In an effort to promote more positive (or, at the very least, fewer awful) comments on its articles, the Huffington Post announced yesterday it will no longer allow anonymous comments—but that's a bad move, writes Joanna Geary in the Guardian. Keep in mind places like Egypt and Brazil, where the ability to post online under a fake name has proved crucial. Even in the US, "providing an alias allows readers to post personal experiences that they otherwise would not be able to for fear of personal or career repercussions," Geary writes. "In some cases, it allows them to post without fear for their lives."
And then, of course, there's the fact that people may end up being just as mean when using their real names to comment: First of all, commenters still won't be able to see each other, and that "dissociative anonymity" likely has something to do with cruel comments. Secondly, well, just take a look at any of the mud-slinging that often appears beneath a Facebook status update, Geary suggests. Like it or not, anonymous commenting allows for many "rich and insightful discussions on emotive topics such as abortion, adoption, and depression." So what's the solution? "Social spaces online that highlight constructive interaction" and punish troublemakers; Geary notes Gawker and Reddit are heading in the right direction. Click for her full column.