It might be time for anonymous commenters to lose their posting privileges on the Internet, writes Anne Applebaum at Slate. The always controversial debate has been around for a while, but Applebaum cites new research showing that scores of nasty, anonymous comments "profoundly" change readers' perceptions about a particular post. No matter the content, they're more likely to doubt its truth or consider it low-quality material. Now consider that businesses and even states—think Russia, China, and Iran—are suspected of routinely employing Internet trolls to traffic in this modern version of propaganda.
"Anyone who writes online should be as responsible for his words as if he were speaking them aloud," writes Applebaum. Yes, there are free-speech and censorship issues at play, "but too many people now abuse the privilege," she adds. "Human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, should belong to real human beings, and not to anonymous trolls." Click to read the full column, complete with more than 800 comments.