Paul Hughes: Require identities

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— It’s time for the Steamboat Pilot & Today to require an authenticated identity from anyone submitting an online comment to an article or letter appearing in the newspaper. I had been slowly coming around to that opinion, and the recent string of comments about Omar Campbell’s letter to the editor (“Follow Arizona”) put an end to any lingering uncertainties that I might have had. It was a sad, dismaying discussion of what could have been an important topic.

Requiring a commenter’s identity won’t eliminate the wing-nut comments or the personal attacks (the wing-nuts outnumber the rest of us), but knowing who is making a comment will at least give context to it — will allow the reader to place the comment in a setting that includes everything else he knows about that commenter. So let’s apply the same standard to online comments that you have used for letters to the editor.

We should back up our lip-service admiration of “civil discourse” with an agreement that identifying ourselves when entering that discourse is fundamental to its being civil. In the meantime, I will not participate in any online discussion where even one commenter is anonymous, and I urge others to do the same.

Paul Hughes

Steamboat Springs

Comments

carlyle 4 years, 3 months ago

I agree with Paul that the level of discourse on many threads is abysmally low, but the risk to 'whistle-blower' sorts of comments too great. Paul's second paragraph "... will allow the reader to place the comment in a setting that includes everything else he knows about that commenter." A school teacher, a lift operator, a librarian, a policeman, whatever, simply cannot afford to make a negative comment about her organization in current economic times. The many bizarre stupid comments that accompany so many of these threads can easily be ignored.

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John Fielding 4 years, 3 months ago

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It has long been policy for letters to the editor at most newspapers to require the identity of the contributor be included. The writer may stipulate that that information be withheld, and it becomes the editors decision whether to publish the letter or simply use it as a source of information or opinion.

But there is a reason given for an anonymity request. It may be to avoid retribution from an employer or neighbor, or it may simply be embarrassment. If the writer thinks the reason is good enough to risk that publication be declined, that is the risk they accept. Almost any reason should be acceptable. If nothing else it makes the writer think about why they would wish to not have their opinions attributable to them.

My identity was verified by a phone call, even though I use no nom de plume. I do not know if they confirmed the phone was in my name or made any other attempt to verify that someone else was not using my name.

A description of the procedures the Pilot uses to verify identity would be instructive.

I do think that contributors should be allowed anonymity, but with some discrimination. Perhaps we each could have two pen-names, and the anonymous one would require editorial review prior to posting.

While I personally try to be respectful in my criticizems, there have been things I have just not said, or included a wide range of culprits so the individual perpetrator would not be singled out. I am vulnerable to retribution of a type that could easily be passed off as something else. I can't be more specific unless.......May I have a anonymous posting please?

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John Fielding 4 years, 3 months ago

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You're right George, but it's your opinions that would give you away.

I'm sure I could identify sun, mr.taichi, sledneck, seeuski, mmj22, and aichempty by distinctive expressions. I suspect I am at least as transparent.

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Steve Lewis 4 years, 3 months ago

I used to agree that anonymity was a big problem for these discussions. Most of my friends don't read this stuff, and some consider this place a sewer. It is on many threads.

But today I appreciate there are also good things that anonymity can bring as well. It is hard to speak out when your comments could hurt your family or your career, and anonymity allows some to be free of that fear as they write.

The problem isn't anonymity. Anonymity does present an easy avenue for irresponsible, uncivil statements. It also presents an avenue for excessive ranting. But that avenue could be easily managed much better.

I just skimmed Omar's article and comments. It was benign next to some others as far as insults, but pretty obnoxious all the same. Without a doubt anonymity and excessive volume by some anchors its low level of respect and juvenile self-certainty.

I suggest keeping anonymity, but making anonymous posters live with less "airtime". Whistleblowers don't need a lot of space. Ranters dosed on the kool-aid are famous for using tons of blog space to repeat one thought endlessly. That’s hardly attractive to many of us.

It would be cool if some threshold % of the named posters could vote uncivil abusers "off the island" for a few months.

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MrTaiChi 4 years, 3 months ago

Mr. Fielding,

Only the Shadow knows. ha ha HA HA HA ha ha. (and Brent Boyer), Could they be one and the same?

to others:

Why are you presumably educated Americans so afraid of speech? MIss some of Jefferson's writings like the second inaugural address? Stupid, vile and hateful speech gives you a frame of reference against which to measure your values. How can you know light until you have seen darkness? Sure, the paper can censor uninhibited speech in this manner, and you can live in your little comfortable cacoon isolated from discord and nastiness, but isn't that what you liberals accuse conservatives of, small mindedness, insularism?

Cops know that if people vent obscenities it is better than silently abiding their time to lash out. Firghtening to contemplate Kieth Olbermann boiling in his hate until... he explodes. What a mess over at MSNBC.

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Clay Ogden 4 years, 3 months ago

I think too many people post behind the veil of anonymity feeling free to spew bile without any sense of accountability for the veracity or even decency of their statements. The concept of protecting a ‘whistle blower’, to me, is a red hearing. There are tons of outlets these days for exposing ‘truths’. Perhaps I am a bit old fashioned but I believe when we choose to throw it out there for public consumption we should have the guts to take ownership of it.

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Clearsky 4 years, 3 months ago

Freedom of the press is protected by the US government. Employees are not protected. In fact an employee is considered "at will" meaning an employee can be fired for any or no reason. By requiring identification will be one more step toward the "Big Brother is watching you". Constructive conflict has its place. Better to manage conflict using text than having it build up in people, unexpressed and resulting in rage that can only hurt oneself and others.

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Matthew Stoddard 4 years, 3 months ago

The Unabomber wrote to newspapers about his manifesto a lot, right? That was in text form and look how that turned out. McVeigh also wrote to newspapers complaining about taxes, etc. That was in text form and look how that turned out.

You want to be anonymous and say anything without anyone taking your Right to Free Speech away? Try FOXNews.com's site. Read thru there and tell us what you think of "free speech."

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 3 months ago

This site has a very odd style of anonymous posting because the real identities are required by the newspaper's registration process. So it is anonymous to the public, but known to the newspaper.

Do you think Brent Boyer reads these posts thinking that anonymous Aic is posting that vs the person's real name and that person's local history? Could a publicly known person really expect an anonymous posting would not result in a reporter knowing the real identity?

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Steve Lewis 4 years, 3 months ago

Scott I agree. The Pilot does use its censorship unevenly. I remember one of your comments called someone "stupid" if they thought "x". And later I have not been able to find a Wedel post with that word, so that must be the one that was removed. I don't think it warranted removal, given plenty of identical comments can be found on other threads.

I've been unfairly called a liar, and complained to Brent about abuse of website policy and requested the person's identity. Didn't even get a response.

I could respect it if they come in here as a reporter or editor to protect someone's reputation. But I cannot respect in the least, that they only do that for their pals. Where was this censorship last year when posters were recommending a boycott of Cindy Constantine's family business in retribution for her leading the SB700 petition?

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Steve Lewis 4 years, 3 months ago

Scott I agree. The Pilot does use its censorship unevenly. I remember one of your comments called someone "stupid" if they thought "x". And later I have not been able to find a Wedel post with that word, so that must be the one that was removed. I don't think it warranted removal, given plenty of identical comments can be found on other threads.

I've been unfairly called a liar, and complained to Brent about abuse of website policy and requested the person's identity. Didn't even get a response.

I could respect it if they come in here as a reporter or editor to protect someone's reputation. But I cannot respect in the least, that they only do that for their pals. Where was this censorship last year when posters were recommending a boycott of Cindy Constantine's family business in retribution for her leading the SB700 petition?

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seeuski 4 years, 3 months ago

lewi, You demanded someone's identity? What were you planning on doing with it?

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Steve Lewis 4 years, 3 months ago

As my complaint expressed to the Pilot, I acknowledged (per the website's policy) that I could not reveal the name to the public. I also noted the offender had violated website policy and should be removed from the site.

Slander from the shadow is so low. I wanted to know who would do that.

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aichempty 4 years, 3 months ago

Scott

If you were referring to me as "Aic" in your post above, Brent knows who I am, and so does anyone else at the pilot with access to the files.

So far, they have never felt the need to contact me to verify any information or request more information.

I know what libel and slander are. I don't post anything as "fact" that would injure a person that's not a fact I can back up, or something that's already widely reported and published by the Pilot or some other source. I am fully aware that if I post a knowingly false statement of fact that injures someone, I'm liable for it. Repeating something already published by the Pilot is fair game, however. In any case, a person who feels injured enough to hire an attorney, file a lawsuit and subpoena the information from the Pilot can get it.

My opinions are my own, and lots of people who post here don't like them. I don't attack people; I attack wooden-headed ignorance, unlawful and anti-social behavior.

But, as I posted in the other thread on this general subject, attempting to expose issues of concern in the community for the good of the innocent and well-meaning people who live here hasn't done much good, so I might as well stop.

I read the Pilot website news daily for a particular reason which has nothing to do with anyone else, and the thing I need to do is just read what I need and then ignore the rest. Political correctness and liberal permissive attitudes have ruined a lot of good things about this country which used to exist. They have also changed some things that needed changing. Being able to tell the difference is thing some people around here cannot do.

There is a saying that, "Love does no harm." That means when you do something in the name of "love" that injures another person, it's not "love" after all. It's selfishness diguised as passion. It's easy to extend the same basis for comparison to other things, such as the SB700 debate a while back. Also medical marijuana versus addictive or destructive use of marijuana, especially by those under age 25.

But like I said (now for the 3rd and last time), attempting to educate people or at least inspire them to educate themselves to avoid harm doesn't seem to work, so I'll just stop posting and it will make no difference to anyone in the long run. If learning by the experience of discovering that you've been screwed because you were ignorant or defrauded is the way people want it, the phrase I leave you with is "FUBYOYO." (YOYO means, "You're on your own.")

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mmjPatient22 4 years, 3 months ago

Care to elaborate on the "FUB" part of that at all?

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John Fielding 4 years, 3 months ago

Aich

You may be doing more good than you think.

I've only been in this activity for a few months now, with a month long absence due to a computer failure. Yet I have received a surprising number of comments from people all over town that they had seen something I'd written. I've gotten email encouraging me to continue.

On the other hand you cannot receive such feedback except by contributors here. And I assure you far more people read this stuff than write it. Keep at it, you know your opinions are well founded and so do many readers.

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