being denied basic services in squalid conditions, and as Trump considers ways to get around the federal consent decree placing limits on how long they can be detained.
"We already know from so many child specialists that detaining children in these kinds of facilities does irreparable damage to them," said Hirono. "There are alternatives to family detention this administration could care less about ... the only way to get around the consent agreement is by getting around it by proposing or having this rule, which will be immediately challenged. They want to detain families indefinitely, children indefinitely, held in situations that do them absolutely no good when there are alternatives."