Online Anonymity- Which Way Are We Headed?
Over dinner with a friend, the topic of community online discussion forums came up. And by “community,” I mean “local” – your town or city. My friend said that his local forum can get pretty nasty, with people heaping on the political dirt with complaints, accusations, and argument. One big feature? Comments are generally anonymous, as posters presumably fear the backlash of the part of the community that disagrees with them.
I understand that anonymous comments still thrive, and that there are very real safety reasons to remain anonymous at times. However, I thought the trend was tilting against anonymity. After all, look at the newspapers that are adding registration (with a small one-time fee) to ensure that people put their names to comments. If there are any sites that are deeper cesspools of trolling and vitriol, it’s newspaper Web sites. Well, ok, there’s YouTube as well. Yuck.
So, will people still talk as freely if they have to sign their names? Or will they go away without that protection. On the other hand, will trolling stop?
For myself, I occasionally comment on my local newspaper’s blog- under my own name, though many people choose to remain anonymous. I would like to point out that the most substantive commenters use their real names and comment frequently, so maybe the trend is going where I thought it was.
An interesting middle ground, of sorts- The Boston Globe recently published a story featuring some of its heretofore anonymous commenters. Some still wished to claim a smidgen of protection, while the “trolls” stayed away entirely. But that middle ground I mention is that many people post under aliases, but don;t necessarily mind people knowing who they are. Is that anonymity?
Northeastern University Professor Dan Kennedy wrestled with that question when he made the deliberate decision to ban anonymous comments recently. Many of his regular combatants (trolls, perhaps) went kicking and screaming, but did, I observed, stick with it (would love Dan to update that story as it has been several months.
As a PR/social media guy, I’m all for openness, transparency, and all the other cool buzzwords, of course. What’s your take. Should anonymity die a painful death?
Facebook Promotes the Facebook Movie (not really)
So Facebook officially hit 500 million users last week. I was wondering, where did I hear that number before?
Oh, that’s right, the teaser slogan for “The Social Network,” the movie I suspect Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg would prefer we not see:- “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.” Yup, a little accidental movie marketing. I’m not sure if the filmmakers made anything of it- they should have (well, “Daily Finance” noticed but the Wall Street Journal seemed to have missed the literal connection):
Media Bullseye Roundtable
I was pleased to make my monthly appearance on Custom Scoop’s Media Bullseye Radio Roundtable podcast last Thursday. I talked about measuring the Old Spice video campaign, interns on social media, and other current topics with Jennifer Zingsheim. Please, have a listen and tell us what you think!
Yes, that’s only three. I was told there would be no math.