Anonymous comments, or those made with a pseudonym, are not uncommon in this day and age. In fact, on most websites it’s the norm — far more users are comfortable sharing their thoughts while hiding behind a random group of numbers or letters, a witty moniker or pop culture alias rather than using their full given name.
Posting anonymously is not without reason, and certainly not always an attempt to malign without repercussion. Whistleblowers have contacted news organizations anonymously since before the advent of the printing press, and for those individuals with or without anonymous online comments there will always remain multiple avenues to open up dialogue on critical issues without risk of losing one’s job, or worse. Anonymous comments have also started meaningful dialogues within the community, made by those who may not have been comfortable otherwise sharing their thoughts and views.
That being said, often the whistleblower or the commenter with the heart of gold is the exception and not the rule when it comes to anonymous online comments. Instead, these can be used as a mechanism to judge, criticize, occasionally harass and, in the worst cases, attack or threaten without cause and without the fallout one would experience if they had to sign their name to that comment.
As a newspaper we require anyone who writes a Letter to the Editor to sign his or her true name, otherwise it will not be printed. While we do not currently have a mechanism on our website to require, and more importantly, enforce, the requirement for the disclosure of a full name in order to make an online comment, as we redesign our website it will become an integral part of our programming.
Because at the end of the day, we should be willing to stand behind our opinions and views. And if we don’t, what value do they really have?