Monday, October 1, 2007

The curse of blog-onymity

There's been a health debate lately about anonymous posts on the Web lately, including a column by Karen Hunter, reader representative for the Courant on Sunday. They're having a problem with racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and downright rudeness on some of their reader forums. I admit to having posted anonymously once myself, for no good reason, but I've come to believe that this on-line anonymity is a refuge of bullies, cowards and ignoramuses.

I noticed it myself, most recently, on Wesleying, the brilliant, student-run blog about the obvious university. There's some exceedingly nasty stuff that gets written behind the shield of anonymity. I suggest all blogs refuse to print anonymous posts so that the a-holes who think they can spew adolescent bile, and think themselves clever, will not have a dumpster to hide in.

I think anonymity should be reserved to protect someone who will be harmed in some way by revealing information that is important for the world to know. For example, bloggers from Myanmar.

I don't agree with Andrew Keen who has written and spoken about how the internet is killing our culture (what culture would that be-- TV, Hollywood movies, reality shows, pop music?), but Karen Hunter's chosen quotes seem to show him to be on the mark where anonymity is concerned.

I'd love to hear from anyone who feels otherwise, and not anonymously.

Andrew Keen, who writes about technology and culture, caught my attention recently with his observations.

"I think the most corrosive thing of today's Internet is anonymity," Keen, author of "The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet Is Killing Our Culture," told NewsHour Senior Correspondent Jeffrey Brown.

"That's what's creating such an uncivil world. It's a pre-social contract place. It's a state of nature. We're not behaving ourselves properly on it, very often because we don't reveal who we are. Much of the most uncivil conversation, much of the unpleasantness of the Internet is carried out by people who won't reveal who they are.

"So one beginning, one place to start for all of us is to recognize that we don't need to be anonymous on the Internet. We can reveal who we are. And having revealed who we are, I think the conversation will be more mature, more responsible, and more fruitful for everybody."


Anonymous said...

Both Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin wrote and had published caustic and often sarcastic anonymous letters, usually for political purposes.

Benjamin Franklin was using anonymous letters and articles for political purposes right up to the time of his death.

These are two highly respected people in history that saw fit to protect their identity for their own political reasons.

Never should anyoneone condone blogs that spread lies, hate, contain business advertising, or reveal information that will lead to the loss of life or liberty of a person.

Ultimately it is up to the blog moderator to use sound judgement in deleting all non "free speech."

Rocco J. Frank Jr.

Ed McKeon said...

I've read about some of these anonymous letters, but I think they might be lumped under those which would harm their author. As you say, the hate-filled blog should be moderated, and maybe you're right, it's up to the moderator. But there's a lot of moderators not doing their jobs for fear of being called "censors."

Rocco J. Frank Jr. C. E. & Michael Vecchiarelli M.A. said...

It is my opinion that censorhip should only apply to a person/s stating lies as factual truth rather than opinion. Censoship of a blatant lie is good moderation and protects the intentions of the 1st Amendment. It benefits your readers with true and accurate information. A lie is subject to Libel and poses a legal hazard.

Free Speech must be the truth, as can be documented by witness accounts, known facts, and current events.

Expletives, profanities, and deliberate indignations by way of personal attacks, in my view are abusive speech and a good moderator ought to censor that as it offers no probative value.

The only exception would be to entitle such a blog board as a place of where such misguied speech is truthfully labeled as such and the rules allow it.

For instance If your blog board is labeled "Rude Rants" than the title dictates the speech and perhaps polite comments can be moderated. Blog rules ought to be stated in advance so a blogger knows what kind of behavior (not speech) is expected. I.E. we can disagree with each other without using the "F" word hence comments are not deleted.

I would further suggest to the extreme "free speech" fanatic that as a matter of policy they could move contentious bloggers to Im's to take their matters of dispute private and not openly embarass each other. Such Im's include Aim and Yahoo.

If someone could invent such a thing, it would be ideal to have a privacy feature that would kick sparring bloggers out to a private forum by their own choice.

For now I believe that the blog owners are the boss, set your policy and draw the line on what you will tolerate. While diversity in opinion is nice few people want to run their Blog boards like a Jerry Springer show.

Rocco J. Frank Jr.