An interesting editorial piece from Laura June with reference to AOLs site Tech Crunch pushing all comments into Facebook - hence reducing the likelihood of unidentifiable people making comments. The premise being that the so-called trolls and inflammatory commenters are less likely to post if someone knows their identity. The problem with Engadget comments (and indeed, many sites currently) is that they use Disqus.
Don’t misunderstand - I think Disqus is one of the best commenting systems out there it’s just that whilst the commenter may choose to sign in using their Twitter or Facebook accounts (as I do) most create an easily faked account in Disqus and post free in the knowledge they won’t be personally identified.
To me the crux of the whole argument is two-fold:
- Firstly if you want to open up the floor for comments you do so at your own risk. Sometimes people have good things to contribute, but many more have nothing useful or sometimes even hateful things to contribute which does nobody any good whatsoever.
- Secondly the Internet put an artificial barrier between people and this created an environment where people felt safe to pretend to be someone else or to be anonymous and be effectively free from the consequences of their online actions. The more important and central the internet becomes to our lives the more important online credibility is to the individual. I’ve noticed a trend lately where more people are trying to maintain a genuine online persona (myself included) and are more careful what they put on the Internet. This seems to be a natural progression as we find our way in the digital economy and lifestyle.
Moving forward from here there is no doubt in my mind that more sites will follow Tech Crunchs lead and require more stringent proof of identity before posts may be submitted. It will significantly reduce the volume of comments received on posts, but then the comments are more likely to be constructive to discussion and worth more in the end. People should be responsible for the things they say and do online, just as they are in the day to day world beyond the internet.