news sites beginning to prohibit anonymous comments

Anonymous Speechit was only a matter of time.

the claims by some that certain forms of speech including slander/libel, defamation, and forgery are protected under the first amendment simply because they are spoken or written anonymously is coming to an end. according to an article by stephanie goldberg on cnn.com:

Like those bathroom-stall messages, online comments on news stories can be difficult to police. For years, many publications have tried to strike a balance between encouraging open communication among readers and maintaining civil discourse. But a few sites, fed up with rude or inflammatory comments, are taking bold new steps to raise the level of dialogue.

i applaud these news sites that are attempting to engage their readers in a responsible manner. while it is certainly possible to fake a name, an email, and even a credit card, these websites are taking positive steps toward ensuring that the comments offered in response to online articles are, in fact, not hateful, libelous, or a part of a greater campaign of defamation. (besides, even fake email addresses can be tracked back to a single ip address ;-)

news websites are beginning to realize that the continued tolerance of anonymous comments, especially those that make unsubstantiated claims, contain hate speech, or are designed to defame others actually undermine the website’s credibility over the long term. the credibility of news websites that allow unbridled anonymous talk slowly comes to resemble the bathroom stall and not the reliable news source they seek to be. and just like journalism that reports on whispers and rumors, for every significant scoop that unveils a conspiracy or exposes a crime, there are hundreds of sites that do little more than spread gossip and make claims that smear others.

while it is true that anonymous speech allows some to say things that would otherwise go unsaid, credibility over the long term resides in the consistent verifiability of a story’s source. and when an anonymous source is shown to be involved in a systematic campaign of media manipulation for the purposes of discrediting a perceived rival, then we have moved from a realm of protected speech to the basic elements of slander/libel and defamation on the civil side, and in some cases, forgery, identity theft, and criminal impersonation on the criminal side.

a site is only as good as its sources. put your name on what you write. use your own name, write responsibly, and don’t cite rumors and whispers. don’t make sensational claims, and never attempt to use any form of protected speech to commit crime – it always backfires.

and oh yeah, i almost forgot: there is no such thing as anonymity on the internet!!!

user interface means everything: how 20 top websites looked when they first launched

The popular social networking site Facebook (then, The Facebook) when it first launched in 2004.

The popular social networking site Facebook (then, "The Facebook") when it first launched in 2004.

technology changes quickly, and the internet changes perhaps more frequently and rapidly than any technology. so i was reminded of my technological age when is read this article in the uk’s telegraph, which surveys what twenty of the top internet sites looked like when they first launched.

it reminded me of a couple of rules in technology:

  1. even the best websites must be willing to change over time
  2. the first idea is not always the best idea
  3. the last idea is not always the best idea
  4. gui (graphical user interface, or how a site looks and feels) is incredible important. if a user can’t find or do what he wants or if she doesn’t feel comfortable on a site, the user won’t like it – no matter how well the site performs.
  5. the more documentation a site needs, the less intuitive it is. think to yourself: how many times have you read help articles of faqs in the help or support section for drudge report? google? even facebook? if a website needs a lot of help documentation, the site isn’t intuitive enough.

take a look at the sites and see what they have in common. some haven’t changed much. some have changed tremendously. all are easier to use than moodle. ;-) and i am forced to remember: even though i’ve worked in technology for a while, there is always some young kid with some better idea that knows it better than i do.

to see the other 19 websites, read here.

(with thanks for the tip to stephen smuts.)

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