Opinion

No more anonymity for online commenters

A recent editorial about campaign goings-on elicited an off-the-charts response in our online reader comments.

Such an amazing level of engagement is most welcome; however, the same is not always true for the tenor of online comments that are made anonymously.

So, to borrow from Bob Dylan, the times they are a-changin’.

Starting Nov. 17, the Port Orchard Independent and other newspapers in the Sound Publishing chain will switch to a comments system linked to Facebook.

There are pros and cons to this change, but we feel the biggest advantage is that it will mostly eliminate anonymity; and if commenters can’t be anonymous, hopefully they’ll be more respectful and not so derogatory and mean-spirited in some remarks they post.

This change — along with the end of election campaigns — likely will result in a decrease in the number of comments, at least for a while. But certainly there are plenty of people who want to offer their take on our stories, editorials and blogs, and won’t be deterred by having their real names posted with their comments.

It will be more like submitting letters to the editor, which must be signed to be published.

The obvious drawback in this system is that anyone who’s not on Facebook — and some people aren’t, despite how

ubiquitous social media are — won’t be able to post comments on our stories. Someone who’s averse to having a Facebook account, or who doesn’t want their social milieu on Facebook entangled with an online comments forum, still has the old-school option of sending in a letter to the editor.

The overriding aim of making this change is to facilitate more constructive engagement with and among our readers, and to give them a simpler way to post comments while we also compel them to identify themselves.

It’s a trade-off that hopefully will prove worthwhile.

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