By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Want to comment? Use your real name, first and last.

I’m not sure why, but I’ve been getting an unusual number of comments lately from people who don’t seem to realize we have a real-names policy, first and last, at Media Nation — even though the first thing you see in the comment box is “Have something to say? Your real name, first and last, is required.”

Here is our commenting policy in more detail. And here is an interesting post on the good results news organizations are having when they turn their commenting system over to Facebook.

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  1. Stephen Stein

    Here’s a contrary view from Danah Boyd regarding Facebook (and Google+’s) “real name” policy*.

    The people who most heavily rely on pseudonyms in online spaces are those who are most marginalized by systems of power. “Real names” policies aren’t empowering; they’re an authoritarian assertion of power over vulnerable people. Marginalized people are banding together and speaking out loudly.

    Worth a read.

    *For the record, I agree w/ Dan here that a real name policy** raises the civility of the debate.

    **Though I still don’t know which of the three “Jim Sullivan”s I know is the real “suldog”

  2. Mike Stucka

    If there’s one thing Dan stands for, it’s removal of the voice of marginalized people! Er, wait, no. =)

    I see some of Danah Boyd’s point, but it’s hard to think that in certain contexts anonymity would be a requirement. Sure, anonymity would be helpful — probably critical — in, say, a support group for teens coping with problems of homosexuality or pregnancy or the like.

    This blog’s focused on media criticism, and I really have a hard time seeing how criticizing something that’s inherently out front and center is something that needs the shelter of anonymity.

    And I have a difficult time seeing newspapers, which have a long reputation build upon public discussion of public information, can and should reward anonymity in all but a very few cases. There haven’t been many newspapers that routinely run anonymous letters to the editor. For that matter, there haven’t been many signed letters to the editor in which someone wanted to run their avatar of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Mike Stucka: I know exactly what I lost when I started requiring real names — people who work for the Globe and other news organizations. Paul Bass continues to allow anonymous comments at the New Haven Independent because many of his commenters are city employees or folks who need to maintain a friendly relationship with City Hall. You gain and you lose. I think Media Nation has gained more than it’s lost with the real-names requirement.

  3. Mike Benedict

    Agreed. Comment sections are different than anonymously sourced tips. If someone has information to share but must for some good reason keep their identity private, they can call a reporter and work it out.

  4. Peter Sullivan

    I agree with you Dan that requiring names makes a more civil discourse. But that civil discourse tends to be from the same eight people that for the most part agree with you.

    I feel that wading through the less civil commenter’s and opening up the discussion a little would make for a livelier forum.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Peter: I kill almost nothing. And I’ve found that when I cross-post to Facebook, I’m often able to get a much better discussion going with a completely different group of people who never comment here.

      • Dan Kennedy

        @Peter: Also, nothing unusual about “the same eight people.” The New Haven Independent, which has many, many more readers than I do and allows anonymous (though pre-screened) comments, nevertheless has found that the discussion is dominated by just a handful of people.

  5. Adam Reilly

    Danah Boyd should check out the comments on Barstool Sports.

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