Kindly let me know why my post below was deleted? There is nothing offensive about the message, and it does not personally attack any forumer. If it violated any policy regarding the posting of messages, I would appreciate being advised about it. Thanks.
Please see the article below from the National Public Radio about anonymous commenters. I have been reading bits and pieces of the running argument concerning offensive comments, alleged moderator abuse, and alternicks, and the news item is relevant to all who post in this forum. First off, I do not understand why alternicks are allowed here, and how people are able to openly admit that they have multiple names/identities and no one can do anything about it. I do not think it is a matter of capacity; I truly believe that moderators and administrators here CAN do something about that. They simply choose not to. Secondly, I do not understand why multiple warnings are given even for the most egregious violations, and when a penalty is imposed, it is often a wimpish suspension for a few days. A few days? Do we expect the offender to acquire the habits required for participation in civilized discourse after attending a 2-day retreat? The truth is, we get more of the behavior that we condone.
More importantly, participants here should note that their "anonymity" in cyberspace does not protect them from being charged with defamation. The administrators of this forum can itself be charged with defamation if it allows the publication of libelous remarks, and it can be compelled to disclose the identity of its commenters. You can invoke freedom of expression until the cows come home, but this right does not cover libel and defamation. The case reported in the news item carried by NPR happened in the United States, but as your in-house counsel would confirm, U.S. cases have persuasive effect in the Philippines.
This not intended as a threat, but a reminder. If we are unable to police our ranks and clean house, it does not mean that we have the option to cohabitate in unbridled filth. It only means that one way or another, our disrespect for the reputation of others will have consequences.
Newspaper Takes A Stand On Anonymous Commenters
by Martin Kaste
July 31, 2012
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Sandy Clemons/Courtesy of Linda Cook
Linda Cook eventually revealed herself as the commenter who made a disparaging remark about an Idaho Republican Party official online.
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July 31, 2012
The Internet is slowly becoming a less anonymous place. YouTube has a new policy encouraging commenters to use their real names, and many news sites have switched to a login system run by Facebook.
News sites that still allow anonymous comments are finding there are legal risks. The Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, Wash., has spent the last few months trying to protect the identity of a reader who saw a photo of a Republican Party official in Idaho named Tina Jacobson, and then posted a disparaging comment.
The paper's city editor, Addy Hatch, practically has the comment memorized, given the amount of trouble it's caused.
"Is that the missing $10,000 from Kootenai County Central Committee funds stuffed inside Tina's blouse?" Hatch recites.
Besides insulting Jacobson's appearance, the comment suggested she stole party funds. Jacobson decided to sue the commenter for defamation — and took the paper to court to make it reveal the person's name.
The paper resisted — on principle, Hatch says.
"You know, it's against the grain for a newspaper to give up anonymous sources of any kind," Hatch says. "And we just felt like we had to take a stand."
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But many journalists — even those on the Spokesman-Review staff — aren't so sure a newspaper should go to the mat to protect an anonymous commenter.
Shawn Vestal, a columnist at the paper, wrote a column comparing anonymous commenters to monkeys "throwing poop" — a column that earned him a few negative comments of his own. One phone call from a reader degenerated into a shouting match.
But that's the whole point, Vestal says.
"I feel, very acutely, what might be waiting for me on the other end of that phone on the morning that a column runs," Vestal says. "And I think that's good for me, to have to answer for what I might say."
The debate over anonymous comments has been building in newsrooms for a decade. Old-school journalists argue the optimistic predictions of Internet comment boards brimming with the wisdom of the crowd haven't panned out. Instead, they say, news organizations tarnish their reputations by hosting comments that are often snarky and factually inaccurate.
"I don't begrudge anyone their right to say anything they want to say," Vestal says. "But I don't know that it's our job to go to court to protect their right to say it anonymously."
But Dave Oliveria, who runs Huckleberries Online, the Spokesman-Review blog where the offending comment appeared, feels differently.
Does Free Speech Require Anonymity?
"To have free speech in this community, I think you have to have anonymity," Oliveria argues.
Huckleberries Online covers Coeur d'Alene and northern Idaho, small communities where there's a constant battle between the factions of the dominant Republican Party.
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Anonymous Idaho Commenter Reveals Identity July 24, 2012
"In this town, there's so much infighting, if some of these folks identified themselves, they couldn't make these comments," Oliveria says. "I have a lot of folks online here that are in a lot of key positions in the community."
If his bosses at the Spokesman-Review required real names, he says, it would kill his blog — and deprive the community of a crucial forum.
But Oliveria also acknowledges he can only keep that discussion constructive by spending a lot of time monitoring it, and blocking the trolls.
"When you follow comments as closely as I do, I can tell by the sound who a person is," he says. "They can keep changing their IP address, and I keep blocking 'em. And it frustrates them far more than it frustrates me, because I'm on there all the time."
Oliveria knows that this kind of close monitoring is expensive for bigger news sites, and he's not even sure it will be sustainable in northern Idaho after he retires.
A Commenter, Revealed
But as it turns out, going to court to protect his commenter won't be necessary — at least for now. When the Spokesman-Review decided not to appeal a judge's order to identify the commenter, that commenter outed herself.
She's Linda Cook, a long-time Republican activist.
"Compared to some comments I've seen — even on Huckleberries — mine was mild," Cook says of her post.
Cook stands by her claim about the money, but not the way she originally phrased it online.
"The one thing I regret is that I made her appearance an issue," Cook says. "That, I wouldn't have said. Everything else, you bet."
Cook says she hopes online anonymity isn't going away. But she also acknowledges that you think twice about how you say something when your name is on it.