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Commenting via Facebook to stop online anonymity | Our Opinion | Nov. 11
It has taken several years to respond to wishes by readers, but the many members of the news industry are finally moving away from anonymous commenting on websites – including the Bainbridge Island Review. On Nov. 17, we will switch to a new comment moderation policy operated through Facebook.
The Review, following changes made by many other publications, is switching to Facebook because of the social networking site’s ability to ensure that users adhere to a more respectful participatory climate in commenting on stories.
The anonymity of the current system occasionally leads to personal and negative comments from unidentified people that cause other users to stop being involved in the website. Instead of initiating intelligent, mature community dialogue, these abuses often cause people to leave the site to never return. It’s unfortunate because one of the strengths of the Internet should be the ease in which it allows community conversations to occur.
The new system is not unlike the Review’s policy for letters to the editor, which requires the writer to include his or her name, plus a telephone number and address (never published). That kind of full disclosure is critical for an effective clearinghouse of ideas, whether it is offered in a publication or on the Internet.
Our website readers will be required to have a Facebook page in order to comment on a story, letter to the editor or column. Comments will be linked to the person’s personal Facebook page. Not everyone wants to be involved with Facebook, which means there may be a drop in comment counts for a short time. But with 800 million Facebook users worldwide, this should be offset by an improved user experience that will attract new readers.
There will be some people who have multiple Facebook pages and use many aliases, but the system will help identify those people and stop them from participating. Loopholes will allow some anonymous commenting, but this will be policed by the Review.