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Huffington: Trolls Uglier Than Ever, So We're Cutting Off Anonymous Commenting 582

Posted by samzenpus
from the naming-names dept.
v3rgEz writes "The days of anonymous commenting on The Huffington Post are numbered. Founder Arianna Huffington said in a question-and-answer session with reporters in Boston Wednesday that the online news site plans to require users to comment on stories under their real names, beginning next month. 'Freedom of expression is given to people who stand up for what they’re saying and not hiding behind anonymity,' Huffington said."
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Huffington: Trolls Uglier Than Ever, So We're Cutting Off Anonymous Commenting

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  • Awesome (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @07:06PM (#44637053)

    Yes, i am aware of the irony... but nevertheless I have always been in favor of this.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Although I think this is a stupid policy, I have a very simple answer. I won't bother posting comments on The Huffington Post. It's not like I give a shit about them in the first place.

      • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @08:30PM (#44637891)

        Although I think this is a stupid policy, I have a very simple answer.

        There is an even simpler solution: a moderation system. It seems to work pretty well for Slashdot. Moderation also works well for sites like Stackoverflow. I have never understood why news sites don't implement something similar. That way the good 1% of anonymous speech is available, and the 99% that is garbage is not seen by most readers (but is still there if anyone wants to read at -1).

        • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @08:56PM (#44638213)

          The downside of moderation systems is seeing highly-rated horrible posts. On a messy free-for-all forum like 4chan, you expect horrible shit. It's far more jarring to see hateful ignorant trolling get +5 insightful. Every time, I reevaluate ever visiting Slashdot again. Moderation reveals the biases of your cohort.

          • Re:Awesome (Score:4, Insightful)

            by hantms (2527172) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @09:37PM (#44638547)

            The downside of moderation systems is seeing highly-rated horrible posts. On a messy free-for-all forum like 4chan, you expect horrible shit. It's far more jarring to see hateful ignorant trolling get +5 insightful. Every time, I reevaluate ever visiting Slashdot again.

            Not sure why that is so shocking; hateful or not, it is apparently a widely held view in that case. Go to Bill O'Reilly's Facebook page and read through the comments, that gets pretty hateful, and is then Liked. It's also presumably not anonymous.

            But you're right, if you only like free speech when it's something you agree with (or aren't offended by) then don't visit such a forum.

        • Re:Awesome (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Culture20 (968837) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @08:59PM (#44638241)
          And let consumers tell each other what they're supposed to think? That's the job of the golden boys in the news media!
        • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

          by epyT-R (613989) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @09:08PM (#44638331)

          The problem with moderation systems is that they tend to support the populist view, which is not always the correct one. The premise is that posts will be moderated up for correctness and down for incorrectness, but this is not what happens, as the posts ending up at the top usually represent the prevailing ideological belief of the majority of users. Even meta moderation doesn't help much as these popular posts are then moderated back down using the same fallacies, resulting in a different position on the same false dichotomy.

          For sites that want to foster honest discussion, I say strip away the moderation and 'reputation' systems, and leave it anonymous. If someone's position is the truth, there is nothing for him to worry about. The only reason someone might want to censor the truth is because a part of it clashes with his ideological/political/emotional position. This should be discouraged.

          • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Smauler (915644) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @10:06PM (#44638749)

            Moderation systems with anonymous comments allow everyone to say what they want. If the community downmod it, so be it. The posts are still posted, people can still read them.

            Requiring people to register limits discourse.

          • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Informative)

            by tolkienfan (892463) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @12:22AM (#44639591) Journal

            Moderation, at least on slashdot, is not intended to find truth.
            It's intended to promote discussion and hide trolls and abuse.
            Moderators are supposed to up mod posts when they are on topic and interesting - there is no "-1 disagree" mod here.

            I think this system would be best, if the moderators actually followed the rules.

            • They don't generally follow the rules here, with "Troll" and "Overrated" frequently used for (-1, Disagree); why would they on the Huffington Post, which is arguably even more partisan?

          • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Camael (1048726) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @04:04AM (#44640301)

            The problem with moderation systems is that they tend to support the populist view, which is not always the correct one.

            The problem with that line is that it presupposes that there is one correct view. Who gets to decide what is correct?

            The premise is that posts will be moderated up for correctness and down for incorrectness, but this is not what happens, as the posts ending up at the top usually represent the prevailing ideological belief of the majority of users

            I disagree with your premise. Given that every individual invariably believes his own world view to be the correct one, I don't think its even workable. Further, the prevailing ideological belief of the majority is often reflected not just in forums, but in our society at large. Its just the way it works. I think we should strive for the more modest goal of ensuring that views that contradict the prevailing ideological belief of the majority at least get heard, which is achievable.

            For sites that want to foster honest discussion, I say strip away the moderation and 'reputation' systems, and leave it anonymous.

            I believe that would work counter to your intended effect, since the trolls effectively would have free reign to drown out any message that they deem 'incorrect'. Honest discussion cannot take place when other parties are working actively to prevent it, for example by spam posting, by posting vulgarities or inane comments, by burying posts and many other ways you should be familiar with.

            • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Kjella (173770) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @07:03AM (#44640815) Homepage

              The problem with that line is that it presupposes that there is one correct view. Who gets to decide what is correct?

              I think you're twisting the grandparent's words, the point was that truth is not a popularity contest. Moderation often leads to posts towing the party line being modded up and posts contradicting it being modded down, there's lots and lots of examples of groupthink and cliques of people reinforcing each other's opinion in a closed loop. That moderation also tends to "drown out any message they deem incorrect", just in a different way.

              I disagree with your premise. Given that every individual invariably believes his own world view to be the correct one, I don't think its even workable.

              Just because I overall disagree with your position there's still a difference between a cohoerent argument and incoherent rambling. Decisions are not black and white rather there are pros and cons, we just disagree on how severe and what matters the most. A forum looking to promote a meaningful discussion is looking to bring out informative facts, insightful arguments and relevant interesting subjects while trying to suppress the noise of disruptive trolls, ad hominem flamebait, things going totally off-topic and points that are entirely redundant so there's a good signal-to-noise ratio. It's not supposed to be."+1, Right" and "-1, Wrong", that's what polls are for and the moderation isn't supposed to be a mini-poll. It just gets abused that way.

          • I moderate up posts I disagree with simply if I think they make a good argument or provoke interesting discussion. After all, if you see what you think is a wrong point of view, it's useful to everyone for follow-up counter-arguments to be posted. I've even moderated up both sides of an argument just because it's a good argument.

            In particular, I've moderated up a lot of posts citing objections against nuclear power even though I think nuclear power is our best CO2-minimal energy source for baseline load.

            I

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by chilvence (1210312)

      I am posting under a pseudonym... or well, rather my school nickname. So I feel the irony too. But yeah, fuck anonymity, if you are going to say something, fucking stand behind it, dont be a total cunt.

      ~ Laurie Chilvers

      • Re: Awesome (Score:4, Insightful)

        by sumdumass (711423) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @08:33PM (#44637915) Journal

        Someone should have told snowden and manning that.

        Oh wait, they did. Sometimes something needs to be said but saying it could be worse for you than what needs pointed out. Some times an anonymouse post saying does so and so look pregnant is better then a husband saying why are you getting fat.

      • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Artraze (600366) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @08:35PM (#44637957)

        How does signing a post with a real name have anything in the slightest to do with standing behind what you say? From a purely logical perspective it adds nothing of value expect maybe an improved ability to make ad hominem attacks. And even if we ignore the extreme difficulty of verifying the supposed real name, real names don't even attempt to be unique. I most certainly do not stand behind things written by people who share my name and yet you have no way of distinguishing me from the author.

        In short, a real name adds nothing but confusion. Now, maybe if you attach a publicly visible address to the name the you could improve upon a simple email address in terms of identification. However, chances are that the only additional standing up you'll be doing in that case is in response to getting swatted [wikipedia.org] by some clown.

        Personally, I'm plenty happy to "fucking stand behind" my comments in the forum where I make them. I feel no need to sign my posts "come at me (or someone with a similar name) bro".

        ~ Artraze on Slashdot

        • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

          by poity (465672) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @01:45AM (#44639889)

          Not only that, but real names will allow the mob to chase and shame you on facebook and linkedin, potentially ruining you for saying things that the mob doesn't like. I get voted down often on NPR for making the case that Affirmative Action hurts Asian American students, and have been banned from a section of that site recently for trying to point out the flawed narrative underlying the Zimmerman coverage.

          It's so very easy for people to shout racist (for the left) or socialist (right) or whatever stupid label, and just try to silence you with shame. I firmly believe that an honorable person would agree that it is better to let a thousand guilty men go free than to condemn an innocent, but it seems these sites that demand real names would rather sacrifice as many innocents as needed in order to eliminate the guilty.

      • Re:Awesome (Score:4, Informative)

        by epyT-R (613989) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @09:15PM (#44638385)

        The truth doesn't need anyone 'standing behind it.' It is self evident. Individuals (or societies) who ignore it will end up chewed apart by it eventually. Whether the argument is made by 'anonymous' or 'john smith' is immaterial.

    • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

      by epyT-R (613989) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @08:59PM (#44638237)

      Anti-anonymous people just say stuff like this so they have an actual target to defame while they cry their crocodile tears of 'victimhood'. It doesn't matter who said what. It matters what was said. In free societies, a culture should be expected to separate the message from the presentation. The truth stands on its own.

      They can do what they like with their site of course, but they're kidding themselves if they think this will bring better discourse. When it comes to controversial subjects, the term 'troll' is hurled as an ad hominem all too often, and this 'logic' is used by moderators as justifications to delete posts/ban users.

    • I doubt its about cleaning up the comments section.

      AOL, the parent company of HuffPo, is currently refocusing its business on driving ad sales [nytimes.com].

      In line with its ambitions to become a platform for live broadcasting and programming, the company also said that it had acquired Adap.tv, a video advertising company that allows purchases across the Internet and on television. The cost was $405 million.

      “AOL is a leader in online video, and the combination of AOL and Adap.tv will create the leading video platfo

  • Anonymous Coward (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @07:08PM (#44637069)

    Comment on stories under their *facebook accounts.... Nice try, they are simply using this as an excuse to expand their advertising market.

  • Anonymous Cowards (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @07:10PM (#44637095)

    This would, of course, be news to Publius (Patrick Henry).

    • by mjwx (966435)

      This would, of course, be news to Publius (Patrick Henry).

      I agree with the principal you're expressing here.

      But it doesn't apply because this is done by the HuffPo on the HuffPo's site only. It doesn't restrict your freedom of speech to get on ./, Digg, Redit, other forum or to make your own website ridiculing the HuffPo under a pseudonym or assumed name.

  • Real names? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daetrin (576516) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @07:12PM (#44637111)
    I think it's fine if they want to force people to register and maybe jump through a few hoops so someone can't just create a new account and be flaming away ten seconds later, but i'm not a fan of the "real name" thing. I objected when Google tried to push the idea and i still don't like it now. Consistent identities and some kind of moderation system are enough to tame the worst abuses without trying to drag real names into it.
    • by hedwards (940851)

      Yeah, that's the thing, you don't need John Q. Public to know the identity of the people posting, at most the moderators need that information. And even then, what you really need is a snail main address as there are probably dozens of H. Edwardses out there. Or John Smith, Jack Johnson, etc.

    • by fwarren (579763)

      One of the draws to these revenue generating sites is being able to comment. I suspect that when push comes to shove, many anonymous commenters won't bother to comment any more, nor visit the site and read the articles. This will affect the HP's bottom line.

      It is a free country, and they can do as the see fit. Even if it costs them money in the long run.

    • Re:Real names? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by rtb61 (674572) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @08:24PM (#44637827) Homepage

      Real names is designed to do one thing and one thing only, promote corporate approved commenting. There are huge numbers of people who cannot comment in the way they would prefer simply because it goes against the preferences of their autocratic employers and this quite simply will silence them, which is it's intent.

      Of course this will be the death knell of the Huffington Post, turning it into a hollow echo chamber commenting to it's own corporate propaganda. It's comment deletion system has long since shown at bias to the corruption at the top.

  • Interesting... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xaedalus (1192463) <Xaedalys@yaho[ ]om ['o.c' in gap]> on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @07:15PM (#44637131)
    What if wide-spread mass adoption of anonymity actually leads to undermining Society's value of free speech? If no one's willing to stand up and be recognized for what they say, then why would we require freedom of speech for recognized individuals? Seems inefficient if everyone wants the privilege but none of the responsibility.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Judge the message by its own merit, rather than person/pseudo-name that is saying it.

  • by sinij (911942) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @07:19PM (#44637183) Journal
    Pseudonymity in the age of data aggregation is crucial. Any "real name" policy is very boneheaded, and can lead to endangering the readers.

    You are nuts if you post anything, anywhere under real name. Internet has no "right to forget".
  • by Yaztromo (655250) <yaztromo@mac.SLACKWAREcom minus distro> on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @07:20PM (#44637199) Homepage Journal

    I have wondered over the last few years why more big-name general news sites around the world don't just shut down their comment systems. The comments attached to virtually any major TV news network site or newspaper site tend to be filled with content that does little if anything to actually further any sort of discussion or dissemination of knowledge about the topic at hand.

    I have noticed recently some of the sites I follow daily have started to only selectively permit commenting on stories. Stories which are likely to bring out the trolls and bigots seem to have commenting disabled more and more. However, I'm not sure why these news sites don't just bite the bullet and dismantle the comments attached to stories. Nobody seems to ever benefit from them.

    (Obviously, something like /. which is centred around discussion and commenting is a somewhat different beast. I am specifically talking about general news outlets like CBC News [cbc.ca], The Toronto Star [thestar.com], or CNN.com [cnn.com], and others like them. /. naturally also has the benefit of community-driven moderation to limit trolling, flamebait, and spam).

    Yaz

    • by number17 (952777) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @08:02PM (#44637609)
      The trolls fuel the fire and keep people going back. This increases pageviews and ad revenue.
  • by bobbutts (927504) <bobbutts@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @07:20PM (#44637209)
    I will quit the internet if I'm unable to get an hp account with a fake name.
  • by fustakrakich (1673220) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @07:24PM (#44637261) Journal

    Well she's not exactly getting any more beautiful herself either..

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @07:26PM (#44637291)

    I had my account deleted years ago when they went from a news site to an agenda site. I've very liberal mind you, and even I had comments deleted that didn't match the party line (including reminding everyone under a feel-good article that Gavin Newsome had cheated with an employee's wife and wasn't some kind of saint). I just couldn't tolerate the naked agenda-driven slant and how even other liberal opinions weren't accepted. I've had admins jump into threads and argue with me and threaten deletions. I've been online since 1991 and that's the only time I've had an account wiped, so I'm no troll. I haven't tried commenting out there in years, so I don't know what there forums are like now.

    • It's no secret that HuffPo is the left-wing equivalent of Fox News (and I say that as a leftie!). Really, I don't see the point... I mean, a good half of their articles are outright flamebait, so if you're not commenting them to flame/troll, then they might as well just remove the comments altogether.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @07:31PM (#44637333)

    The USA was founded by use of Anonymous Pamphleteers. The British desperately want the Colonists to use their real names. The British wanted to arrest, imprison and execute these Anonymous Pamphleteers. Were it not for anonymous posting, there would be no USA.

    The USA Constitution provides for "freedom of speech". Speech cannot be free under an oppressive or tyrannical political system without anonymity.

    While Huffinton may want people to be "civil", she is actually contributing to the destruction of both civility and freedom.

    • by Guppy06 (410832)

      First and foremost, Ariana Huffington is not the government. Otherwise there'd be a lot more sideboob in Congress...

      Beyond that, those anonymous pamphleteers you mentioned got their works published because the owners of the printing presses consented to the publishing of the specific tracts in question; Whether or not they printed a particular piece by a particular person was wholly by their own prerogative. Here, Huffington owns the printing-press equivalent, and has decided to limit the use of her resou

  • Easy for Her to Say (Score:5, Informative)

    by Stormy Dragon (800799) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @07:47PM (#44637501) Homepage

    If I was independently wealthy too, it would be easy to post under my real name and damn the consequences.

    Most of us have to work though, and are at the mercy of the Arianna Huffington's of the world for employment. As long as my future employment is contingent on what people like her think about whatever comes up when my name is googled, I'm not free to speak under my real name.

  • by bmo (77928) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @08:49PM (#44638123)

    " require users to comment on stories under their real names,"

    Proven by what? The last time I had to prove my identity online was that I had to photocopy my ID so I could get an account on the Chebucto Freenet.

    Remember freenets?

    My "online identity" of "BMO"/"Boyle M. Owl" goes back to the 80s on dialup BBSes (in snow, uphill both ways). It's mine. I use it. Tough titties.

    You don't like my alias? Fine. I'll use another one. It's up to you to find out that it's fake. Good. Luck. With. That.

    --
    BMO

  • by karlandtanya (601084) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @09:43PM (#44638601)

    'Freedom of expression is given to people who stand up for what they’re saying and not hiding behind anonymity,'

    Fuck you. It's a human right. Happens to be protected by our constitution, but that's not where it comes from either.
    You (Arianna Huffington) are a sanctimonious twit to sit there and dictate terms under which freedom of expression is "given".

  • Obligatory XKCD (Score:4, Informative)

    by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @10:09PM (#44638763)
  • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @10:57PM (#44639087) Homepage Journal

    How they gonna check "real names"? I got a million of 'em. Even Google and Facebook gave up on that notion when they realized it wouldn't work.

    If the operators of this website think they're smarter than the collective will of the Internet, they're in for a rude awakening.

  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @11:01PM (#44639117)

    I wonder if Ms. Huffington is aware that many jobs, including those involving the Canadian government, are very picky about what you can say on-line. This extends far past criticizing the boss or bad-mouthing your employer's hiring policies. It can involve political issues, matters of faith and personal opinions. I am one of the people who is not able to comment freely here, there, or anywhere else under my own name. So if AOL (the real owner of Huffington Post) insists on this, I'll terminate my long-time, high fan base account immediately.

    I don't imagine I'll be the only one.

  • by WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @11:46PM (#44639387)

    1) People who Have So Much Money That Nothing Can Hurt Them like Huffington should consider what happens to people in the REAL world if they voice opinions unpopular with their co-workers, employers, neighbors or government. Where my wife works it's THIS far from a liberal/conservative political food fight on some days and if her REAL opinions ever became known, she'd be out of her job at the machinations of her co-workers, without a doubt.

    So I guess Rich Bitch Huffy is telling my wife that she's not welcome to post at Huffpo. Atta' way to shut people up once and for all on just those topics- controversial ones- in which the polity presumably needs access to the widest opinions possible.

    Oh and by the way, my wife NEEDS her job and isn't going to find another one like it somewhere else. Enough said.

    Not to mention that if people ever were known for publicly supporting activities which were illegal - like smoking dope or same sex marriage - then they wouldn't come out in support of such things since even supporting them, back int he day, was basically a job/neighbor/family death sentence. So on THOSE topics there would be even less discussion, even fewer people relating real experiences. What we would have left to read would be the jingoistic tropes of the day and the crassest forms of majoritarianism

    This "if you believe in what you're saying, then you'll sign your name to it" bullshit are just manipulative ploys used by elites to try to shame people whose speech they don't like,

    I think that we can now also add to that traditional motivation another one- the motivation to increase your profit from your website. By being able to assure buyers of your sites' REAL product, the sentiment analysis, consumer analytics and personality dossiers you sell- that you know the real, actual names attached to those products, you can command a higher price than aggregated, mass statistics and genericized profiles can command.

    Let's face it. Employers really want to know who's going to work 80 hours a wek for peanuts, never complain, keep their mouths shut about law breaking they see and never ask for a raise. They want to know who the bitches are and who the OTHER ones are who think they deserve, you know, a life, a raise, some vacation, some decent treatment If Huffpo can deliver those first names to them and also deliver to them the names of the people who must be kept unemployed, then Huffpo has finally found a business model other than selling itself to yet richer owners and cashing out the current ones.

    As far as moderation goes, Slashdot has it just right. Give random, people limited ability to mod posts. Let people post AC if they see fit. Don't let people disappear other people's thoughts under any circumstances. Don't reward higher usage with special and increasing god powers - this is the mistake StackExchange made- because it attracts losers with power issues like flies to shit and basically you've got a Survivor-style dynamic on your hands where alliances form and favors are passed around and it all gets very personal and petty very fast.

    One thing that always good is if you can elect to never see posts form someone again. Trolls go on talking , but only to themselves. Salon had this and it was great. The user experience improved because you didn't have to deal with the trolls who spent all their time there picking fights and being obnoxious. You never saw their posts. Nice. Then Salon went "must log in , no anonymous speech " and I left and never wen back.

    Anonymous speech is completely foundational to truth telling , to speaking truth to power, to organizing and to broad societal change. Elites have always called it the mark of cowardice. If you ever find yourself holding that opinion, pat yourself on the back because while you may be a piece of shit, you've nevertheless made it in America.

    • by gnasher719 (869701) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @04:31AM (#44640397)

      This "if you believe in what you're saying, then you'll sign your name to it" bullshit are just manipulative ploys used by elites to try to shame people whose speech they don't like,

      There's also the question how common your name is. There are two people with my real name in Germany, eleven with my last name in all of Britain and none with the same first name. My wife's name is most likely unique in the world. Much easier for Joe Smith to post under his real name than me.

  • by i (8254) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @07:20AM (#44640879)

    ..means that those who will be punished for what they say will be quiet. (Or punished.)

    If you think this is a good thing you have a very limited knowledge of history.

    The majority is almost always hostile to the truth.

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